While there’s not much the Hall County schools system can do about student-athletes transferring from one in-county school to another, it has taken the intiative to impose its own code of ethics on the issue.
Last month, the Hall County Board of Education announced a new policy outlining procedures for schools to follow if and when a parent or student inquires about transferring within the school system.
The document reads, “An unfortunate reality of the current state of high school athletics is the movement of student-athletes from one school to another solely for the reason of playing on a certain sports team. ... Whenever this happens, an underlying suspicion of recruitment permeates the community.”
The guidelines, which went into effect immediately, prohibit a coach from communicating with a parent or student inquiring about transferring without the parent and/or student first speaking with the inquired school’s principal. When the inquiry occurs, the coach must collect the name of the person, school of current enrollment, date and time contact was made, the manner of contact (phone, email, text, etc.) and the messaged conveyed.
As a courtesy, the coach must also contact the coach of the school of the student’s current enrollment to alert him or her that contact had been made regarding transferring.
After the student or parent speaks with the principal of the school they’re inquiring about, the principal can grant permission to the coach to begin communicating with them.
“We’ll never put an end to what goes on behind the scenes, but (the guidelines) are designed to create a culture of transparency and eliminate the antagonistic nature of when athletes move from school to school,” Hall County superintendent Will Schoefield said. “Athletes will continue to move, violin players will continue to move and students will continue to move.
“This is just a process that is transparently designed to eliminate any question of motives by a coach or school.”
The guidelines are just one section in a series of five documents given to Hall County coaches concerning character development. The other sections address GHSA academic eligibility, coach/booster relations, random drug testing and sportsmanship.
Each coach must access the documents online and complete a comprehension test.
“This has been a concern of mine for quite a while now,” said school board member Brian Sloan, who helped spearhead the committee that outlined the documents. “We want to challenge the coaches and not just in terms of dealing with sports, but also extracurricular activities. The first part is making sure the coaches are all on the same page as far as the rules and recruiting, but as we progress, we hope it grows more into teaching character and traits.”
There is nothing in the document stating consequences of violating the rules. Hall County Schools public relations director Gordon Higgins said the response would be the same as any other situation in which a school official violated policy.
Sloan also said the board is leaving disciplinairy action in the hands of the school principal.
“They won’t be going to Leavenworth,” said Sloan, “but if there are clear rules violations, we won’t sit idle. If it’s a minor thing, we’ll talk to the coach, because there have been times when a coach truly didn’t realize they had violated a rule.”
Area coaches approve of the new guidelines.
“I feel like it clarifies everything in general, and a majority of coaches have already been (following those guidelines),” East Hall football coach Bryan Gray said. “If the rules are strictly enforced, I think we’ll greatly reduce the number of alleged incidents.”
Added Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell, “It’s just beneficial to have county policy and, within that, having the responsibility fall on coaches to follow policy and wait for further instruction from the principal.”
Although the guidelines, if followed by coaches and enforced by principals, will make all parties involved more aware of the transferring process in the sense there will be open lines of communication, they still can’t and won’t prevent the inevitable next in-county transfer of a student-athlete.
“I’m fine with kids transferring as long as the parent is willing to go through the proper channels,” North Hall coach Bob Christmas said. “We live in a free country and every parent has the right to do what they feel is best for their child.
“In my opinion, the student should go to school where they’re happy.”