House passes athletic eligibility bill
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A bill that would prevent public schools from being affiliated with private groups that don't allow third party hearings for athletic eligibility appeals received final passage Thursday in the State House of Representatives.
Clement Mubungirwa will turn 19 in July and asked the LHSAA for another year of athletic ability to compete as a senior for Episcopal High School, but was refused. Mubungirwa later appealed the decision and was denied again in March.
"I want to make my mom proud and playing football I feel like I have a chance to do that and the brotherhood that comes with it so much love, so much support and missing all that is going to be really tough," said Mubungirwa.
Mubungirwa has only been in the United States for six years after he and his family escaped a refugee camp in Uganda. Mubungirwa's situation touched the heart of Representative Ted James, prompting him to speak on behalf of the bill on the House floor.
"The bill gives due process to those families who are on the line," said James.
James adds he took exception to the LHSAA's claim that no 19 year old that failed to meet eligibility requirements had ever been allowed to compete.
"There's this talk of us dipping our noses in other people's business, but the thing about it is we represent families and we represent children and those children don't have a voice," said James.
Kenny Henderson is the executive director of the LHSAA and told WAFB by phone, "We were disappointed in the vote. I was not able to hear the testimony personally, but was told that there was a lot of misinformation. We'll deal with this issue at our next board meeting in June."
Clement knows his battle is not over, but he is thankful for all the support he has received along the way.
"It has changed me a lot. it has taught me that no matter what I always have somebody on my side supporting me and so much love from my mom, my parents, Mrs. Jeanne and without them I don't know if I'd be this far without them," said Mubungirwa.
The bill, authored by Senator Dan Claitor of Baton Rouge, now heads to Governor Bobby Jindal's office for signature.
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