Baseball: The family of Nick Wagner files lawsuit and will picket at CIF-SS office over section’s decision to deny Wagner a hardship claim

On Tuesday, the family of Glendora High School baseball senior Nicholas Wagner is planning to picket in front of the CIF-SS offices in protest of the section’s decision not to waive the eight-semester rule, denying Wagner’s hardship request to CIF-SS officials for what Wagner’s attorney claims was a decision based on an “athletically motivated,” transfer. I will have a story in Tuesday’s newspaper, but for now I will share the letter the Wagner family attorney sent to the media, along with a written response from CIF-SS spokesperson Thom Simmons.

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Tuesday’s story: The family of Glendora High School baseball player Nicholas Wagner is planning to picket in front of the CIF-Southern Section office in Los Alamitos today (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) after he was ruled ineligible to participate in his senior year because of the eight-semester rule. After exhausting appeals with the section and state appeals panel board to waive the eight-semester rule under the category of a hardship, the Wagner family’s last hope is to win its battle against CIF through the Orange County Superior Court.

This is a letter sent to the media from attorney Chris C. Prussak, who is represeting Glendora baseball player Nicholas Wagner in a lawsuit filed to CIF.

We wanted to alert you about new legal proceedings concerning CIF and their unconstitutional, unconscionable and totalitarian rulings on who can- and can’t- play varsity sports.

Some background information:

Our client, Nicholas Wagner, was born November (edited out), 1992 and started kindergarten as a 4-year-old. He began high school at Damien HS (a private HS) in 2006 at 13 years of age. Nicholas was- and is currently- a GATE student. Due to his advanced academic needs, he was placed in classes with sophomores and juniors, kids who were 15, 16 or 17 years old. He began to exhibit symptons of asynchronous development, wherein a child’s emotional and social development lags behind his academic abilities. Due to his disability, he withdrew from Damien in December 2006. With the full support and agreement of the Glendora Unified School District, he was permitted to start at Glendora (his home school) in 2007 as a freshman, with no HS credits transferred, at 14 years of age. He played football and baseball for Glendora during his freshman, sophomore and junior years. Now, Nicholas was denied eligibility to play Varsity baseball in this, his Senior year, at Glendora HS.

CIF denied his hardship claim, found him guilty of “athletic motivation” with no evidence, documentation, or even hearsay, and refuses to grant him a waiver of the eight-semester rule, stating that his eligibility began to run in 2006 at Damien. He has only played three years of baseball, and never played baseball at Damien.

This is a kid who had no athletic motivation (he currently is 18 years 2 months, stands 5’6″ and weighs in at 160 lbs.), has been able to readjust appropriately to his peers, has taken Honors & AP classes and maintains a 3.94 non-weighed GPA, yet is being discriminated against on a rule which he didn’t know existed until July 2010.

I have attached a letter which we sent to CIF back in December, and to which we recieved no response to. Due to my client being subjected to the “kangaroo court” of CIF, we have gone ahead with a Superior Court lawsuit against them. I have also attached a copy of our initial filing in this case. (Orange County Superior Court, case # 30-2001-00442372, filed Jan 20, 2011).

With the approvals of Favreau, Balmer, Schmall and others, this is a complete injustice done on no evidence by the “Old Boy’s Club” over at CIF. Our client and his supporters are planning a protest and will be picketing CIF headquarters and CIF events on selected dates.

Chris C. Prussak
Law Offices of Prussak, Welch & Avila, APC

CIF-SS spokesperson Thom Simmons issued this written response…
CIF Southern Section counsel has received notice of continued litigation in this case and is presently working on the section’s response to it. The CIF Southern Section followed CIF Southern Section By-Laws in rendering its decision in this matter and a CIF State Appeals panel agreed with those findings. We have every confidence a judge reviewing this case will do likewise.

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  • Jackboy

    Good luck, Nick.

  • Joe Amat

    Attorneys & sports don’t mix. A few thoughts. First, I feel bad anytime a kid can’t play. But, whose fault is it that the Wagners didn’t know until July of 2010 a rule that had been in place for years and years?

    Using the wording and criteria that has been in place for years to define “hardship” the litmus test for ***initial*** rulings is:

    “A hardship is dened as an unforeseeable, unavoidable and uncorrectable act, condition or event that causes the imposition of a severe and non-athletic burden upon the student or his/her family. Sections may only waive the transfer limitation if the conditions of hardship are met, and there is suf cient documentation to support the hardship claim. Sections may not waive the applicable rule if the conditions of hardship are not met.”

    The question at hand is was putting a 13 yr old with a bunch 16 & 17 yr olds *unavoidable*? Was the outcome of becoming a little “socially withdrawn” *unforseeable*? I warn parents who want their kids to skip a grade in elementary school of that problem all the time and have had numerous arguments with administrators over that very same practice. Just tell the parent “NO”.

