DISD: Basketball player earned diploma, despite questions in report

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on January 27, 2014 at 11:02 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 27 at 11:40 PM

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A Dallas Independent School District spokesman said Monday that former Kimball High School basketball star Keith Frazier — now a student at SMU — rightfully earned his high school diploma, but added that the district is still reviewing how a Kimball coach was able to change one of the student's grades against district rules.

"We are talking about the integrity of the district and our processes," DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander said in an interview Monday. "This has been a lengthy investigation, and we want to take some time to review this report and make sure we act appropriately."

Also under review is a system that lets students who have excessive absences “buy back” what is known as “seat time” by making up days, according to an internal DISD investigation of whether Frazier properly graduated.

Documents related to Frazier’s efforts to make up missed days have apparently vanished from Kimball, the DISD report states.

Despite the district’s current assurances that Frazier earned his diploma, Dallas ISD’s own internal audit report, completed last month, says Kimball Principal Earl Jones told an investigator that it was “highly probable” that Frazier "should not have been certified for graduation.”

Assistant Principal Llewellyn Smith also told investigators that Frazier “should not have been cleared” because of his absences, and that his graduation “credits would be jeopardized due to his lack of attendance.”

On Monday, Principal Jones defended his school’s handling of the Frazier matter.

“It should be noted that this investigation started because our process uncovered an inappropriate and ultimately unsuccessful effort to change a student’s grade,” he said in a written statement.

“While I cannot address all of the issues within the investigative report at this time, I have always relied upon our staff to regularly monitor the work of our students to make certain that they are fulfilling all requirements for graduation,” Jones added. “Additional steps have been taken this year to tighten up our procedures and make certain that there is one single location where all attendance records are kept. The assistant principal will also continually verify and cross-reference documentation submitted by students to comply with state compulsory attendance laws.”

On Sunday, WFAA reported that an assistant coach at Kimball changed Frazier’s physics grade in an attempt to help him maintain NCAA eligibility. The changed grade was detected and the assistant coach resigned.

Frazier now plays for SMU.

In a statement Monday, SMU denied wrongdoing.

“As with all information related to student admissions, we are careful to make decisions based on official records of academic performance,” the statement reads. “Using our typical procedures, we granted admission to the student in question based on information on the official DISD transcript and certification of his graduation by DISD.”

According to DISD’s audit report, Frazier “was not current on his attendance requirements and not passing core subjects per teacher testimony.”

On May 29, one week after classes for seniors had ended, according to the audit, SMU assistant basketball coach Ulric Maligi contacted Kimball counselor Hanan Ali, concerned about Frazier's grade point average not being high enough for NCAA eligibility. Ali said she could not help him, the report states.

According to the audit, “soon after her conversation with Coach Maligi, Kimball soccer coach Demarco King came to her office with a report card for Frazier."

Frazier's physics grade had been raised.

Once word got out, King later admitted to improperly changing the grade. DISD auditors began their investigation.

In its statement, SMU defended Maligi’s actions.

“Because we care about the potential of our student athletes to be academically successful at SMU, it is not unusual for a coach to inquire about the academic progress of a prospective student athlete.

“Assistant Coach Ulric Maligi asked for an update on the student's grades, about whether the student needed to do extra credit assignments or take an extra course during the summer. He spoke with a higher education adviser who represented herself as the point of contact for the student's academic performance. Previous grade reports indicated a passing grade in physics and other subjects.

“Subsequently, Coach Maligi conferred with the student's high school counselor, a DISD employee, who instructed him to disregard the interim grade report he had just received. She indicated that DISD had experienced a problem regarding alleged grade changes at Kimball High School. This conversation led Coach Maligi to believe that DISD had addressed the issue and that forthcoming information on student grades would be accurate, as DISD has affirmed.

“SMU received the final transcript on July 1, confirming the student's graduation, with grades and credits indicating the student could qualify for SMU admission and NCAA eligibility. The alleged grade change on an earlier interim report was not reflected on the official transcript and thus did not have an impact on admission to SMU or NCAA eligibility.”

On Monday, NCAA spokesman Christopher Radford declined to discuss Frazier.

"The NCAA typically does not comment on individual student-athlete academic records," he said. "At this point, your questions are better directed towards SMU and the high school in question."

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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