Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education

Originally filed back in October 2015 by Senator Don Gaetz and Senator Kelli Stargel, Senate Bill 684: Choice in Sports, was reported favorable with no debate by the Florida Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education on Monday, January 25th.

Senator Gaetz, Chairman and sponsor of SB 684, began with a synopsis of the bill and all it entails.

“This bill is designed to resolve most, if not all, of the controversy surrounding disagreements between the Florida High School Activities Association and other conferences including homeschool parents who are concerned about athletic choice,” Gaetz said.

SB 684 grants any parent the right to enroll their child in any public school in Florida that has space available. The bill also provides significant penalties for recruitment.

“First offense by a school district employee who would be recruiting in violation of the law is given a $5,000 fine. Second offense is suspension without pay for one year and a $5,000 fine. Third offense, if subject is still standing, will be to revoke their teachers certificate for three years, based upon procedures already in law,” Gaetz said.   

Senator Gaetz noted that any parent or non-employee engaging in any illegal recruitment will result in the benefiting team having to forfeit all competitions and awards. SB 684 also gives schools the option of joining FHSAA on a per sport basis.   

Amendment 513366, filed under the bill was adopted and set in place to remind individuals that the suspension and/or expulsion will still be active when a student decides to enroll in a different school.

“A student’s record will follow them when transferring to another school,” Gaetz explained.

Senator Rene Garcia, had concerns and wanted to get clarity on the involvement of private schools.

“I would think where this issue hits the hardest is with the private schools who are doing significant recruitment, correct?” he asked.

Senator Gaetz explained that they will not be attempting to invade their private domain with the bill nor will they have the jurisdiction. However, public schools can make the determination whether or not to play them.

Senator Stargel, senior sponsor of SB 684, weighs in on recruiting protocol within the district.

“It is to my understand that we still have the prohibition against recruiting, we just don’t have the same penalties,” Stargel said.

It was noted that private schools, virtual schools as well as homeschooling systems will not be affected by the change.  

Members of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. as well as children and members of the Randy Roberts Foundation were in attendance to show their support of the bill.  

“We are very grateful for the sponsors of the bill, for the cooperative spirit by the Sunshine Conference and also by the FHSAA, both of whom have publicly endorsed this bill,” Gaetz said.

Upon the passing through the Appropriations Subcommittee, Sen. Gaetz and Sen. Stargel will roll out an implementing bill and proviso as well as the education budget for the 2016-2017 school year.