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Students do not have constitutional right to participate in sports, SJC rules
By Globe staff
The state’s high court today strongly endorsed the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s oversight of athletics in the state’s public schools, rejecting a former Andover High School swimmer’s assertion that she was denied her constitutional rights when she was banned as a fifth-year senior.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Judicial Court said that participation in school athletics is not a constitutional right for anyone. Writing for the court, Justice Judith M. Cowin also ruled that the MIAA’s grievance procedure does not violate the state’s civil rights law.
“The right to a public education, even one with a mandatory physical education component, is not synonymous with the right to participate in extracurricular activities, such as interscholastic athletics,’’ Cowin wrote.
She added, “we do not expand the contours of a student's property interest in public education to include within it every extracurricular activity that might enrich the educational experience, however meaningful those activities might be to individual students.’’
Elizabeth Mancuso was a star swimmer in 2003 when she and her school asked the MIAA to treat her as a fifth-year senior. Mancuso had attended Austin Preparatory School for her freshman year, but then repeated freshman year when she transferred into Andover public schools because she had started school one year earlier than her peers, according to the SJC.
While at Austin, Mancuso swam on a travel team but not for the school. As she prepared for her senior year on the Andover swim team, the MIAA said her year at Austin counted toward her four years of high school eligibility and knocked her off the team, according to the SJC.
Denied by the MIAA, Mancuso went on to Dartmouth College where she was a member of that university’s swim team and has since graduated from college.