Berkshire School expelled from membership in Florida High School Activities Association

GAINESVILLE – Berkshire School of Homestead has been expelled from membership in the Florida High School Activities Association, Commissioner Robert W. Hughes announced today.

Berkshire, a private boarding school in southern Miami-Dade County, was found guilty of major recruiting violations in its girls and boys basketball programs in February. Both its girls and boys basketball teams were banned from competition in the FHSAA State Basketball Series. The school filed for and obtained a temporary injunction allowing its teams to continue in the playoffs. The Third District Court of Appeal, however, subsequently reversed the lower court's injunction and order, and the school's teams did not participate in the playoffs.

"The principal of every school – including Berkshire – that files an application for membership in the FHSAA certifies that he or she and his or her school will abide by the bylaws, guidelines, regulations, policies and procedures of the Association; and the decisions made by the Commissioner, the Board of Directors and the Sectional Appeals Committees that are based on those rules," Hughes said.

"This office conducted an in-depth investigation into Berkshire's basketball program and found serious violations of FHSAA rules. When I issued my decision banning its teams from postseason competition because of these violations, the school was told it could appeal my decision to the Board of Directors, which is the due process procedure established within the bylaws. The school chose not to exercise this right and, instead, attempted to make an end-run around the authority of this Association to enforce its rules by taking the FHSAA, of which it is a voluntary member, to court. This action cannot and will not be tolerated."

Hughes continued, "Subsequent to that, on April 18, I assessed the school a fine of $2,500 for the recruiting violations and ordered it to reimburse the Association for $11,016.97 in legal expenses it incurred while defending itself against Berkshire's lawsuit, as well as $172 in expenses generated by Associate Commissioner Dan Boyd's investigation of the school. To this date, the school failed or refused to pay those penalties and assessments and has failed to produce any evidence or argument in support of itself."

In conclusion, Hughes said, "For this reason, I am expelling Berkshire School from membership in the Florida High School Activities Association for a period of five years effective July 1. When, and if, in the future the school ever attempts to seek readmission to the Association it will be require to pay all penalties and assessments, together with interest, in addition to its regular dues at the time of joining."

Berkshire was notified in writing of Hughes' decision on May 10. According to FHSAA Bylaws, the school has until May 15 to notify the FHSAA of its intent to appeal Hughes' expulsion order to the FHSAA Board of Directors, which meets June 15 and 16 in Tampa.

Expulsion is the most severe penalty that can be assessed a member school by the Commissioner. It means that no FHSAA member school may participate in any athletic competition against or with Berkshire School until the school seeks and is granted readmission.

Hughes said that a hearing on the allegations against Berkshire was scheduled for May 9 in the FHSAA office in Gainesville. The school was sent a letter of notice of the hearing by fax, twice by overnight carrier and once by certified or registered mail. The school refused to accept delivery of the letter on each attempt. Representatives of the school also refused to attend hearing and exercise their opportunity to present witnesses, testimony and any other relevant evidence or information for consideration by Hughes when reaching his decision regarding the allegations.

The last school to be expelled from membership in the FHSAA was "old" Palmetto High School in Manatee County in 1940. That school filed suit against the FHSAA over a ruling made by then Executive Secretary Lafayette Golden in a contract dispute between Palmetto and Sarasota High School. Golden expelled the school for one year. The school challenged Golden's order in court and the expulsion was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court. Old Palmetto High School was consolidated with Bradenton High School to form Manatee High School in the early 1950's. The existing Palmetto High School was opened in the late 1950's.

The Florida High School Activities Association is the governing body for interscholastic athletic competition in Florida. It has a membership of 615 middle, junior and senior high schools.

Jack Watford
Director of Communications, FHSAA
(352) 372-9551 ext. 170
jwatford [at] fhsaa [dot] org