A student does have a right to a fair tryout for the Andover High School basketball team, says a court document filed today.
The argument comes from the lawyer for the student's guardians, who are responding to an effort by the Andover school district to dismiss their lawsuit.
Paul and Melinda Peffly say their nephew was cut from the team after tryouts in mid-November, and they contend that the tryouts were tainted because the coach sought or got loans from about six sets of parents of players. They claim that the coach, Jason Stucky, who has since resigned, retaliated against their nephew because they pushed him to repay a $3,500 loan.
In their lawsuit, filed in Butler County District Court, the Pefflys are asking a judge to order new tryouts or that any student who wanted to make the team have a chance to play. They argue that new tryouts would be untainted by what they allege were "flagrant conflicts of interest" by the coach.
On Monday, the school district filed legal documents defending the tryouts and arguing that even if the tryouts were found to be unfair, a student is not entitled to a fair chance at making a team.
The school district contends that courts are no place to argue discretionary decisions about who makes a team.
In the document filed today, the plaintiffs say that the school district "is not permitted to say it can use its discretion to offer tainted as opposed to untainted basketball tryouts anymore than schools can say they have the discretion to segregate or not segregate students."
The plaintiffs cite a Kansas court case which they say shows that although participation in extracurricular activities may not be a fundamental right, such activities still "are accorded a level of due process protection."
Stucky, who resigned about a week after the mid-November tryouts, has defended the tryouts.
"Cuts were made solely upon skill and effort, and... nothing due to personal business or things outside basketball," Stucky has told The Eagle.
The plaintiffs' response filed today lays out this timeline: That in early October, the district knew that Stucky was soliciting money from parents of basketball players despite a school board policy prohibiting employee conflicts of interest. That the district didn't discipline him and let him hold tryouts. That after the tryouts, parents complained that he was seeking money.
The document says the district "confirmed its head basketball coach had sought or obtained loans from approximately six (6) sets of parents of his players." The district "asked for and obtained the coach's resignation," but the district "nevertheless refused to conduct new basketball tryouts... instead saying that 'it was time to move on,' " the document says.
A judge will hear the competing arguments in a hearing set for 3 p.m. Monday in Butler County District Court in El Dorado.