ACLU of KS Sues on Behalf of Foreign Student Excluded from High School Sports and Activities

Affiliate: ACLU of Kansas
October 20, 1999 12:00 am

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OTTAWA, KANSAS — Acting on behalf of a South African high school student, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri today filed a federal lawsuit against the Kansas State High School Activities Association challenging a policy that excludes foreign students from participation in interscholastic activities.

Under the association’s rules, foreign students attending Kansas high schools must wait one year before becoming eligible to participate in interscholastic sports, music, or academic competitions, unless they are sponsored by a recognized foreign exchange program. American students, however, are immediately eligible, or are eligible after 18 weeks if transferring into a Kansas school during the middle of their high school career.

“The state association is illegally denying educational opportunities to students simply on the basis of their citizenship,” said ACLU cooperating attorney Matt Swafford. “The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits state sanctioned discrimination of foreign citizens and requires that states treat people equally, regardless of race, sex, or alienage.”

Today’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, was brought on behalf of Ottawa High School senior Errol Moloto. Although Moloto was eligible to participate in basketball and track last year as a junior sponsored by the Rotary Club, the Kansas State High School Activities Association has declared him ineligible this year under its rules governing foreign students because Moloto is no longer being sponsored by the Rotary Club.

A member of the South African national junior basketball team, Moloto last year finished fourth in the Class 4A 400-meter dash at the Kansas State Track and Field Championships.

“There is no rational basis for the association to discriminate against Moloto simply because of his foreign status,” said Dick Kurtenbach, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. “The constitution requires that he be treated like any other student.”

The case, Moloto v. Kansas State High School Activities Association, was filed by ACLU cooperating attorneys Matt Swafford and Matthew O’Connor of Polsinelli, White, Vardeman & Shalton in Kansas City, and Eddie M. Lorenzo, Legal Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri.

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