Friday, July 20, 2001

Former UK athlete sues board

The Associated Press

        LEXINGTON — A former University of Kentucky basketball player is suing the Kentucky High School Athletic Association after it barred his son from playing basketball this season.

        At issue is a KHSAA rule mandating that students who transfer from one high school to another lose eligibility if they haven't changed addresses.

        Joseph Harden transferred in January from Lexington Catholic to Henry Clay High School. His father, Roger Harden, claims the transfer was made so that his son could get help for a learning disability.

        Court records indicate that Joseph was diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder in January. The KHSAA, however, believes that there were other motives behind the transfer.

        An unsigned memo submitted with the KHSAA's Ju ly 12 response alleges that “Roger has been shopping this kid since early June. ... I guess he's trying to find a school where he can start.”

        Louis Stout, the KHSAA's commissioner, referred all questions to attorney Danny Reeves, who said his firm would not comment about the case while it was pending in court.

        Lexington Catholic coach Danny Haney said that playing time may have been an issue when the younger Harden left the perennial basketball powerhouse.

        “We all came back from a game where he didn't play much, then he didn't show up at school for a week,” said Haney, who did not contest the transfer.

        Mr. Harden said speculation that he is shopping his son around for basketball reasons couldn't be further from the truth.

        “Basketball helps build character,” said Mr. Harden, a four-year letterman at Kentucky from 1983 to 1986. “It helps to be a part of a team, but if you look at it as a way of life or make it your reason to live, you set yourself up for a lot of heartache.”

        Alhough his son was a varsity reserve at Catholic, Mr. Harden said the decision to leave that school had nothing to do with a lack of playing time. Instead, the diagnosis of ADHD caused the family to look for other educational options.

        The family concluded that a public school, which receives federal funds for children with learning disabilities, was the best option. But the KHSAA's rule on transfers put the brakes on a simple move to Henry Clay.

        The family appealed to preserve Joseph's eligibility and on April 23 a hearing officer ruled he could play. He ruled that because of Joseph's learning disability, the transfer was “an exercise of a legal right due to circumstances beyond the control of the parties.”

        The KHSAA board later voted 13-1 to reverse that ruling, saying that allowing Joseph to be eligible this season would hurt its ability to enforce its transfer rule in future instances and set an “undesirable precedent.”

        The board also noted Joseph's history. The 17-year-old junior is attending his third school in 1 1/2 years; he started high school at Scott County, then transferred to Lexington Catholic before the move to Henry Clay.

        The board noted that the Hardens had said that in choosing Catholic, “a motivating factor for the student's transfer was a good athletic program.”

        The board also said athletics are a privilege and not a right.


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