Harassed teens will be able to play sports

COLUMBIA --- Teens across the state who are harassed and transfer schools to escape will now be able to play sports without the customary one-year wait, due in part, to a Beaufort County high school student.

Gov. Mark Sanford approved a change in the state law this week created by a bill inspired by the student.

Lauren Gentry was prohibited from playing softball after changing from Battery Creek High School to Beaufort High School to get away from her ex-boyfriend.

The South Carolina High School League repeatedly denied Lauren's request for an exemption to the sports eligibility rules.

Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, introduced the bill, H. 4758, after she heard about Lauren's situation.

The law allows high school students who were harassed or intimidated by another student to transfer schools and retain their eligibility to play sports.

The student would have had to first receive a personal protection order against the offending student and show that the order had been violated.

The measure faced intense opposition from Rep. Kenneth Kennedy, Greeleyville, who accused Ms. Erickson of using the issue to curry favor with voters in her district.

Other opponents said the bill was an effort to control the South Carolina High School League.

Ms. Erickson did not face an opponent in the June 10 GOP primary. In the Nov. 4 general election, she will face Democrat James Brown Jr.

Reach Sarita Chourey at (803) 727-4257 or sarita.chourey@morris.com.