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Miss. association wants to move hazing case to federal court

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Jeffery Dixon Jr. transferred to Poplarville High after being punched by a teammate at Picayune Memorial High in April 2011. Dixon is one of two former Picayune students who said they were hospitalized after being punched by bigger, older teammates in a long-running hazing ritual.

After Dixon and a younger sibling transferred to Poplarville, the MHSAA ruled them ineligible for sports. The Dixon parents have asked a Pearl River County Chancery Court for an order that would allow the youngsters to play sports at Poplarville. A hearing in that court scheduled for Thursday has been canceled.

In documents filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Gulfport, the MHSAA asked U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. to take over the case. The Mississippi Department of Education joined in the request. The judge has not ruled.

Amy Dixon, Jeffrey Dixon’s mother, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that her attorney is reviewing the filing and will make the appropriate legal response in court in the best interest of her children. She said she hopes the case will remain in state court.

The MHSAA contends in court documents the claim made by the family is an attempt to enforce rules and regulations under the federal No Child Left Behind Law. Specifically, the MHSSA said the parents claim that No Child Left Behind “gives victims of crimes the absolute right to transfer to escape the physical violence” allegedly suffered at school.

The MHSAA said the lawsuit does not belong in state court when the parents use federal law to support their claims.

MHSAA executive director Don Hinton has said Dixon didn’t meet the requirements for a hardship waiver, which he said is generally used for medical reasons. Hinton said MHSAA officials met with the Dixons in early February when the new school filed an appeal on Dixon’s behalf, but the association stood by its earlier denial.

The association enforces state rules that prevent high school students from switching districts just to play sports, ostensibly to prevent star athletes from essentially being recruited by rival districts.

The Dixons insisted their kids didn’t transfer to be on a better team.

“We didn’t relocate for better athletic opportunities. We relocated to make sure they came home alive every day,” Jeffrey Dixon Sr. said in an email Tuesday. “We are hoping the judge sees this case for what it is; our children simply trying to get on with their life in the most normal way possible.”

Picayune officials have declined to comment because the Dixons have sued over the allegations in a separate case.

Picayune is a city of about 10,800 that’s about 50 miles northeast of New Orleans. The Picayune High football team won the Class 5A state championship this past year. The baseball team has a history of high-caliber play, and won the state championship in 2002. That year the Maroon Tide were No. 5 in the final USA TODAY Super 25 rankings.

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