Each spring, principals vote on amendments
to the OHSAA Constitution & Bylaws
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by Brian Day
a round table meeting in 1906, before the Ohio High School Athletic
Association was in existence, future Board president George R.
Eastman and a committee of school officials sat down to draft what
would become the state’s first Constitution and Bylaws for
interscholastic athletics. The task was needed, according to J.R.
Clarke’s 1938 article on the Genesis of the OHSAA, in order to
“check the baleful influences accompanying interschool games and
festivities, such as playing ringers, fights, riots, gambling,
drinking, outside interferences and miscellaneous, uncurbed conduct
of pupils and others attending the games with no chaperones.”
Fast-forward 104 years and, although the document looks completely
different, the importance of the Constitution and Bylaws to the
Board of Directors and the Association’s member schools remains the
“It is one of the top priorities of the Board and our staff to
ensure that our Constitution and Bylaws are fair, equitable and
consistent for our student-athletes and member schools,” said Dr.
Deborah Moore, OHSAA Associate Commissioner of Eligibility. “We live
in a fast-changing world in education and athletics and it is
important that we keep on top of that.”
The referendum process that occurs each spring allows the OHSAA
Constitution and Bylaws to be amended to keep up with changes taking
place. This process is also one way the OHSAA stays member-driven,
as principals of the member schools are the voters on the issues.
A referendum item can be placed on the ballot for a vote either by
the Board of Directors or by a petition process. In the first and
most common method, the Board of Directors takes issues it has heard
from districts and schools around the state and discusses them,
starting at its very first meeting in August.
The Board works through the topics with the OHSAA staff and puts
together language for a potential referendum item.
The second way to place a referendum item on a ballot is for an
administrator, teacher, coach or another interested individual at a
member school to gather at least 75 signatures from principals with
a minimum of five from each athletic district. The petition must be
submitted to the OHSAA prior to circulation to ensure accuracy and
that it is constructed in the proper manner. Once the signatures are
collected, the petition is then filed with the OHSAA, checked for
accuracy and then placed on the referendum ballot.
Once the referendum items are finalized, the OHSAA notifies member
schools about the details of the issues through web postings and
emails. Communication then occurs via athletic discussion meetings,
which are held throughout the state in April, where an OHSAA staff
member presents and takes questions regarding the issues on which
school principals will be voting.
Voting takes place by member school principals the first two weeks
of May, and if the item gains majority approval, it goes into effect
the following August unless the Board has stipulated a different
date. Regardless of the size of a school or whether a school is
public or non-public, each member school has one vote to approve or
disapprove the proposed changes. Results are then posted on the
OHSAA home page and are emailed to member schools along with further
explanations of the important changes.
“This is an extremely critical process for our member schools,” said
Dr. Moore. “Sometimes referendum items are small clarifications and
codifying of existing bylaws, but often times major change occurs in
high school athletics each May as a result of this vote.”
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