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Judge upholds decision to ban Bishop Fenwick High School from postseason play after rules violation

PEABODY, Mass. — A Massachusetts Superior Court judge upheld a decision by the MIAA on Friday to ban Bishop Fenwick High School from competing in postseason play for the 2023-2024 sports season after a rules violation.

The MIAA found that Bishop Fenwick had failed to comply with Rule 87.6, which deals with the student-athlete eligibility waiver process. The MIAA Board of Directors voted unanimously to impose the ban, citing Bishop Fenwick’s “sufficiently serious, egregious and repeated to warrant imposition of the discipline outlined in Rule 87.6.4.”

Judge Janice W. Howe sided with the MIAA, noting their “measured approach” and denied the school’s motion for preliminary injunction. One reason, she says, is that the MIAA is a voluntary member organization where “its member schools agree to comply with the MIAA rules.”

The decision comes weeks after Bishop Fenwick sought an emergency order on the ban in Essex Superior Court.

Howe went on to say that if there were no sanctions for violating the rules, the authority of the MIAA over its members would slump. She also says that Bishop Fenwick was banned only from postseason play, but can play out the regular season.

“While the court does not want to discount the importance of participating in extracurricular activities, including athletics, for the student participants, one must not forget that such participation is a privilege, not a right,” Howe said.

In a statement, Bishop Fenwick said they’re “deeply disappointed” by the decision.

“We have invested significant time and resources in advocating for our student-athletes and for our Fenwick community,” President Thomas Nunan Jr. said. “We will be discussing our options in the coming days.”

The MIAA said the following about the court’s decision today:

This decision affirms the mission of the MIAA and its continued support of its 383 member schools. As determined in previous court rulings, the policies and decisions of the MIAA and its Board of Directors are not arbitrary nor capricious and are made for the greater good of the Association.

The responsibility of accountability with each member school rests with each school’s leadership team. In making decisions at the school level, the policies and procedures set forth by the member-driven Association must be followed.

We are hopeful this decision allows everyone to move forward, and we welcome the opportunity to continue to work with Bishop Fenwick, a valued member of our Association.

Bishop Fenwick competes in the Catholic Central League. The strict ban will apply to sports in each of the three seasons, fall, winter, and spring.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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