    In the eyes of CIF I’m sure the take is that no one forced the student into those classes. The parents chose his “academic needs” over his social needs. Another way to state “asynchronous development” (a child’s emotional and social development lags behind his academic abilities) is:

    “he has ADVANCED academic abilities that surpass his social development”. That’s a GIFT – not a disability! So the fix was to put him in the proper classes with his appropriate age-group.. problem corrected. So not *uncorrectable* either. Another solution may have been to take him OUT OF the classes with 16 & 17 yr olds and put him in freshman classes.

    No all that being said- those are the kind of things that must go into CIF’s initial ruling. They MUST follow the By-Laws that are instituted by Principals. Remember -CIF works for them. That doesn’t mean that upon appeal, with further evidence presented an initial ruling can’t be overturned – but it must go through the process.

    Sadly, they’re waiting until now, when the real “hardship” if there was one, was back in 2006 and had they read the rule book could have began correcting it then.

  • Watcher

    Yes,athletics and lawsuits don’t always mix.I think they should look at this again.The fact Wagner has only played 3 years and wants to play his senior year is not asking for too much in my opinion.CIF sometimes goes by the book without taking a more logical look at cases.Good luck Wagner.

  • Aaron

    There was a girl that graduated the year before me at Bonita. She was 16 when she graduated. Really smart and went to Berkeley. She played tennis at Bonita. So as far as this guy is concerned idk…there were more than a few young ones in my high school class.

  • Over Zealous Parents:

    Sports used to be something that taught young men and women about working hard and what can be accomplished when they and/or their teammates worked hard. It was about how to win and how to lose. Today its all about notoriety; my little Bobby can score more goals than anyone or my Nick has the highest batting average on this team.

    It seems like Nicks parent were a bit over zealous here and put Nick into school before he was ready. Yes, from his grades he was bright but he clearly was not ready for what they had done to him. Now he has to repeat the year not because he cant handle the work academically but he cant handle the work emotionally. He failed the year just like any kit that fails a year in school; although in this case his parents action put him in this situation.

    I have known two parents that took their honor student 8th graders and sent them to a private school for a year before high school so that they could be bigger than the other kids they compete in sports with. Both were motivated strictly due to sports and when both were not able to start at the QB position they wanted, both parents made several moves from high school to high school to try and gain that spot.

    Seems like in this case, Mommy and Daddy just decided that if they cant get their way, get a lawyer and see if we can scare CIF into changing the rules for little Nicky.

  • sports mom

    CIF is no better than a backyard bully, picking on a little kid. Just wait until they decide to do it to your kid. If the CIF wants to so severely penalize a child, they need to notify families of the potential consequences before it happens, not when it’s too late.

    The fact is, any kid can enroll in kindergarden if they turn 5 by December 2. Some kids that are academically ready for kindergarden at 4 aren’t emotionally and socially ready for high school at 13. There’s just no way you can know that until it happens. I don’t really see how that equals athletic motivation.

    Good luck Nick. Hope to see you on the field soon.

  • Rules are rules

    Cif has the 8 semester rule for a reason. The rule is in place to prevent parents from holding back their kids, after they have enrolled in high school, in order to obtain an additional year of athletic eligibility. An example of the hardship exception would be a kid being involved in a major accident or having a serious illness that prevented him or her from attending school for an entire year or a major part of a year. If the cif failded enforce the rule in this situation it would be a big mistake. Parents simply choosing to have their kid re-due a year of high school because they mistakenly started their kid in kindergarten one year too early is not a sufficient reason for an exception. After all, the parents couldnt figure out before 9th grade that they started their kid too soon in school?

  • Laylow

    It’s not like this kid is 6-2 230 and is doing it for a scholarship.

  • http://playallday playallday

    good luck nick, get your ged and go play at citrus for a year next year, play travel now. alot of this was seen a long time ago when, his folks put him in at damian and then pulled him out after one year. nick is a good kid who has been spoiled from baseball people for a long time. his folks had to know this was coming,his folks have always been not shy about promoting nick as a future star. this is not a kid who is being picked on. this is a baseball family who is seeing thier first adversity since nick was four. now get into college right now, and quit whining wagner family, nobody feels sorry for you. cif is actually correct this time

  • http://playallday playallday

    by the way, coach henley asking all the parents to go and protest for nick at cif is disgusting.

    thank god you had the once in 20 year talent pool coach to win a championship, because now its over, back to being lame head, with no clue

  • socalbaseball fan

    The cifss is right on this case as once you start high school you have 4 years to compete unless some serious medical problem occurs. If they allowed this to go on can you imagine some high school “greyshirting” their athletes to have 5th year seniors. This student has a good brain and is wasting time in high school and should have gone on to college.

