DISD athlete plays despite violent past

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on February 24, 2012 at 12:44 AM

Updated Friday, Mar 2 at 10:51 AM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

 

DALLAS - For the second time in two years, the eligibility of a star Dallas high school basketball player is in question.

This time an athlete with a violent past, expelled from school in another state.

He instantly became one of the top players in the city. But should he have been allowed to compete?

When Jeffery Walker joined the Pinkston Vikings basketball team last month, he instantly became its star player averaging almost 30 points per game. According to one online basketball talent report, on Jan. 7, 2011, he was the top-ranked 4A player in North Texas.

Before the transfer student from North Webster High in Louisiana could play, a group of Dallas Independent School District coaches met to review his eligibility. They voted unanimously to allow the 6-foot-5 scoring machine to hit the hardwoods at Pinkston.

It was a unanimous decision, despite issues raised on the athletic eligibility form filled out by officials at Walker's old school in Springhill, Louisiana. Boxes 4 and 5 on the form are checked, indicating Walker had not only been "removed from the athletic program" at his school, but that he would have been "prohibited from participation" had he not left school.

So what happened at his old school?

It was detailed in a television report aired by station KTBS. The report showed video of Walker slinging an opponent to the ground and slapping him on the helmet.

Last October, days after the video was taken, Walker was arrested on battery charges after attacking his football coach on the practice field. Walker was jailed. His bond was set at $10,000.

"Anytime a student acts out toward a teacher, we take it very seriously and unfortunately for Mr. Walker, he's going to have to face the consequences," said Springhill Police Chief Will Lynd, in an interview with KTBS.

Walker was expelled from school and later pleaded "no contest" to simple battery charges and given one year probation by the court.

Louisiana High School Athletic Association rules prohibit expelled athletes from playing at any public school in Louisiana without "written clearance from his former school."

"I don't know if we ever would have given him clearance to play this school year," said his former assistant principal, Rick McWilliams.

In November, Walker's mother moved her son to Dallas, where according to DISD records, she moved to "help her cousin with a couple of patients in home health care."

Her son Jeffery first attended a DISD alternative school. Days later he enrolled at Pinkston High School where he was, "a normal student with no restrictions."

The Pinkston official in charge of checking out Walker's past was Pinkston Head Basketball Coach Tony McGee. DISD officials left it up to McGee to make sure state rules governing high school athletics were followed.

The main University Interscholastic League (UIL) rule in question is the one prohibiting students from "changing schools for athletic purposes." Two top indicators that the rule may have been breached, according to the UIL are "…ascertaining whether a student was in good standing in his previous school" and if "…a student was unhappy with a coach in the previous school."

"UIL rules are very specific as to things that need to be looked at and need to be questioned," said Alliance A.F.T President Rena Honea. "In the evidence that I've seen, those questions were not asked."

Honea not only feels the Walker case was mishandled, she says assaulting a teacher is a Level-5 offense, according to DISD rules. That means Walker, she feels, probably would not have qualified to play basketball at all, had he struck a DISD teacher.

"It really makes me question whether the best interests of the child are at heart and the integrity of those people that they have elevated sports above the academic welfare of that child," Honea said.

Pinkston is the same high school where two years ago, a News 8 investigation revealed basketball star Tony Mitchell was allowed to play despite missing more than 100 classes and being allowed to make up 14 lost credit hours in two days.

Pinkston Head Coach Tony McGee did not respond to our request for an interview on his handling of the Walker case.

DISD Interim Superintendent Alan King did not respond to our request for an on-camera interview, nor did DISD Athletic Director Jeff Johnson, nor did DISD Board President Lew Blackburn.

Athletic Director Jeff Johnson did issue the following statement on the Walker case: "The district abides by all UIL policies and procedures regarding the eligibility of student athletes. Without discussing a particular student, the district stands behind decisions made by its District Executive Committee."

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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