Four parochial high schools (three of them Catholic) within Los Angeles and Ventura Counties were upheld March 7 in their lawsuit against the California Interscholastic Federation, and will not have to switch leagues that would have required their athletic teams to travel hundreds of extra miles over the course of the year.
An arbitrator ruled in favor of St. Bonaventure High School of Ventura, Damien High School of La Verne, St. Lucy’s Priory High School of Glendora (all Catholic) and Oaks Christian High School of Thousand Oaks. Lawyers for the four schools protested the CIF-Southern Section’s decision last year to remove the four from mixed public-private school leagues and place them in new, predominantly religious school leagues, effective with the 2014-15 school year.
The decision, the schools’ lawyers asserted, carried religious bias and was made without due process. Had the CIF-SS decision been upheld, the schools would have been placed in leagues where other teams were located, in some cases, 50 to 100 miles from their campuses — requiring the teams to spend additional time and money in traveling to and from league contests.
The four schools will now be placed in the “parochial area” for the 2014-18 “re-leaguing cycle,” which is reviewed every four years. Damien and St. Lucy’s will be placed in the Mt. SAC Area, and Oaks Christian and St. Bonaventure in the Northern Area.
“This has been a long, hard process, and we are pleased to have resolution,” said a March 7 statement from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. “We are glad that the arbitrator understood the concerns that we had about the Area Placement decision, and its effect on our students.
“We look forward to working cooperatively with CIF-SS to implement the arbitrator’s decision allowing us to remain in the Northern Area and Mt. SAC Areas. We appreciate that the independent arbitrator rendered his decision promptly, so that all the affected schools can begin planning for the upcoming year.”
Gina Giuliucci, principal of St. Lucy’s Priory, agreed that the arbitrator’s ruling was good news.
“We’ve always been about education here at St. Lucy’s,” she said. “It’s very important for us to keep our students in the area. Being a college prep school, it was very important for us academically wise that our students had time in class. That’s what our big issue was, so that’s why we thought it was important to proceed with the lawsuit. And we’re happy for our students.”
Marc Groff, principal of St. Bonaventure, said the favorable decision is good for all schools involved, including those his school would have played in home-and-away league action.
“It’s a two-way street,” he said. “Traveling to places like San Pedro, La Puente, Montebello, inner-city Los Angeles, Lakewood — they were the Catholic schools in those areas that we we’re going to play, and conversely they were going to have to come up here to play us.”
The prospect of “driving up here across the messiest freeways in the United States for a three o’clock soccer game,” Groff said, could not have been appealing to other schools.
Still, he admitted he was most happy for St. Bonaventure’s students, who would not be missing class time, “which is why they’re here,” by spending hours sitting on a bus.
“And I’m happy for the families who otherwise wouldn’t get to see them play,” he added. “Most of our archdiocesan Catholic schools have working families. They can’t drive from Ventura to San Pedro on a Tuesday to watch their sons or daughters play.”
Mike Nelson contributed to this story.