Judge rules Loyd Star junior can suit up: MHSAA ruled that student was ineligible

Published 9:54 am Friday, September 4, 2015

A Hinds County judge issued an injunction Thursday that will allow a Loyd Star student to take the field for the Hornets tonight — a decision the Mississippi High School Activities Association had fought.

Michael A. Harvey II, a 16-year-old junior, was ruled ineligible to play by the Mississippi High School Activities Association in a July 21 determination. The association had denied Harvey the right to play by classifying him as transfer student.

“Michael and his sister attended Brookhaven High School up until this year,” said Greg Malta, a Brookhaven attorney representing the family. “But they have always lived in the Loyd Star school district.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Malta said in previous years the family requested and received permission from both the county and the city school districts for their children to attend school in Brookhaven because of work-related hardships. When the parents’ work schedules changed earlier this year, they no longer had a reason to request a transfer.

MHSAA is the organization that governs students’ participation in sports and extracurricular activities in approximately 300 schools in the state, including all public high schools in Lincoln County. Malta said the institution places a lot of importance on its authority and perhaps at times at the expense of students. MHSAA is sued often by disgruntled schools, students or parents, but rarely defeated, he said. With expansive resources (there were 10 defendants representing MHSAA on this case according to the injunction) MHSAA has a track record of intensely defending its decisions.

When MHSAA denied Loyd Star’s appeal made on Michael Harvey’s behalf, the family was forced to resort to legal action. Their complaint for injunction was heard by Chancery Judge DeWayne Thomas in a three-hour hearing on Sept. 2. Billy Vaughn, athletic director for Loyd Star, and the player’s father, Michael Harvey, Jr., were among the witnesses who presented evidence to the court.

“We’re really happy with the judge’s ruling,” said the elder Harvey. “We just knew if someone would ever look at all the facts they would realize Michael wasn’t trying to do anything improper.”

The family’s lawyer said he too was pleased with the ruling.

“I just think they kind of lost sight of what their objective should have been in this case and had more interest in preserving their authority than doing what was right for this particular student,” Malta said. “It’s unfortunate we had to file a lawsuit to make the association do the right thing […]. MHSAA’s rules requiring children to participate in activities in school districts where they actually live is reasonable. But their interpretation of their rules was resulting in an exactly opposite outcome.”

Malta said the chancery court order prevents MHSAA from enforcing its July 21 eligibility decision.

“Effectively, the court has authorized Michael to play ball this season,” he said.

Just in time, the court’s ruling qualifies Harvey to dress out in tonight’s home game against Sacred Heart of Hattiesburg.