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Editorial - Yielding to temptation

April 10, 1998

For public officials, the temptation is always to do what's politically popular now, and worry about the consequences later. West Virginia officials succumbed to that temptation twice recently, and the only question now is when the problems will begin.

On Tuesday, the state's Secondary School Activities Commission voted to allow student-athletes to transfer to the school of their choice without restriction, provided they do so within the first 11 days of the academic year. After that, they can still transfer, but must become legal residents of the district in which they want to play.

The move opens the way for public-school coaches to recruit student athletes to strengthen their programs and for athletes' parents to seek out programs that would provide better opportunities for college scholarships. At a time when young people should be insulated from all that, they'll be thrown into the midst of it instead. We can only hope the state school board will exercise its veto power over this wrong-headed proposal.

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Another bad idea that sounds good until you get into the details is the grandparent-visitation bill signed this week by Gov. Cecil Underwood.

Designed to give grandparents some rights to see their grandchildren in the event that the children's parents divorce, the bill was expanded to the point where it will prompt a flood of litigation.

The most sensible provision gives grandparents the right to seek visitation during a couple's divorce or custody battle. The bill loses touch with reality, however, when it provides grandparents the right to petition for visitation even when the parents are happily living together. And the bill defines "grandparent" so broadly that a stepparent or foster parent could also petition for visitation.

The bottom line: Parents who are not divorcing, who may have very good reasons for keeping children away from certain relatives, may now have to justify their judgments in court. In an effort to legislate compassion, the legislature has created confusion instead.

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