A Sparks private school and several international students sued the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association last week, claiming international students are being blocked from playing sports.
The lawsuit, filed in United States District Court on Jan. 16, alleges that the NIAA rules discriminate against international students.
Excel Christian School, located on Baring Blvd. in Sparks, is a private school with about 45 high school students enrolled.
The Excel Christian athletic director told News 4-Fox 11 that NIAA rules prevented them from fielding an 8-man football team this school year and prevented them from adding international players to other teams, such as basketball.
The lawsuit focuses on an NIAA regulation that precludes "12th grade international students from participation on any sports team because they are 'ineligible to participate in a sanctioned sport.'"
Another regulation says that "9th, 10th, and 11th grade international students may only 'participate in a sanctioned sport at a level other than varsity.'"
Excel Christian School is so small that it doesn't have enough students to field junior varsity teams, so the school is limited to fielding only varsity teams — which all international students are excluded from, according to the lawsuit.
The intent of the rule is to prevent schools from recruiting international players, but results in small schools struggling to field full teams.
"We have 7 or 8 international students enrolled (and) 5 of them play sports for us. It significantly impacts our ability to field even a roster for varsity let alone being able to field a varsity and a junior varsity," athletic director Debbie Green said.
We know all of our students, we know their families, and to have to tell a student, 'I'm sorry, thank you for trying out, participating in practice, but you can't participate in games with us,' that was devastating for me as well as the students we had to tell.
Green said the school tried to find out a solution with the NIAA before filing the lawsuit, but they weren't able to come to an agreement.
She said she hopes the lawsuit brings about a reasonable rule change or an exception for small schools that the rule impacts most.
An NIAA spokesman said the association wasn't ready to comment on the pending litigation. A hearing hasn't been scheduled yet.
READ the lawsuit here: