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Mooseheart Director: School Didn't Violate IHSA Rules to Enroll Sudanese Students

"We will act upon the IHSA ruling as a learning experience," Scott Hart said. Here's his full statement.

Update: Mooseheart Executive Director Scott Hart's full statement has been added to the top of this story. The specific conditions that Mooseheart have to meet to be released from IHSA probation are in italics after the statement.

Scott Hart statement, Dec. 11:

The IHSA Board of Directors took appropriate action yesterday when it overturned a decision by the IHSA Executive Director and reinstated the interscholastic athletic eligibility of the four Mooseheart students from South Sudan. These young men - Mangisto Deng, Makur Puou, Akim Nyang and Wal Khat - entered Mooseheart seeking an education and a chance for a better life, not only for themselves, but for their home communities and country where they plan to return. The ruling now allows the young men the opportunity to enjoy the same well-rounded high school experience as their classmates and all other students across Illinois.

During the December 10 Board meeting, the IHSA also imposed three requirements on Mooseheart and its administrators, as well as placing the school on probation from the postseason Basketball State Series until the school complies with all three actions. Mooseheart maintains that it violated no IHSA rules in accepting these young men as students, nor has it ever recruited any student for the purpose of improving its athletic standing in its 100-year history.

We believe our organization has a comprehensive and detailed admissions process, in determining both the level of need a child has to be considered for placement at Mooseheart and the likelihood of success for that child within our program. No organization is perfect, however, and we will act upon the IHSA ruling as a learning experience and a chance to better our already high standards.

We are grateful for the outpouring of support we have received from the public, the news media and others in the community who recognize the positive influence that Mooseheart has had, and will continue to have, on children in need. We promise to continue fulfilling our mission to nurture, raise and educate children from across our continent and around the world, based solely on a child’s life circumstances and not on any special talents or gifts that he/she may possess.

Here are Mooseheart's full probation conditions, as specified by the Illinois High School Association (IHSA):

Mooseheart shall be placed on probation immediately and shall be ineligible to participate in the 2013 IHSA Basketball State Series pending completion of the following to the satisfaction of the Executive Director:

  • 1.) Review and refinement of the admissions process to assure compliance with IHSA By-laws and Procedures.
  • 2.) Training and Education program for all Mooseheart coaches and administrators to assure compliance with IHSA By-laws, with particular focus on the unique structure of Mooseheart within the IHSA;
  • 3.) Submission of a Compliance Plan.

Here is our initial post from Monday evening:

An Illinois High School Association hearing ended Monday with a bittersweet victory for Mooseheart and its four South Sudanese students.

The ISHA Board ruled that the Sudanese students could indeed play sports at Mooseheart Child City and School, overturning an initial decision that would have ended their high-school sports careers.

Board members also decided to place Mooseheart on probation immediately. The school will be ineligible to participate in the 2013 IHSA Basketball playoffs pending completion of an admissions review and other conditions.

"The Board having considered all the evidence, finds 1.) The investigation by Associate Executive Director Kurt Gibson to be complete and appropriate and 2.) The students were taken advantage of by A-Hope Foundation and people related to that organization," said a statement from Matt Troha, IHSA assistant executive director.

The IHSA initially issued suspensions in late November, claiming Mooseheart had violated the organization's rules on recruiting. The IHSA’s notification to Mooseheart stated that the move came after an extensive investigation.

Mooseheart sought and won a temporary restraining order that allowed the Sudanese boys to play in two games prior to Monday's hearing.

"Obviously, we at Mooseheart Child City and School are very pleased by the fact that the Illinois High School Association Board ... has seen fit to let our four student-athletes continue to compete interscholastically for the remainder of their high school careers, through the spring of 2014," said an e-mail sent Monday evening from Kurt Wehrmeister, Moose International director of communications and public affairs.

Scott Hart, Mooseheart executive director, planned to be present at the Mooseheart vs. Kirkland-Hiawatha basketball game in Kirkland Monday evening, as well as make himself available to media after the game.

To get updates on the Mooseheart and IHSA dispute, click on the "Keep Me Posted" button right below this story. If you do not see this option, you are already signed up.

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a. johnson December 11, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Stay your course Mooseheart. The IHSA is just another sports dictator, seemingly without oversight or outside control. I think they know how biased the Executive Director's decision was and their 3-step program is merley an attempt to save face. Some of us are not amused nor fooled.
MTK December 12, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Well said, Moosheart has done nothing wrong, had they then these boys would not be playing ball. The IHSA is just saving face.

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