Princehoward Yee plays as varsity catcher on the Deering High School team last year. Home-schooled in the interim, he enrolled as a full-time student at Deering in January. Staff photo by Derek Davis

The father of a Deering High School sophomore has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the school’s principal has arbitrarily denied his son “the right to play varsity baseball.”

The lawsuit states that Princehoward Yee, a resident of Falmouth who had been home-schooled, enrolled as a full-time student at Deering on Jan. 25 believing that he would be eligible to try out for the varsity team. The lawsuit – which describes Yee as one of “Maine’s most promising high school baseball players (a sophomore with an 85 mile per hour fastball)” – says that Yee believed until just before preseason practice began in March that he would be able to try out for the team.

“Defendant Principal Gregg Palmer took this extraordinary, unilateral step exactly one day before the 2018 baseball season began in what can only be considered an unreasonable exercise of his authority, used to deny Plaintiff a valuable opportunity, stunt his growth as an athlete, impair his college opportunities, and cause him direct and lasting economic and emotional harm,” according to court documents filed by attorney Michael J. Waxman.

The lawsuit contends that Yee and his father, Howard Yee, who is listed as the primary plaintiff in the lawsuit, were denied their right to due process because Palmer in particular and the school in general did not give a specific reason why Yee was ineligible, nor did they engage the family in the decision-making process.

Palmer is listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, along with Xavier Botana, superintendent of Portland Public Schools.

Waxman and Melissa A. Hewey, the attorney representing the school system, met in chambers Tuesday with U.S. District Court Chief Judge Nancy Torresen. The judge scheduled a hearing for April 11 on Waxman’s request for a preliminary injunction to overturn the school’s decision on Princehoward Yee. The suit also seeks monetary compensation for the “violation of his fundamental civil rights” and for attorney fees and costs associated with the suit.

Hewey said neither she nor the Portland school department would comment on the case.

She plans to file an opposition memorandum on Thursday that should outline the school’s rationale for denying Yee eligibility. Waxman will then respond with a memorandum of his own before next week’s hearing.

The suit details how Yee has been home-schooled and taken classes at both Falmouth and Deering during his first two years in high school. Last spring, as a freshman, he took two science classes at Deering and was allowed to play varsity baseball for the Rams. At that time, Palmer was the principal at Falmouth High.

This school year, Yee was home-schooled until he was accepted as a full-time student at Deering High. Both Falmouth Superintendent Geoff Bruno and Portland Superintendent Botana signed a transfer request document dated Jan. 25.

The documents states that Yee would be allowed to participate in sports “subject to the same requirements as any other student-athlete provided that the Falmouth and Deering Athletic Directors reach an agreement.”

That caveat pertains to a Maine Principals’ Association rule that says students who transfer without a corresponding change of residence are eligible to play sports if the student, parent(s) and both the sending and receiving school principals all certify that “the transfer was not primarily for athletic purposes.”

The transfer rule is intended to keep student-athletes from hopping from one school to another in the quest for a better athletic opportunity.

The MPA regulates eligibility only for varsity athletics. For this reason, Yee could play sub-varsity baseball without any potential consequences for Deering.

Yee now is practicing with the Deering baseball squad and will be allowed to play on the junior varsity team, Waxman said.

Yee had started his freshman year in 2016 being home-schooled and taking supplemental classes at Falmouth High. According to court documents, Yee “was doing very poorly academically and felt overwhelmed by the large classes” at Falmouth High and returned to being home-schooled on a full-time basis that fall.

As a freshman, Yee began the season as Deering’s starting varsity catcher. After the fourth game, Howard Yee removed his son from the team “to permit him to focus his energies and attention on the two science classes.”

As a sophomore, Yee returned to being home-schooled until he enrolled at Deering in late January.

“He’s fully enrolled and taking a full course load,” Waxman said. “I’ve known him a little while and I tell you he’s had a great experience at Deering.”

Howard Yee could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Steve Craig can be contacted at 791-6413 or at:

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