The head of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association said Tuesday that a judge’s decision to strike down a 1997 state law that allows parochial school students to play sports outside their attendance zones under certain conditions may not have any impact on such students.
LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson said the same about state District Judge Todd Hernandez’s decision last week to declare unconstitutional a 2010 state law that made home-schooled students eligible to play sports at LHSAA member schools.
“I do not see the LHSAA basically doing away with either one of those rules,’’ Henderson said, adding there is no reason to act now because the appeals process has yet to begin.
Amanda Larkins, a spokeswoman for the state Attorney General’s Office, said the state’s lawyers are reviewing Hernandez’s rulings “to help decide what our next step may be.’’
If the state chooses to challenge those rulings, Wade Shows — an attorney for some of the state defendants — said an appeal would be filed directly with the Louisiana Supreme Court because state statutes were declared unconstitutional.
Henderson said it would be up to the LHSAA’s executive committee to decide what to do once all appeals are final.
The 1997 law, known as Act 465, allows students to become immediately eligible at a private school in another school zone if there is no corresponding private high school in their home zone. The legislation was geared to help students who attend private elementary/middle schools with no nearby high school. Most of the instances involve Catholic schools.
Henderson said the LHSAA’s primary purpose in filing its lawsuit late last year was to establish the association’s legal right to make its own rules without political interference.
“The LHSAA had bylaws that allowed home-school students to participate at its member schools prior to the (2010) state law being passed and has no reason not to continue to allow home-school students and those affected by Act 465 to be eligible to participate in interscholastic athletics at its member schools in accordance with its rules,’’ he said.
The LHSAA contended in its suit that it is a private organization and that the state laws it challenged interfere with its internal operations. The state argued the laws were enacted to clarify LHSAA rules so all participants in high-school athletics would have a clear or better understanding of their meaning.
Hernandez found that the challenged laws “do not serve any compelling state interest or rational basis and they appear arbitrary and capricious on their face.’’ He also said each of the challenged statutes “specifically identifies and singles-out’’ the LHSAA, which he declared to be a private entity.
The state Constitution prohibits the Legislature from passing any law that amends or changes the charters of any private corporation, the judge said.
In another ruling in the suit, Hernandez decided the LHSAA is a “quasi public body’’ for the limited purpose of the Louisiana audit law and that the state legislative auditor has the right to audit the books of the nonprofit association.
“LHSAA is subject to the Open Meetings Law and is partially funded by public monies,’’ the judge wrote.
Jennifer Schaye, general counsel for the legislative auditor, said Hernandez’s ruling means the LHSAA “is subject to the Louisiana audit law.’’
The LHSAA’s suit came shortly after a state audit concluded that former LHSAA Commissioner Tommy Henry may have fraudulently spent thousands of dollars of association money. The LHSAA questioned whether the state should have been permitted to review its books.
The Attorney General’s Office, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the state Legislative Auditor’s Office are all defendants in the suit.