Scott Hart, the executive director of Mooseheart Child City & School, released a statement Tuesday morning on the situation in which three South Sudanese boys basketball players were ruled eligible, but the school's boys basketball program was put on probation. A cross country athlete also was ruled eligible.
The players previously had been ruled ineligible by IHSA executive director Marty Hickman.
"The IHSA Board of Directors took appropriate action yesterday when it overturned a decision by the IHSA executive director and reinstated the interscholastic athletic eligibility of the four Mooseheart students from South Sudan," Hart said in the statement. "These young men – Mangisto Deng, Makur Puou, Akim Nyang and Wal Khat – entered Mooseheart seeking an education and a chance for a better life, not only for themselves, but for their home communities and country where they plan to return. The ruling now allows the young men the opportunity to enjoy the same well-rounded high school experience as their classmates and all other students across Illinois.
"During the Dec. 10 board meeting, the IHSA also imposed three requirements on Mooseheart and its administrators, as well as placing the school on probation from the postseason basketball state series until the school complies with all three actions. Mooseheart maintains that it violated no IHSA rules in accepting these young men as students, nor has it ever recruited any student for the purpose of improving its athletic standing in its 100-year history.
"We believe our organization has a comprehensive and detailed admissions process, in determining both the level of need a child has to be considered for placement at Mooseheart and the likelihood of success for that child within our program. No organization is perfect, however, and we will act upon the IHSA ruling as a learning experience and a chance to better our already high standards.
"We are grateful for the outpouring of support we have received from the public, the news media and others in the community who recognize the positive influence that Mooseheart has had, and will continue to have, on children in need. We promise to continue fulfilling our mission to nurture, raise and educate children from across our continent and around the world, based solely on a child’s life circumstances and not on any special talents or gifts that he/she may possess."