  • Jackboy

    I know for a fact! Coach Henley hasnt asked anyone to picket on Nicks behalf. Anyone who says different is a liar! I find that idiots like you are the type of goof ball that make it up as you go along. Glendora Baseball has been around a long time.
    By the way, how many CIF champs does Glendora Baseball have?
    Nice job coach Henley.

  • Fred Robledo

    This is an extremely difficult decision because you can understand the argument on both sides. Joe Amat makes a very good point as do several others. But keep in mind, not all of CIF’s decisions are solely by the letter of the law. When CIF decided to allow Wardell Crutchfield’s son to transfer to Duarte while finding other Duarte transfers in the same situation athletically motivated, it was becuase his father (former coach at Duarte) was fired and became an assistant at Baldwin Park. CIF will allow kids to follow their parent/coach to the school he/she is coaching without penalty – not because it allows it under CIF rules – but because CIF feels it’s the right thing to do, even though by the letter of the law it’s an athletically motivated transfer just like the others. This is what the “spirit” of the rule is all about. The eight-semester rule is there as so many have pointed out so that parents don’t hold their children back and play as late 18 or 19-years olds. That isn’t the case here, this kid is the same age as others in his senior class and didn’t play sports when he was a 13-year-old at Damien. Each circumstance is different, but if what Wagner’s attorney wrote is correct, it certainly doesn’t appear that Nick Wagner was trying to gain an unfair advantage when it comes to his high school athletic career.

  • Prep Fan

    I really don’t think this is that tough of a decision. The litmus test for waiving the 8 semester rule has always been missed class time due to medical necessity. There are lots of students who have to repeat a year of high school for many different valid and compelling reasons. By having the 8 semester rule schools are insuring that students and administrators are making these decisions about repeating with no athletic motivation.

    In my experience CIF has consistently applied this rule regardless of the students ability and precedent suggests this lawsuit has almost no chance of succeeding.

  • But he did play sports at Damien…

    Fred…but he did play sports as a 13 year old at Damien as he was on the freshman football team with my son. I guess that throws a new wrinkle into this case?!!

  • Some more facts

    Some more facts:

    Nick did play sports at Damien. He played freshman football

    Nick is an outstanding athlete…..he played varsity as a sophomore on a very talented baseball team that went on to win CIF the next year.

    It was common knowledge back in 2006 and 2007 that the transfer was for baseball reasons and not social reasons. Nick is and has always been a very well adjusted kid.

    There are many kids that start HS as a 13 year old with b-days from say sep thru dec. They don’t get a redo.

  • CIF

    Fred, CIF already has a 19 year old rule that stops them from palying HS sports. If you are 19 before June, you cannot participate.

    No student, whose 19th birthday is attained prior to June 15, shall participate or practice on any team in the following school year. A student, whose 19th birthday is on or before June 14, is ineligible.

  • Fred Robledo

    Let me get this straight, you’re blaming me for posting a letter sent to the media in hopes of drawing attention to this story … BTW it was just his birthday, not his social security number..

  • birthday

    Bad on the parenets for sending the letter with the birthday and bad on Fred for posting it anyway. The media normally has policies against this short of thing concerning minors. They need to protect minor’s personal information regardless if it was made available by the parents. It’s the Tribune though…what do you expect.

  • FredJ

    It’s just a birthday, if we write about a kid dropping 25 points on his 16th birthday, I’m sure readers can figure out what day he was born….But to make you happy, I will edit it out, hopefully this is the end of that discussion.

  • from someone who knows

    Wagner parents. Save your money. You will lose. A few years ago a group of parents (not going to say what school) tried suing CIF on a ruling and lost due to this fact; CIF has a contract with high schools. Not parents or athletes. A civil court cannot make a decision where there is no contract or agreement involved. For this case to be heard, it must be Glendora High School to sue CIF – and that’s not going to happen either.

  • Couple notes

    1) UH – HE IS NOT A MINOR, he is 18!!!!

    2) Yeah Fred jump into the real world, great damage can be done knowing a bday!

    3) Yeah this is totally motivated by athletics and is SHODDY journalism. Learn what is go on before you post something Fred, we all know you are a CIF basher – but this is bogus!

  • Typical

    In typical Glendora fashion a parent is not taking accountability for their own actions. It must be some else’s fault my some doesn’t get 5 years of high school sports.
    You play the pour kid card as much as you want but what about the kid who only getting their legal 4 years who may loose a spot because a kid had an extra year.
    Stop begging for the comunity to support you and have a little PRIDE and just move on.

  • greyshirt

    I wish I could have greyshirted in high school.