GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Two Onslow high school students excelling in the classroom were told they wouldn’t be able to play soccer during their senior season.

The reason was due to certain eligibility rules from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. The two were taking advanced placement and community college dual enrollment courses, but those do not count towards the amount needed to play sports in the following semester.

Full interview with WNCT’s Ken Watlington and NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker (Kenneth Roundtree video)

“To me, soccer is just, I get to play with my best friends. And it’s really frustrating … I don’t get to be a part of it,” says Caitlynn Guarino, a Richlands High School student.

“It does me no good to put down anybody who made a mistake in this process. But I would just like to make it so it doesn’t happen again,” said Madison Small, a senior at Southwest Onslow High School.

Reporter’s Notebook: Claire Curry, Ken Watlington speak about special involving student-athletes’ academic issues

Both were eventually allowed to play sports. A petition was created and N.C. Sen. Michael Lazzara stepped in to assist. Ultimately, the NC High School Athletic Association allowed both to play.

WNCT presents this special, which shows how the whole situation unfolded and what ultimately led to both being able to play soccer again. We also have a one-on-one interview with NCHSAA commissioner Que Tucker about the rules and why there was confusion about the student-athletes’ situation.

Note: After the special was completed, the NC State Board of Education released statements for the show.

The process for rule-making can be very lengthy and can take up to a year for a final change of a permanent rule to take place.  Once a draft proposed rule is adopted by the State Board of Education, it must be published widely, as required by law.  There are public notice, public hearings and comment periods required. Objections must be considered and rejected or incorporated into the law.  If there are enough objections, the legislature must be given an opportunity to review the Rule and enact legislation if it agrees with the objections.  Even when there are no objections, the Rules Review Commission has very specific drafting and clarity requirements which usually results in discussions and negotiations about the wording of the rule.  If any substantive changes are made, the notice, public hearing and comment periods must be done again.  Only after all that will a permanent rule be approved by the Rules Review Commission.