WASHINGTON - A D.C. high school is facing big disappointment heading into the holiday week, but some parents of kids at the school are fighting back.
Woodrow Wilson High School was disqualified from taking part in the prestigious Turkey Bowl - the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association public school championship football game played annually on Thanksgiving Day.
The school was set to play against Dunbar High School in the annual tradition that dates back more than four decades. But a player arrested for armed robbery was on Wilson's team.
The 17-year-old was arrested at his Greenbelt, Md., home and charged in the armed robbery of several University of Maryland students.
Because the student lived in Maryland - not in the Wilson school district in D.C. - the whole team has been disqualified. Anacostia High School will take Wilson's place in the game.
"Due to the player's ineligibility, Wilson will have to forfeit the games when this player was on the field, including two league games," Melissa Salmanowitz, press secretary for D.C. Public Schools, said in an emailed statement. "The forfeiture of two league games makes them ineligible for the playoffs and the Turkey Bowl."
DCPS Athletic Director Stephanie Evans also says between six and eight games could be removed from the school's record. Wilson's overall record is 8-3, their league record is 5-0.
Salmanowitz said it is important to ensure the integrity and fairness of the game, despite the confusion and frustration that may be caused by the school's disqualification.
But parents of players on Wilson's team have hired a lawyer to fight the decision to disqualify their kids. Peter Cahall, Wilson's principal, also has appealed the decision, according to a letter emailed to the parents who are involved:
"I cannot at this time accept the decision of the District of Columbia Public Schools and have made a formal appeal to the State Superintendent of Schools based on information that the rules have not been fairly and consistently administered...In the end, as long as we have due process and the rules are applied fairly and consistently, I can and will accept and support any decision for or against us."
Cahall said in the letter that there was no intention to mislead or violate regulations.
But Ian Roberts, principal at Anacostia, says playing in the Turkey Bowl creates an "exciting time" for his school and football team.
"This is what they have prepared for since the preseason," Roberts says. "This is what they've worked hard for."
The Washington Post reports Wilson had not appeared in the Turkey Bowl since 1991. (Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story cited the Post as saying this is the first time since 1991 that Wilson will not play in the Turkey Bowl.)
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