Staci Skinner, a concerned parent of a JMMS football player, first brought the issue to iSurf’s attention, explaining that the Board of Education was denying the team a chance to compete at the tournament as a result of insurance issues and interrelated Board of Education policies. From there, Mr. Skinner asked us to try and find an answer to his following question: “Why on Earth is the Hopkins County Board of Education denying these young and talented boys the opportunity to represent Hopkins County in the state playoffs?”

First and foremost, iSurf News tried to speak with either the faculty or head football coach at JMMS for an explanation. Though iSurf News was successful in speaking with James Madison’s Assistant Principal and Athletic Director, Mike Wolford, he refused to make any public comment related to the issue.

From there, iSurf News contacted the Hopkins County Board of Education and spoke with the Superintendent of Schools, James Stevens, as well as the District’s Athletic Investigator, Brad Johnson, both of which offered reasoning behind the Board’s decision.

“First of all, the Board sets the length of seasons for junior highs,” said Stevens, “and, basically, there is no provision in the present Board Policy that extends that season. The Board says when the season shall end and when the season shall begin, just like the KHSAA [Kentucky High School Athletic Association] sets the seasons for high schools.”

“The School Board has a policy that states middle school football shall be completed on, or before, October 8th,” said Johnson.

The result of this Board policy, however, poses an issue for the JMMS team because their insurance coverage coincides with the length of the season. Basically, once the season’s official end has come about, the team is no longer covered by the Board’s insurance policy and can no longer compete as a “school team” without violating the Board’s regulations.

“I received a request from the school to lengthen the season from Mr. Johnson last Wednesday, and that’s the first time I had seen it” said Stevens. “We called the insurance company, and they said that, ‘Since your policy says when the end of the season is, only the Board can approve a lengthening of the season.’ Well, we don’t have a Board meeting until the 18th, and I, as the Superintendent, don’t have the authority to give them the go-ahead. So the two main reasons are because we didn’t receive the request earlier and because this is contrary to what the Board’s policy says.”

Stevens did explain that the request has been presented to Board since he and Johnson received it, which was echoed by Brad Johnson, who explained that, “The request is under consideration by the Board of Education at this time and we hope to make the best decision for the kids.”

Additionally, both Stevens and Johnson commented that the state tournament in question is a separate and unsanctioned event that has no direct relation to the school system.

“Our understanding was that all middle schools across the state were invited to join the Kentucky Middle School Football Association, which has no affiliation with KHSAA whatsoever. They are their own entity,” said Johnson, “and schools could choose to join. Once they have joined, there were specific stipulations that you had to participate in order to qualify for the so-called play-off at the end of the season. James Madison joined the association and they qualified. So if we let them play, that would violate Board policy at this time.”

However, Johnson did note that the Board would be making a decision either for or against the lengthening of the regular JMMS football season by this upcoming Tuesday, October 12th.

As more information becomes available on the situation, iSurf News will bring it to you.

Luke Short    
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Posted on 2/2/14
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