SMSD, Blue Valley face civil suit over fall sports cancelations

Posted at 9:45 PM, Sep 02, 2020

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two Johnson County school districts are facing a civil suit in the aftermath of canceling fall sports amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Five girls who play golf – four at Shawnee Mission East High School and one at Blue Valley High School – have requested a temporary restraining order that would allow them to compete this season.

Only Hope and Hanna Robinett, both 18 years old and attending Shawnee Mission East, are named in the suit. The other three girls are suing through their parents, James and Julie Hepler; Billy Roman; and Todd Misemer.

The civil suit states that the student-athletes will not be able to show their skills for college recruiters or “potentially earn scholarships to prestigious schools” and that they will “suffer emotional damage” if they are not allowed to compete.

Golf, according to court documents, is “the ultimate social distancing sport,” as athletes compete individually on “large land masses” and rarely share equipment.

“Johnson County residents have safely played golf at record levels since the COVID-19 pandemic began,” the civil suit stated. “For example, Milburn Country Club has seen 7,000 more rounds of golf played at its course from March 1, 2020, through July 31, 2020, than the previous year with no known COVID-19 transmissions.”

Shawnee Mission East currently holds the Kansas 6A state girls golf championship, while one of the unnamed girls – recognized by the initials J.M. – is the “reigning Kansas 6A state girls golf individual champion,” according to court documents.

Shawnee Mission School District Superintendent Mike Fulton said on Aug. 18 that students would begin the 2020-21 academic year remotely and fall activities would be suspended. The Blue Valley School District Board of Education voted on the same night to rescind the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment’s gating criteria. Under its current plans, Blue Valley officials will review criteria and the state of COVID-19 in the area every two weeks to determine when fall activities and sports can return.

However, the Kansas State High School Athletic Association voted in late August to allow an alternative fall sports season that would begin in March.

Golf practices would have started on Aug. 17 with the first competition on Aug. 21.