Crime & Courts

Andover: 'Fair' tryouts not a right

Former Andover High basketball coach Jason Stucky
Former Andover High basketball coach Jason Stucky File photo

The Andover school district is pushing back against a lawsuit contending that high school basketball tryouts were tainted because the head coach was seeking loans from parents.

The district argues that there is no right to a fair tryout and that courts shouldn't decide who makes it onto an athletic team or cheerleading squad.

There was nothing "fraudulent, arbitrary or capricious" in the decision to cut some students after tryouts for the Andover High School boys basketball team, the district says in documents filed Monday in Butler County District Court.

The bottom line, the district's lawyers argue, is this: Higher courts have held that a student "does not have a property right to participate in the basketball team or even to a 'fair' tryout."

The district is asking the court to dismiss a lawsuit filed earlier this month by parents who say that tryouts for the Andover High basketball team should be reopened.

The parents argue that the tryouts, held in mid-November, were tainted because coach Jason Stucky had sought loans from more than three sets of parents. That caused a pay-to-play atmosphere, the parents' lawsuit says.

Stucky resigned around Nov. 24, after the tryouts were held and after parents told school administrators that he had sought money from parents, according to the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, one of the two sets of parents who brought the lawsuit has withdrawn from it. The remaining plaintiffs are Paul and Melinda Peffly, whose nephew was cut from the team.

The Pefflys face a hearing Monday in Butler County District Court on whether their lawsuit should proceed.

The couple claim that their nephew's "due process protection" was violated when he was cut from the team amid a "pay to play atmosphere." They are seeking a court order that new tryouts be held or that players who went out for the team be allowed to play if they want to.

In an interview, Paul Peffly has said that although students don't have a right to be on a team, it's assumed that they should be given a fair shot at making a team.

The lawsuit says that Stucky, who did not teach at the school, had asked several parents of basketball players for money and sought and obtained a loan for $3,500 from the Pefflys in February. Stucky repaid the loan in late September.

According to the lawsuit, Paul Peffly believed his nephew — a junior who had played on the junior varsity and varsity teams — had been cut from the team because Peffly had to push Stucky to repay a loan.

The Pefflys are their nephew's guardians.

Stucky has defended the tryouts. "Cuts were made solely upon skill and effort, and... nothing due to personal business or things outside basketball," Stucky has told The Eagle.

In a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, the district said that courts "should not be used by aggrieved parents when a student is not chosen to participate in extracurricular activities. Issues such as 'fair' tryouts and policy violations by school employees should be left to the governing body, in this case the local school board. ...

"What the Plaintiffs seek to set aside is the discretionary judgment of three basketball coaches as to the selection of the basketball team. If the Plaintiffs are successful, every coach would now be expected to justify their subjective decision in a court of law. Every year, without exception, there are parents who believe their children were improperly cut from the basketball and cheerleading squads. This is not a door that should be opened."

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