CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago Public Schools cross-country team has lawyered up – now looking for a way to keep their season alive as teachers are on strike.
As CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported Tuesday night, the lawyer behind the new push has a stake in the team. He is the father of one of the varsity cross-country runners at Jones College Prep, and he is hoping the vagueness of the wording of the Illinois High School Association rules will allow the team to run in the regionals this weekend.
As it is now, the cross-country team at Jones College Prep is close to being stopped right before the finish line.
“It would be really disappointing, especially seeing as it’s our senior year,” said Jones College Prep senior Ian Bacon.
“There’s nothing we can control, so right now, all we can do is just run every day – control what we can control,” said Jones College Prep senior Anthony Maida.
With their Chicago Public Schools teachers on the picket line since Thursday, the team’s postseason hopes are fading away.
Regionals are this weekend, and during a strike, the team would have to forfeit unless they’ve started the beginning level of competition for the postseason. Those are the state rules.
“There is no harm in allowing these kids to compete,” said attorney Kevin Sterling. He added that it’s personal for him, because, “I have a sophomore at Jones.”
Sterling is looking to give the team a shot, sending a letter to the IHSA saying their wording is confusing.
“The IHSA Handbook fails to specifically define what constitutes the beginning level of competition,” Sterling said.
Sterling argues last week’s Public League Cross-Country Championship counts as the beginning of postseason competition, and therefore the kids should be able to run in regionals this weekend – despite the strike.
“This is not about the strike and I’m not picking sides,” Sterling said. “This is about doing right by our kids, and not making them the victim of what’s going on at the negotiating table.”
“It would be really disappointing, knowing we have a really solid chance this year and not being able to fulfill that,” said Jones College Prep senior Ian Bacon.
Sterling’s letter gives the IHSA until noon Wednesday to respond. Otherwise, Sterling said he is prepared to move forward with a lawsuit.
At a news conference Tuesday night, CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates acknowledged the pain felt by the student athletes.
“There is zero romanticism in a work stoppage, it isn’t,” she said. “There’s nothing that we’ll be able to say to any student athlete that’s going to make it better.”
But Gates argued that Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS were the ones to blame for the situation because the city to negotiate a new contract before a strike was on the horizon.
Lightfoot, by contrast, brought up in a letter to CTU Monday that school sports teams would be ineligible for the state playoffs if the strike were not resolved. The letter noted that the Simeon High School volleyball team – one of the top programs in Illinois – would not be eligible for the playoffs if the strike was not resolved by Tuesday. CPS’ boys’ soccer teams were, among others, also unable to participate in state playoffs.
The letter asked teachers to come back to work while negotiations were still going on. The CTU’s Jesse Sharkey in turn responded that Mayor Lightfoot had “dashed our hopes for a quick settlement” by sending the letter.