Federal judge denies injunction to Goose Creek football player

  • Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 11:58 a.m., Updated: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 3:28 p.m.
Goose Creek takes the field Friday, Nov. 2, 2012 at Goose Creek High School in Goose Creek. Paul Zoeller/Special to the Post and Courier

A federal judge declined to issue a preliminary injunction today on behalf of a Goose Creek High School football player who had been ruled ineligible to play by the South Carolina High School League. The federal lawsuit had been filed in a bid to restore the team’s dashed hopes of pursuing a championship.

During an emergency hearing in the federal courthouse in Charleston today, U.S. District Judge C. Weston Houck said he would not issue an injunction because the plaintiff’s attorney had failed to serve papers to the S.C. High School League, the defendant in the case.

In the lawsuit, the student, Justice Roemello Rogers, was seeking an emergency injunction declaring him eligible to play for the Gators under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prevents public agencies from discriminating against people with disabilities.

Rogers is special needs student with a learning disability, according to the complaint.

Though Houck did not hear the complaint because plaintiff’s attorney Jason Moss failed to have papers served to the SCHSL, he indicated that the suit probably would not have succeeded on the merits.

Houck cited a Michigan case in which that high school association’s “eight-semester rule” regarding eligibility was found to “apply to all students and was not discriminatory.”

Neither Rogers nor Goose Creek football coach Chuck Reedy had any comment after the hearing.

“There’s nothing you can say,” said Reedy.

Officials from the High School League could not immediately be reached for comment.

Goose Creek’s winning football season appeared to be finished last week when the league’s executive committee upheld commissioner Jerome Singleton’s ruling that the Gators had used an ineligible player in 10 games this season, including a first-round playoff win against Conway on Nov. 9.

The Gators took their case to a state court on Friday, and Circuit Judge Roger Young granted a temporary restraining order that allowed the school to play in Friday night’s game against Bluffton, a 35-25 Gators victory. Young also ruled the executive committee had to convene in open session to reconsider the eligibility requirements based on its rules.

On Monday, Goose Creek pleaded its case again before the committee, which ruled against the Gators for the second time.

Goose Creek, the defending state champion in Division II-AAAA, was 13-0 and riding a 26-game winning streak. Bluffton, the team Goose Creek beat last week, advances and will play at Northwestern in a state semifinal on Friday unless the court intervenes.

The federal lawsuit states that Rogers, an 18-year-old foster child, attended six schools, including a state group home, before transferring to Goose Creek High School in the fall. Principal Jimmy Huskey and Coach Chuck Reedy reviewed his transcript at the time and it indicated he had been in high school for three years, making him eligible to play, the suit states.

Huskey later discovered that Rogers appeared to have four years of high school and reported that to the league, which ruled the player ineligible and required the Gators to forfeit 10 games in which the student dressed for or played.

Rogers played in five games and participated in a total of 17 plays, the suit states. His disability required him to receive direct supervision from coaches on where to stand and what to do for every play, but he still felt he had made a substantial impact, the suit states.

“He was a proud contributor to every game whether on the field or not,” the suit states. “He inspired other players and was committed to the fellowship of the team.”

Rogers states that he should be eligible to play under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which bars public entities from excluding people with disabilities from “the benefits of services, programs or activities.”

His suit alleged that the league’s guidelines disregard the federal act and “have unfortunately evolved in a manner “that disregards a practical, subjective view to student-athletes with disabilities.”

A Goose Creek High School football player ruled ineligible to play is suing the South Carolina High School League in a bid that could restore his team’s dashed hopes of pursuing a championship.

In a federal lawsuit filed today, the player seeks an emergency injunction declaring him eligible to play for the Gators under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prevents public agencies from discriminating against people with disabilities.

The student, Justice Roemello Rogers, is special needs student with a learning disability, according to the complaint.

An emergency hearing on the complaint is scheduled for today at 2 p.m. in front of U.S. District Judge C. Weston Houck.

Officials from the league could not immediately be reached for comment today.

Goose Creek’s winning football season appeared to be finished last week when the league’s executive committee upheld commissioner Jerome Singleton’s ruling that the Gators had used an ineligible player in 10 games this season, including a first-round playoff win against Conway on Nov. 9.

The Gators took their case to court on Friday, and Circuit Judge Roger Young granted a temporary restraining order that allowed the school to play in Friday night’s game against Bluffton, a 35-25 Gators victory. Young also ruled the executive committee had to convene in open session to reconsider the eligibility requirements based on its rules.

On Monday, Goose Creek pleaded its case again before the committee, which ruled against the Gators for the second time.

Goose Creek, the defending state champion in Division II-AAAA, was 13-0 and riding a 26-game winning streak. Bluffton, the team Goose Creek beat last week, advances and will play at Northwestern in a state semifinal on Friday unless the court intervenes.

The lawsuit states that Rogers, an 18-year-old foster child, attended six schools, including a state group home, before transferring to Goose Creek High School in the fall. Principal Jimmy Huskey and Coach Chuck Reedy reviewed his transcript at the time and it indicated he had been in high school for three years, making him eligible to play, the suit states.

Huskey later discovered that Rogers appeared to have four years of high school and reported that to the league, which ruled the player ineligible and required the Gators to forfeit 10 games in which the student dressed for or played.

Rogers played in five games and participated in a total of 17 plays, the suit states. His disability required him to receive direct supervision from coaches on where to stand and what to do for every play, but he still felt he had made a substantial impact, the suit states.

“He was a proud contributor to every game whether on the field or not,” the suit states. “He inspired other players and was committed to the fellowship of the team.”

Rogers states that he should be eligible to play under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which bars public entities from excluding people with disabilities from “the benefits of services, programs or activities.”

His suit alleges that the league’s guidelines disregard the federal act and “have unfortunately evolved in a manner “that disregards a practical, subjective view to student-athletes with disabilities.”

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