East Ridge High School must forfeit its conference and section football titles for 2013 and 2014 because the varsity team used an ineligible player.
School District 833 received documentation earlier this year regarding residency information for an East Ridge student and later learned that the student never lived at the residence listed on paperwork provided by the family, according to a South Washington County Schools statement issued late Thursday.
The student played for the Raptors the past two seasons but the district did not identify him due to data privacy laws.
The Minnesota State High School League requires that a school forfeit every game and honor in which an ineligible student played. East Ridge is stripped of its 2013 Suburban East Conference championship and its 2014 state tournament berth, but the district did not specify the total number of games forfeited because it said doing so could violate data privacy laws.
“This is a very disappointing situation for the students of East Ridge High School,” Assistant Superintendent Mike Johnson said in the statement. “When this was brought to our attention, we immediately corrected what we could and are working through all resolutions required by the Minnesota State High School League.”
The Raptors have been an east-metro powerhouse in recent years, going 8-2 in 2013 and 9-2 last fall. The Raptors lost to Eden Prairie in the state tournament quarterfinal last fall.
Raptors head coach Mike Pendino said in an interview Thursday that he learned a couple of weeks ago that the district had conducted an investigation and was told of the ineligible player.
Pendino, the Raptors’ head coach since 2010, said he did not knowingly play an ineligible student.
“As a coach if you know you’re playing with someone illegal, in my mind you better step up and do what’s right and say there’s something wrong here.”
Pendino said East Ridge officials and coaches did nothing wrong, stressing that the district handles enrollment paperwork.
“In our school district, it is the district office who decides who comes into East Ridge or Park or to Woodbury,” he said. “That’s where all the paperwork is approved and it’s a shame that the players and coaches and East Ridge has to go through this because we have no say who attends or who plays … We don’t vet them. That’s not our job to vet each and every student or player.”
Johnson said there was no mistake in the district’s student enrollment process.
“While we always seek to improve our processes, our student information department followed the enrollment process correctly based on the proof of residency that was provided,” he said in a statement.
Pendino said he did not believe the school or its students should be punished “for something they have nothing to do with.” He did not say the sanction was unfair, but said “maybe the high school league should look” at the policy.
The district statement said that it is addressing the findings of its internal investigation regarding the ineligibility, and it “continues to consult with the MSHSL to ensure appropriate compliance in this situation and in the future.” It said the district cannot comment on any internal discipline or penalties.
East Ridge is in Woodbury but its attendance boundary also includes Newport and parts of Cottage Grove.