A Helena District Court judge ruled in favor of the Montana High School Association Friday, denying a temporary restraining order filed on behalf of Jay Johnston in an effort to get eligible to play soccer at Helena High.
Johnston’s parents, Bridget and James L. Johnston II, filed a motion on his behalf last month after Johnston was ruled ineligible to play at Helena High by the Helena School District and the MHSA.
After hearing arguments on both sides for nearly three hours, the judge said granting the restraining order, which would have allowed Johnston to finish the regular season with Helena High, would not have upheld the status quo, so it did not meet statutory requirements.
He also said that another way he could have granted the restraining order was if he believed the Johnston’s would eventually win the case on the facts. He said he didn’t believe Johnston would and that he found the MHSA applied its rules fairly and in no way acted arbitrarily.
While it doesn’t put an end to the matter in the courts per say, with just three regular season games remaining for Helena High, plus the postseason which starts in less than two weeks, it appears Johnston, who played for the Bengals as recently as 2018, will remain ineligible for the rest of the season.
Johnston left Helena High last spring to attend a soccer academy in Italy and completed course work online at the American Academy. However, he did not complete his schooling by the end of the semester at Helena High, which made him ineliglble according to the MHSA by-laws.
Helena High activities director Tim McMahon also testified in the hearing that a “red flag” for him was when he saw that Johnston only enrolled in three courses last spring, before eventually completing five to satisfy course work.
Johnston is on track to graduate from Helena High and will do so early, after this semester, however, credits are regarded differently for academics and being eligible for extra-curricular activities.
The MHSA also filed a motion to dismiss the suit altogether but the Judge did not rule on that Friday.