The South Carolina High School League filed a response to a lawsuit from five Upstate school districts that addresses realignment for 2018-2020 school years.
The SCHSL’s response was filed by the league’s attorney, J. Michael Montgomery, in Richland County Common Pleas Court on Thursday. In the 24-page response, the High School League “prays that plaintiffs’ Complaint be dismissed as to it and for such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper.”
Spartanburg Districts 1, 2 and 4, Laurens District 56 and Greenwood District 50, filed suit against the SCHSL and Union County School on May 21. The lawsuit involves the Union County High School being moved from Class 4A to Class 3A and placed in Region III, and it questioned the procedures that took place in making the decision.
Union County appealed their placement and was denied 14-0 by the executive committee. But when Union County on Aug. 27 went before the appellate panel, which is made up of athletic directors and principals from around the state, it won 4-3.
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By winning the appeal, Union County would be placed Region 3-3A with Woodruff, Mid-Carolina, Newberry, Clinton and Emerald. Union County would be the largest school in the region by more than 300 students.
The lawsuit said Union County’s placement in Region 3-3A presents a “real and justifiable controversy” because the SCHSL didn’t provide other schools in region to be heard. It also tried to define the SCHSL and the appellate panel as public bodies, and were “subject to the same standards of due process, fundamental fairness, and judicial review applicable to the actions of similar South Carolina government agencies under the Administrative Procedures Act.”
“The SCHSL does not believe that Union High School’s realignment hearings before the executive committee and the appellate panel violated any of the plaintiffs’ rights under the SCHSL bylaws and constitution, nor under any other legal authority,” Montgomery said.
Spartanburg District 4 Superintendent Rallie Liston told the Spartanburg Herald-Journal said the plaintiffs are “in the process of thoroughly reviewing the league’s response and all options available for a remedy to the issues.”
Montgomery said there have been “productive” discussions with the attorneys for the school districts. No timetable has been set for the case to go to court.
“Given the different claims and allegations asserted by plaintiffs, we believe a hearing would be appropriate once there is a sufficient factual record to present to a judge, and Union High School would need to be a part of that process,” Montgomery said. “Our hope is that the matter is resolved quickly, either by mutual agreement or by decision of the court.”
Official practice for fall sports begins July 27. SCHSL commissioner Jerome Singleton said this week that if nothing is resolved by then, the plan would be to go with the approved 2018-2020 realignment as scheduled.
“We will go what we have in place,” Singleton said. “If something forces us to change, then I'll begin the process of working with that. But right now, the realignment has been finalized.”
Realignment happens every two years and is based on 135-day enrollment numbers and done to in part to level playing fields in each classification.