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High school students, parents plan lawsuit against IHSA to force return to fall sports

Twenty student athletes and their families are part of this lawsuit, but the plaintiffs said more have asked to join in.
Several teams pick up wins in volleyball and softball on Thursday.
Several teams pick up wins in volleyball and softball on Thursday.(NBC Nebraska Scottsbluff)
Published: Sep. 28, 2020 at 6:36 PM CDT
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CHICAGO (CBS) — The message is clear: they want to play. So on Monday, parents and advocates of some local student athletes plan to file a lawsuit to pressure Illinois lawmakers and educators to re-open schools so fall sports can begin.

Public schools around Illinois have said no to fall sports this year, delaying them until spring as of way of reducing COVID-19 in schools, but some parents argue that decision will hurt students' chances of getting sports scholarships.

“I think it’s ridiculous, because I think what we’re doing is we’re asking the kids and the poorest among us to shoulder the entire burden of this virus,” said David Ruggles, the lead plaintiff in the case.

Twenty student athletes and their families are part of this lawsuit, but the plaintiffs said more have asked to join in.

They said this is about their future, especially for those seniors looking to get college sports scholarships.

“I’m hoping to get more scholarships and more opportunities to go to college,” said Jaylen Brown, a senior at Wheaton Warrenville South High School

Brown said he just wants a chance to play football again.

“Just like me and many others, this is all we really depend on, sports and grades. So we need these opportunities to be able to go to college,” he said.

Student athlete advocates say Illinois Is only one of a handful of states not allowing the full range of fall sports.

High school football and soccer have been moved to the spring.

Despite pleas from some parents, Gov. JB Pritzker has insisted he’s not willing to allow high school football to be played this fall, citing expert opinions that there is still too much risk of further spreading COVID-19.

Brown sees things differently.

“We all understand also that we can go back to sports and be safe. We’ve seen other states do it and they’re safe,” Brown said.

Ruggles said IHSA failed to follow its own procedures before pushing back fall sports until spring.

“They’ve got bylines, and they have to put it out to a vote when they change the season. So if you move football from the fall to spring, you have to put it out to your members to vote, and they didn’t do that,” he said.

Then there’s his son, a junior basketball player at Wheaton Warrenville South. He wants him to have the chance to play.

Supporters of the lawsuit that will be filed hope legal pressure on the Illinois High School Association translates to a return to the regular sports calendar for schools.

The plan is to file that lawsuit in DuPage County on Monday afternoon. The parents filing it plan to seek class-action status on behalf of all high school student athletes in Illinois.

The IHSA says its aware of the planned lawsuit, but can’t comment until they have seen it.

Copyright 2020 WIFR. All rights reserved.

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