Parents, administration at odds over using Redmond High School name at national chess tourney

Members of the Redmond High School chess club may not be able to represent their school at the upcoming US Chess Federation tournament.

From left, Sam Deng, Noah Yeo and Anshul Ahluwalia compete at the Washington state chess competition earlier in 2017. File photo

Members of the Redmond High School (RHS) chess club may not be able to represent their school at the upcoming U.S. Chess Federation tournament.

The tournament is a K-12 national championship that pits students from across the country against each other. This year’s event will be held in Nashville, Tenn., on the weekend of May 12.

The four members of the RHS chess club, after winning the state championship, began planning to attend earlier this spring, but parents of the students said the school’s administrative code may block the students being associated with the school at the tournament without a chaperone.

Daniel Yeo, who is student and contestant Noah Yeo’s father, said they were told by school administration that their students could not use RHS’s name at the event.

“Since they cannot provide a chaperone, the students cannot use the school name,” Daniel Yeo said.

The tournament is an individual one as opposed to a group competition, but the top four students from the same school will have their points tallied together at the end and the schools will be ranked, Noah Yeo said.

While not participating in the school ranking portion of the event will not affect their individual scores in the competition, Noah Yeo said he would still like to see his school’s name on the scoreboard.

“It’s mostly just like a recognition thing, like we want people to know that we’re here and that we’re doing this type of thing,” he said. “It would just be cool to go to the national tournament and win some awards as a team.”

Daniel Yeo said he had contacted the school administration about the disagreement and was told that if the school’s name was to be used, a school chaperone would have to be present during the flight, hotel stay and tournament.

This presented logistical problems for the parents, who Daniel Yeo said were told by the school administration to book one flight, only to have them change it to accommodate the chaperone later after the parents had already bought tickets.

An influx of thousands of chess players also made booking hotel rooms difficult.

“Hotel accommodation is a nightmare because, like I said, there are so many people coming in,” Daniel Yeo said.

The inability to have RHS on the ranking boards is a shame, he said, because he believes this year’s team is an exceptional one.

The supernational tournament only occurs every four years and incorporates all grade levels, as opposed to the regular national tournaments, which are held the other three years, Noah Yeo said.

Kathryn Reith, the Lake Washington School District communication specialist, said the event itself was different due to individuals competing but then having group points tallied at the end.

She said the distinction between this event and others was the level of involvement the school had.

“It really sounds pretty unusual to have something where it’s not an official school club event,” she said. “…It’s not about the chaperone, it’s about is this an official school event.”

District policy, available on the Lake Washington website, states that staff members must apply for out-of-district trips 90 days in advance that requires students to stay overnight and additional criteria must be met, including securing adult chaperones.

Most sports teams, even if they are not expecting to make it to championships, still apply at least 90 days before a tournament, Reith said.

“I suspect that the activities clubs are less in tune with these policies,” she said.

If teams or clubs are going to be associated with the district or schools, Reith said they have to follow the procedures to ensure students are safe and district liabilities are covered.

She also said the high school principal tried to find a solution, unsuccessfully.

“We would encourage groups to go through the process and get the paperwork in , even if there’s the possibility they may not go, so that all the things can be put in place,” Reith said.

Despite that, Noah Yeo said he hopes it works out before the May 12 tournament.

“I just really hope that we’ll be able to represent the school,” he said.

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