Proposal would le⁠t⁠ S.C. pr⁠i⁠va⁠t⁠e school s⁠t⁠uden⁠t⁠s ⁠t⁠ry ou⁠t⁠ for publ⁠i⁠c school spor⁠t⁠s

April 4, 2024

Bryce Fiedler

CALN Founding Member & CALN Board of Directors Secretary

Should students from private schools be allowed to join the sports teams of neighboring public schools if their own schools don’t offer those sports? 

That question is at the center of a legislative proposal in South Carolina, which a panel of state senators discussed in late March and received broad support.

Under S.161, private school students could try out and play on the team of a local public school if: 1) the student is zoned for that school; 2) their own school doesn’t offer the sport; 3) they pay for all sport-specific fees; and 4) they inform the local superintendent of their intent to try out before the start of the sports season, along with a few other rules.  

The SC Daily Gazette reports that a similar bill cleared the Senate in 2022 but did not pass out of the House. It also covered the Mar. 27 Senate Education subcommittee hearing on the current proposal, writing that “Advocates for public schools don’t foresee a problem.” 

Ryan Bailey, a lobbyist for the Association of School Administrators, said, “This is a place where private and public schools should be able to work together for the benefit of their students.” According to the Gazette, he believes the arrangement ought to work both ways, allowing public school students to play on private school teams.  

For now, however, the question must likely wait until 2025. While the bill passed the subcommittee unanimously, it has yet to reach the Senate floor and won’t make South Carolina’s April 10 crossover deadline. 

Bills that don’t pass at least one chamber, House or Senate, by this date are effectively dead for the year.  

Another proposal advanced by the committee, which also failed to make crossover, would create transfer windows (one at the beginning of each semester) allowing students who switch at these times to play sports at their new school without delay.  

Right now, transfer students generally face a year-long waiting period before they can try out. 

For many young people, joining a sports team is a great opportunity to make friends, stay fit, develop leadership skills, and enjoy healthy competition. While passing these changes might take another year or two, I am glad to see state leaders continue working on this issue.