BY WENDI REARDON
Clarkston News Sports Writer
Senior Thomas Kithier is continuing his fight to play high school basketball as he and his parents made the next step to fight Michigan High School Athletic Association’s decision Kithier is ineligible to play for 180 days.
Kithier and his parents, Jane and Karl Kithier, hired trial attorneys Ven Johnson of Johnson Law, PLC and Steve Fishman for the case.
Thomas transferred to Clarkston High School from Macomb Dakota as a student-athlete after looking at different districts during the summer. He and Clarkston Community Schools administration completed all the necessary paperwork. Macomb Dakota did not sign the educational transfer form, putting in motion a 90-day ineligible period which would have kept him from playing until Jan. 15, 2018.
Dakota made a formal allegation Thomas’ move was primarily athletically motivated and not legal, which made the MHSAA to look into it. The MHSAA ruled Thomas ineligible to play for 180 days – his entire season.
“Dakota’s gross misconduct has threatened Thomas’ ability to attend Clarkston High, the school of his choice, simply because they would be losing their star basketball player,” Johnson said. “A high school senior and legal adult should be allowed to attend school anywhere he or she wants. Whether that includes playing basketball, volleyball, being a member of the marching band or of the drama club is completely irrelevant.”
Fishman added, “If the MHSAA’s arbitrary and capricious decision is allowed to stand Thomas will be irreparably harmed. Ven Johnson and I are investigating every legal option available to Thomas and his family, and will be moving forward immediately. This young man deserves all the fruits of his hard work and dedication.”
The Clarkston Community Schools Board of Education made their own stand as they unanimously passed a resolution advocating for Thomas’ athletic eligibility during their meeting on Dec. 11.
“If my superintendent deliberately sabotaged another student, it would be the last action my superintendent would take,” said Steve Hyer, board secretary, adding if CCS superintendent acted like Chippewa Valley Schools administration termination articles would be filed immediately and brought to the board for termination.
“Deliberately harming another student’s future is grounds for termination on the basis of an act of moral turpitude. It is unconscionable, egregious, and I don’t know how these men can sleep at night knowing what they did and allowed to happen. You, as grown men, should be ashamed of yourselves,” Hyer said.
Cheryl McGinnis, board trustee, added her take on it was sadness.
“I have tried to distance myself from it a little bit because I thought it would resolve itself,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine people who call themselves educators would get in the way of a student living out his dream. We are only who we are today for a short matter of time. To take that opportunity away from him for whatever their grudge might be seemed so sad. I am saddened by it. I hope there is still an opportunity for adults to do the right thing.”
Hyer called for Chippewa Valley Superintendent Ronald Roberts, Dakota Principal Paul Sibley, and Dakota Athletic Director Michael Fusco to answer why they didn’t sign the form and to immediately resign.
“You have no place to look after the well-being of children if you thought this was okay,” he added.
“Beth Pyden, Denise Aquino, Laura Cardamone, Jill Demyunck Zech, Frank Bednard, Andrew Patzert, and George Saboah. You were elected by your community to watch out for your community’s kids and make sure each and every one of them receives a free and appropriate public education. You were elected to provide oversight at Chippewa Valley Schools How could you let this happen?
“I call on you as the Chippewa Valley Schools Board of Education to do a full and complete investigation into this matter to avoid any of your other students for being blocked by the reckless actions of your administration.”
“If you live within our boundaries we are going to do the best we can do to give you the best we can deliver to you every day that’s the best of our ability,” Hyer said. “We want you to find your passion. We want you to get to that point where you can explore that.”
Board Vice President Kelli Horst said, “I’m struck by the contrast of the commitment and passion of Clarkston educators like those who were honored for making their students’ dreams come true with the determination shown by coaches and administrators at Dakota to prevent a student from pursuing his dream – I can’t believe the intentionality – the maliciousness – with which he is being made an example of an out-of-touch rule that is arbitrarily enforced, at best.”
“I feel this is a very unfair situation for this young man,” said Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock. “I want to do everything I can to support him. From the beginning we understood it was an academically related transfer. It has been consistent throughout as I talked to all those involved. I appreciate the board’s willingness to discuss it. We are doing this for all students in the state.”
“We are doing what we can do to resolve this situation. We are being made an example of. People are upset. I am proud to stand up for our student,” Hyer said. “As a board if we don’t take a position on this, this is an important issue. It affects one of our students I think we would be tone deaf if we didn’t take a position. We have exhausted our appeals.”
BY WENDI REARDON