JACKSONVILLE BEACH — The confusion over international student athletic eligibility that has vexed Collier County and several other areas will not be there much longer.
The Florida High School Athletic Association will draft a revision to its international student eligibility policy – possibly adding a third category for immigrant students – which the Board of Directors will vote on in September.
FHSAA commissioner John Stewart and associate commissioner for compliance Sonny Hester addressed the board's legislative committee Thursday morning at the Sea Turtle Inn near Jacksonville. The two acknowledged an immediate need to make a revision.
Currently, the FHSAA requires Florida's high schools to fill out an EL4 form for all international students – defined by the FHSAA as any student not born in the United States. In investigating a case of three adults playing for the Immokalee High boys soccer team, the association discovered that Immokalee had not filled out EL4 forms for those three students or any other student-athlete.
It also found that none of Collier County's high schools filled out EL4 forms for any international student-athlete except for a handful of foreign exchange students and that other counties had been lax in doing so as well.
"If you take a number that I heard, some 850,000 residents in Florida, who are not citizens of the United States, estimate that 40 percent of are of school age and estimate the number of those who play sports," Stewart said, "the number could be staggering."
Stewart added that, although the FHSAA has planned a full-scale review and revision of its bylaws, something needed to be in place sooner. The draft of that policy revision will be available at the board's September meeting. Stewart said one possible revision would be to break the EL4 from into three categories from its current two. It would include foreign exchange students who have a J-1 visa, international students who have an F-1 visa and normally stay one year, and immigrant students whose families move to Florida from other countries.