The father of a baseball player with an 85 mph fastball has sued Portland school officials in federal court over an alleged decision that is keeping his son from playing varsity baseball this season at Deering High School.
Howard Yee of Falmouth is asking U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen to order Principal Gregg Palmer and Superintendent Xavier Botana to allow PrinceHoward Yee to play “as long as he makes the team and his grades are good enough.”
The lawsuit claims that Yee learned on March 16 that his son would not be eligible to play varsity baseball on the Friday before tryouts were scheduled. Botana had approved the boy’s transfer into the district in January, according to a form filed with the lawsuit. Permission for the transfer was granted “in the best interest of the student,” as required by state law.
PrinceHoward Yee, 15, was homeschooled for much of his life but last year attended some classes at Falmouth High School, according to court documents. He did not make the Falmouth varsity baseball team, according to Hewey.
Last spring, he enrolled at Deering after purporting to be a Portland resident and made the varsity baseball team. He played four games, then left the high school to focus on academics before returning in January, according to the lawsuit, filed Monday by the Yee’s attorney, Michael Waxman of Portland.
Just before this baseball season began, Palmer unilaterally decided that PrinceHoward Yee had transferred to Deering from Falmouth primarily to play on the school’s baseball team, which is a violation of the Maine Principal Association’s rules governing high school athletics, the complaint said.
Melissa Hewey, the Portland attorney representing the principal and the superintendent, argued in a court filing that it became apparent to Palmer that the student, who lives in Falmouth, was attending Deering to play baseball, not for academic reasons.
The principal asserted that the elder Yee said the boy would be not be attending Deering for the 2018-19 school year. The student also was taking just three academic classes — health, physical education and physics — rather than the usual four.
Under MPA rules, a student who transfers to a district where his/her parents don’t reside is eligible to play varsity athletics if the MPA approves a waiver. Obtaining a waiver is a three-part process, Hewey wrote.
First, the principal of the sending school must certify that the transfer was not for athletic purposes. Second, the principal of the receiving school must certify that the transfer was not for athletic purposes. Finally, the waiver must be approved by the MPA.
Melanie Craig, athletic and co-curricular administrator at Deering High School, said in a court affidavit that she and James Coffey, the athletic director at Falmouth High School, believed that PrinceHoward Yee’s “transfer was primarily for athletic purposes.”
“Over the past two years, [Howard Yee] has sent a plethora of emails about [his son] playing baseball at DHS,” she wrote. “On Jan. 23, [the son] stopped by my office and said that he was going to enroll in classes at DHS so that he could play baseball for the school.”
The boy currently plays on the junior varsity team, which does not require the three-step certification process, according to Waxman.
“This is all about fairness,” Waxman said Thursday. “The [Portland] superintendent signed the transfer form in January. The family believed he was a regular student and he would be able to try out for any athletic team he wanted. They expected there wouldn’t be a problem [when the baseball season started]. This came out of the blue for them.”
In addition to a court order forcing the school to allow the boy to play on the varsity baseball team, the Yees are seeking unspecified monetary damages and legal fees.
Torresen will hold a hearing Wednesday in federal court in Portland on the motion to force the principal and the superintendent to allow the boy to play on the team as long as he qualifies.
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