BE, other schools score victory in court
Bishop England High School and 11 other charter and private schools from the Palmetto State scored a big court victory late Monday afternoon that should allow the Battling Bishops to continue winning on the athletic field.
A Richland County judge granted a temporary injunction that blocks the South Carolina High School League from enforcing rules regarding eligibility and transfers that were set to go into effect on July 1 and would have made Bishop England and another Charleston area school, Oceanside Collegiate Academy, sit out transfer students for a year before being eligible to play.
“Plaintiffs have properly established that they would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted, that they will likely succeed on the merits of the litigation, and that no adequate remedy at law exists,” Judge Jocelyn Newman wrote in her decision. “This court, having exercised its discretion, finds that injunctive relief is proper.”
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston also was a plaintiff. The diocese issued a brief statement: “We’re thrilled to see that the court recognizes the importance of school choice for students and their parents.”
Bishop England athletic director Paul Runey could not be reached for comment.
On May 18, Bishop England and other plaintiff schools sued the High School League over an amendment it passed during its executive committee meeting in March changing transfer rules for private and charter schools. The plaintiff schools claimed the amendment directly targeted them, and the lawsuit claimed the High School League treats public and charter schools differently than “traditional” public schools.
In one amendment that would have gone into effect for the 2020-21 academic year, nearly all students who transfer from a “traditional” public school to a charter or private school would have to sit out a year before they gain eligibility to play any sport sanctioned by the league.
The league also ruled students were no longer allowed to transfer to any high school in the state by their freshman year and be immediately eligible to play sports.
In the past, students were immediately eligible even if they lived outside that school’s attendance zone. Under the High School League’s new rule, students who transfer would have had to sit out a year.
The schools that were plaintiffs make up a small portion of the High School League’s body — with more than 200 schools statewide — but feature some of the state’s best athletic programs, including Bishop England.
A private school on Daniel Island, Bishop England has competed at either the Class AA or AAA levels in the past 20 years. The school has won the Carlyle Cup — an award given by the state’s athletic directors to the top athletic programs in each of the five classifications — every year since the award’s inception in 2000.