In 2011, the Hattiesburg High School girls basketball team was caught up in a dispute with the Mississippi High School Activities Association over the eligibility of senior star Tiaria Griffin. The Chancery Court of Forrest County ruled in favor of Hattiesburg High Friday.
Griffin, who now plays at the University of Georgia, transferred to Hattiesburg High from Lawrence County High School in the summer of 2011 for her senior year. She moved with her mother, who lost her jobs in Monticello, and found employment in Hattiesburg. The MHSAA placed the Lady Tiger basketball team on probation in November 2011 after challenging Griffin's eligibilty. The association asserted, among other things, that Griffin did not qualify for athletics at Hattiesburg High because she had not lived in the school district for 60 days prior to the beginning of the school year. In Friday's ruling, the court found that the MHSAA acted against Griffin and Hattiesburg High in a way that was not in accordance with its handbook. The court's final ruling read, "To interpret the Handbook language without understanding that a child's 'home school' can change because of a parent's job, death or other circumstances is to allow for an arbitrary or prejudicial enforcement of a rule to the detriment of a person's right to work, move and do whatever is necessary to provide for his/her family."
Superintendent for the Hattiesburg Public School District James Q. Bacchus said Tuesday that the school system was relieved to finally have this behind it. "We're glad that it's over and resolved, and we certainly are pleased with the outcome. The reason our board took this position is because we thought it was the best thing for the student."
The 2011-2012 Lady Tiger basketball team went on to win the 6A South State Championship and finished as runners-up in the state tournament. Bacchus said he was proud of the way the girls handled the distractions from that season and went on to such success. "That's what it's all about to support kids in being resilient and to make sure that they understand that sometimes there are challenges but you fight through those. You don't give up on what you want to do," Bacchus said.
Three seniors from the 2011-2012 Lady Tiger basketball team, including Griffin, went on to play at the collegiate level.
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