A Message to Louisiana’s High School Officials
First, we hope you, your families, and friends are well and are taking every step appropriate to remain healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. We realize that our officials have lost a source of income and a sense of community that high school officiating provides. We have received questions and want to share the best information we have on a range of possibilities we continue to study.
1. We have reviewed NASO lost-assignment insurance and both LHSAA and LHSOA resources; unfortunately, there is no insurance coverage applicable to the current situation. There are simply inadequate financial resources at our state associations to compensate officials for the loss of game assignments.
2. Regarding government support, the NASO has organized an outreach program for state officiating associations and its members to solicit legislative support for officials; it is impossible to fully assess the ultimate benefit, if any, for LHSOA members. We are following up on this initiative.
Potential Longer-Term Opportunities
1. We expect many officials will need to attend an LHSOA-sanctioned camp in 2020 in order to achieve or retain certification. We are looking at the safest and most cost-effective way to provide camp opportunities, including use of virtual technology to provide this essential training.
2. We are reviewing the potential for some relief for future costs associated with registering as an official; this relief could be through a combination of financial support from the LHSOA and/or reduced fees at the LHSAA level. The challenge here relates to depleted LHSAA/LHSOA financial flexibility with both organizations absorbing the negative financial consequences of COVID-19.
We know you are managing changes in your daily routine and look forward to a return to normalcy. High school officiating is an important part of our lives, and we will be officiating again. Some of our local associations have organized online, real-time video sessions to provide opportunities for safe and meaningful engagement in something we love. The LHSAA and LHSOA are currently collaborating to provide web-based resources to support our officiating community. Stay tuned for more details about how you can participate.
Together, we will navigate these challenging times and find ourselves once again on the fields, courts, and diamonds of Louisiana. In the meantime, we implore you to practice social distancing and good hygiene habits. We value you and the important service you provide to our schools and student-athletes. We will continue to keep you informed and advocate on your behalf.
Lee Sanders, Director of Officials – LHSAA Paul LaRosa, President – LHSOA
New Louisiana Law in Support of High School Officials
On June 17, 2019, Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law House Bill 184 becoming Act No. 355, an important piece of legislation that directly affects all of us in the LHSOA. Your leadership team believes this new law, effective August 1, 2019, could have a very positive effect on the behavior of individuals who attend recreation and high school athletic events in our state. The entire text of the law is included here but a recap of its most important provisions for LHSOA officials follows:
- Harassment of game officials at school-sanctioned or sanctioned recreational contests, either while the official is actively engaged in officiating or in the immediate vicinity of where the contest is held, is considered criminal behavior
- Harassment is defined as verbal or non-verbal behavior by the offender that would cause a reasonable person to be placed in fear of receiving bodily harm
- An individual who commits the crime of harassment shall be fined $500 and/or imprisoned, without hard labor, for a term not exceeding 90 days
- The offender shall also participate in 40 hours of community service and a counseling program
All LHSOA officials will receive additional information to assist in understanding this new law and to provide guidance on actions we can take to insure the law best serves our needs.
We were successful this past January in getting support from the LHSAA Principals Association to enhance security for officials at all game sites. We believe this new law will provide an additional incentive for all administrators to take steps to provide proper security for our officials at all levels of competition. The LHSOA leadership team, along with the LHSAA, are developing procedures to assist game administrators and game officials with the enhanced security protocols. We believe Act No. 355 sets a new expectation for good sportsmanship and proper behavior for all attendees at athletic contests. This law reinforces the need for all LHSOA officials to be professional and to follow proper security protocols at all the games we work.