Student-athletes, parents speak out against Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s ‘transfer rule’

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s “transfer rule” has begun to stir up controversy across the state, threatening the eligibility of players if they do not live with their mothers.

The story was first reported by the Can We Keep It Real Podcast, focusing on Rhode Island High School football.

The rule, as shown on the league’s website, reads: “Unless there is a Family Court decision awarding custody to another, the residence of the mother shall be judged to be the residence of the student. The student, however, must actually reside at the mother’s home. If the student neither resides at the mother’s home nor in the home of the person awarded custody by the Family Court, the student shall be subject to a waiting period of 50% of the League schedule before becoming eligible for RIIL competition. Students who are wards of the state shall become immediately eligible upon being assigned by the proper state authorities to a foster home or equivalent facility.”

Zion Duarte, a student and senior member of the football team at Central High School in Providence, was directly in violation of the rule.

Moments after speaking with ABC 6 News, Duarte was told he won his appeal to Rhode Island Interscholastic League, and was fully eligible.

“I had a lot of things going on back in my hometown, and it wasn’t really safe for me,” he explained. “So, I just felt that I needed a change, and I could not be where I was at. So, I had to move.”

Duarte moved from Pawtucket to Providence to live with his sister.

He continued, “I’ve been waiting my whole life for this moment — my senior year — and I just can’t shine, and I can’t show the college recruits that are supposed to come to my game how good I am. It hurts me a lot.”

The league told ABC 6 that the rule is meant to mitigate transferring across the state, while simultaneously creating equal competition.

Bernard Parsons, the father of a Central High School football player, was awarded an exemption in court after their move from Pawtucket to Providence.

“They don’t take into effect that there are dads raising their kids that don’t even live with the mom,” said Parsons. “So, why would you force a kid to be with his mom if he doesn’t know her, or maybe the mom passed away. They don’t take this all into consideration.”

“You have some kids in situations where they can’t live with their mom for whatever reason. It’s not the league’s business to know what is happening in everybody’s household,” he continued.

Even after winning the appeal, Duarte hopes his story and fight can speak to others who face similar challenges.

“I’m doing this all for the kids who do end up transferring, or are just going through things and can’t really control it. So, I just want to get this changed for the kids in the future. I want to see everyone succeed in life,” he concluded.

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