Mother outraged after Plant H.S. admins inspect athlete's room

- Before student-athletes hit the gridiron at Plant High School, parents have to prove they live within the school boundaries. 

For Iris Collins, it’s become something of a routine. Her son, an honor roll student and football player, is starting his senior year.

"This is protocol," she said. Her son submitted a packet with copies of her utility bills and voter registration card. "We did everything."

This year, the school decided it wasn’t enough.

"I was at work and my mom called me and said people were walking through the home," she said.

A few weeks ago, two assistant principals made a surprise visit to verify the family really lives at the home. Her son answered the door. While the administrators apparently did not ask to speak to an adult, they did ask the 17-year-old to show them to his room. 

"They looked up and saw me, didn't say anything to me," said the student's grandmother, Barbara Kelly. "The lady followed him into his bedroom. After she did what she had to do in there, they left through the door with never telling me who they were."

Robert Nelson, the principal of Plant High School, would not comment on the specific incident. Nelson says Plant, in particular, has no room for error when it comes to whether a student truly lives within school boundaries.

A few years ago, the school had to forfeit 26 baseball games and lose their district title when the FHSAA discovered one student player lived in another school boundary.

"We're a school that's at capacity,” Nelson. “It's a product of a good school and a lot of people want to come to a good school.”

Plant High School has no written procedures spelling out what can trigger administrators to do an additional residency verification – or how. The Florida High School Sports Association, which sets sports eligibility rules, doesn’t offer any specific, written guidance on the issue. Neither does Hillsborough County Public School’s board policies.

Nelson says he does many of the residency checks himself. He doesn’t see a problem with going into a student’s bedroom.

“I will say, yes, I have been to rooms where there's one t-shirt and one pair of shorts and the parents swear they're living there. It's not my favorite part of the job by any means,” he said.

"I told the principal, I said I can sort of understand your reasons for doing this...but I totally disagree with their method," Kelly said. "To have the APs at his house, in his bedroom -- he felt embarrassed and upset about it.”

The family says the school’s only explanation for the bedroom check was that one of the mother’s utility bills indicated a late payment. Collins says that doesn’t make sense -- noting the school could have asked for another utility bill -- and she wonders whether some homes are being treated differently than others.

Nelson insists it has nothing to do with race or income levels.

“You want to be fair and equitable,” he said.  “I mean, families come in and pay their taxes so they can send their kids to a good school.”

Collins points out her family is one of them.

"Everything they're doing is extreme and excessive. At the end of the day, they don't know the effect they have on my son,” she added. “All he’s trying to do is be part of a great school, which Plant is.”

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