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From left, Wal Khat, Mangisto Deng, Makur Puou and Akim Nyang had their suspensions by the Illinois High School Association lifted through a Temporary Restraining Order issued by Kane County Judge David Akemann.
MOOSEHEART, Dec. 4 - Mooseheart on Tuesday sought and received a Temporary Restraining Order against the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) from Judge David Akemann of the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit at the Kane County Judicial Center in Geneva, IL.
“I am definitely pleased with Judge Akemann’s ruling today with the restraining order,” Mooseheart Executive Director Scott Hart said. “It’s a small victory and we appreciate the ability to let the boys continue to play until we have a full hearing before the IHSA Board of Directors.”
Mooseheart was represented in court by attorney Peter G. Rush from the law firm K & L Gates LLP in Chicago and Moose International General Counsel Michael Leuer. The school went to court in response to notification on Nov. 29 by the IHSA that Mangisto Deng, Akim Nyang and Makur Puou had been ruled ineligible.
With Tuesday’s Temporary Restraining Order, the three are allowed to play for the Ramblers until the matter is resolved. The next step in the process is a Dec. 10 hearing before the 16 principals who comprise the IHSA Board of Directors at the IHSA offices in Bloomington.
“Nothing’s been resolved,” Hart said. “Things are status quo. The boys are playing like they were at the start of the season. We’ll go to Dec. 10 and find out how the IHSA Board of Directors feels.”
The IHSA Board of Directors can choose to uphold the Mooseheart suspensions or to overturn them.
“I would hope that they would declare that Mooseheart’s done nothing that should be penalized under the IHSA regulations,” Rush said. “My hope is that this would be over for us, for the student-athletes, for Mooseheart and for the IHSA. This benefits no one.”
Deng, Nyang and Puou are three of four residents from South Sudan attending Mooseheart. The fourth is Wal Khat, who capped his first cross country season in November by finishing 24th in the Class 1A state finals. Khat was stripped of his medal in the IHSA ruling and deemed ineligible. All four are high school juniors.
All four arrived at Mooseheart on May 16, 2011 on an F-1 visa through the A-HOPE (African Hoop Opportunities Providing an Education) Foundation. By IHSA rules, all four were ineligible to compete interscholastically for 365 days following their admittance to Mooseheart.
The IHSA’s notification to Mooseheart stated that the move came after “an exhaustive investigation” and that notification cited IHSA Rule 3.071 and 3.073 as reasons the three players were being suspended.
Rule 3.071 is a prohibition on recruiting - regardless of the student’s residence or transfer status. Rule 3.073 is a prohibition on inducing or encouraging students to attend a school so they may participate in athletics - even if gifts or money are not involved.
“I have no doubt that if Mooseheart did something wrong, they would be pleased and happy to accept the penalty for it,” Rush said. “It’s not in the nature of the organization to skirt or hide from responsibility for what they’ve done. They take responsibility for their own lives but for the lives of thousands of others over 100 years.”
The Ramblers have three contests this week, a 7 p.m. home contest on Tuesday against Westminster Christian, a 7:15 contest on Wednesday game at Hinckley-Big Rock and a 6 p.m. Saturday encounter with La Lumiere School in LaPorte, IN.
Media outlets are asked to contact Mooseheart Executive Director Scott Hart for comment on this story at 630/906-3601.
Since its founding, Mooseheart has operated a complete, accredited kindergarten-through-high-school academic program, plus art, music, vocational training and interscholastic sports. It is an extremely nurturing and student-tailored program, with an average student-teacher ratio of 12-1.
Mooseheart students who complete their studies with a 3.0 GPA or better (4.0=A) are eligible for up to five years of annually renewable scholarship funding, covering tuition, room and board in an amount comparable to that required for an in-state student at an Illinois public university.
Mooseheart is currently home to roughly 230 students, ranging in age from preschoolers to high school seniors. Applications for admission to Mooseheart are considered from any family whose children are, for whatever reason, lacking a stable home environment. Mooseheart boasts its own U.S. Post Office and a fully functioning branch of Fifth Third Bank.
In addition to Mooseheart, Moose International also supports Moosehaven, a 70-acre retirement community near Jacksonville, FL founded in 1922; and conducts more than $70 million worth of community service programs annually.