The issue of direct placements is closely tied to school activities, especially but not exclusive to athletics. The US Department of State defines student eligibility for extra-curricular activities and “direct placements” as follows. Point (h)(3) specifically defines a “direct placement.”
(h) Student extra-curricular activities. Exchange students may participate in school sanctioned and sponsored extra-curricular activities, including athletics, if such participation is:
(1) Authorized by the local school district in which the student is enrolled; and
(2) Authorized by the state authority responsible for determination of athletic eligibility, if applicable. Sponsors shall not knowingly be party to a placement (inclusive of direct placements) based on athletic abilities, whether initiated by a student, a natural or host family, a school, or any other interested party.
(3) Any placement in which either the student or the sending organization in the foreign country is party to an arrangement with any other party, including receiving school personnel, whereby the student will attend a particular school or live with a particular host family must be reported to the particular school and the National Federation of State High School Associations prior to the first day of classes.
If any of the provisions in (2) or (3) above are met, the placement is determined to be a “direct placement.” In these cases, AFS-USA is obligated to include such placements in a direct placement report submitted to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSHSA).
Some examples of direct placements are listed below:
- The potential host parent asked to host the student because the student’s mother was their host sister when she went abroad.
- Student and potential host sister met through snapchat from a common friend. Potential host sister’s family requested to host the student.
- The school hosted the student’s brother 2 years ago and has requested that the student attend the school.
- School staff heard from a friend abroad that the student needed a placement and asked for the student to be placed at the school.
- AFS Volunteer is requesting to place the brother of a student, also placed in the same school 2 years ago, in the same school.
- AFS in the sending country is requesting the student to be placed with a specific host family/school.
- The student is requesting to be placed in a school known for its competitive program in a specific sport.
In the fall for August/ September arriving students and in the winter for students who arrive in January, AFS-USA submits the list of Direct Placements to the NFSHSA. After the placement is reported to the NFSHSA, it is up to individual states and individual schools to determine whether the student is eligible to participate in school sports. In most cases, a student in a direct placement will not be allowed to participate in varsity level sports.
The primary reason for these regulations is to limit the ability to place exchange students in schools for their athletic ability. If a student, or the sending organization in the foreign country, is party to an arrangement with any other party, for the student to attend a particular school or live with a particular host family, or a family or school official (such as a coach, teacher, or school board member) requests to host a specific student, it can be interpreted as an attempt to recruit based on athletic ability, whether that is the intent behind the request.
If there is uncertainty about whether a potential placement would be characterized as with a relative or as a direct placement, please contact your Regional Field Specialist or write to AskAFS@afsusa.org. Field staff may contact their Regional Director who will follow up with the appropriate RMCQA staff.