By Nick McWherter
Bath-Dewitt Connection staff writer
The DeWitt Panther football team will be without the services of its starting outside linebacker for the 2011 season due to disciplinary action by school administrators.
The DeWitt School Board recently voted 5-1 to uphold the suspension of senior Logan Minix, who will have to miss the first nine weeks of school and the entire football season this fall. Heading into the season Minix had aspirations of receiving a Division II football scholarship.
Minix was involved in an altercation with another student this past May. But unlike the other student, Minix had to be restrained by assistant high school principal Sean Wade for approximately 30-45 minutes, according to school officials.
Minix, his parents, and several supporters pleaded for the board to reconsider the length of the suspension during a public appeals hearing held at the July 11 board meeting. Minix and his parents requested that the hearing be conducted in public.
“I understand that my actions deserve consequences, and I am not asking that there be no punishment,” Minix said during the hearing. “I’m just hoping that I can go to school all year and be with my friends and play football, and not have to sit at home in my house all alone for nine weeks.”
The other student who was involved in the altercation with Minix did not receive a suspension and will be playing football in the fall for the DeWitt Panthers, according to Connie Minix, Logan’s mother.
Board President Mark Kellogg said the decision to uphold the length of Minix’s suspension – which was recommended by school administrators – “was very difficult.”
“I think it is one of the toughest decisions a board member has to make,” said Kellogg. “Every person on the board took their responsibility very seriously, and it is always a very difficult decision to suspend a student, especially any type of long-term suspension. I think under the circumstances, and based upon the recommendations of the administrators, I think it was appropriate.”
The fight between the two students took place in the hallways after lunch May 27. The dispute started over a female student that both young men had an interest in.
Minix threw one punch but did not strike the other student, a struggle ensued, and both parties exchanged words, but no other punches were thrown.
Wade, the schools assistant principal, witnessed and broke up the confrontation. Wade had to use physical force to separate the students and also had to keep Minix away from the other student after he repeatedly tried to go after him.
“I’ve seen kids get in fights that were worse, for example, but this was an attempt by one student to get to, get their hands on another student, then yeah that was the worst,” Wade said.
The initial charges that Logan faced included assault against a school employee, both verbal and physical, because of the contact that was made in the struggle with Wade, which would have resulted in an automatic 180-day suspension.
Upon further thought and consideration Wade and Jody McKean, the schools principal, choose not to pursue those charges. Along with the schools superintendent, Dr. John Deiter, they decided on a suspension of the first nine weeks of the upcoming school year, resulting in Logan to miss football as well.
“That was my effort to save this kid from not being expelled from all schools in the state of Michigan for a year,” Wade said. “I advocated to the building principal and the superintendent that we look at other options to put together to help him out so that he wouldn’t be out of all the schools. I just tried to strike a balance between what we need to uphold and maintain at the school level, and how we treat kids.”
The violations that Minix ultimately faced were assault, verbal assault, disorderly conduct, and insubordination.
Not all board members agreed that the punishment fit the crime; school board trustee Wayne Baum was the only board member that voted to not uphold the suspension that was set forth by the administration, in hopes of coming up with an alternative.
“This is a kid that basically, this is the first time he has screwed up, and he was totally repentant,” Baum said. “And I just thought that we could better serve him and the community by shortening up the suspension to include the days in the summer that he is losing work as a baseball umpire because he can’t be on school property. Instead they are not even counting that time.”
Baum insisted that the suspension was too severe, and even went as far to say that Logan was made an example of.
“To me it just seemed over kill, that’s all I can say, it just seemed over kill,” Baum said. “And I am coming from the perspective that I used to be a police officer, and I believe in the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law.”
At the beginning of each season DeWitt Panthers head coach Rob Zimmerman meets with players that he thinks may have a chance at playing football at the next level if they put in the necessary work. Minix was one of the students that Zimmerman met with last fall.
“When we talked last fall, we said that Logan had the ability if he really worked hard, to potentially have a shot at one,” Zimmerman said. “And whether that happened or not would have been dependent on what kind of off-season he had and then even more importantly, what kind of season he had.”
“It is just an unfortunate situation,” Zimmerman said. “I look at it from the administration standpoint, and they feel bad about it too, but rules are rules and they have to handle them the same. He is a good kid that lost his cool, and it’s a tough situation.”
Wade said in a phone interview that this was Minix’s “second infraction of a level three consequence for our policy, that he is not going to be able to play football, and plus the fact I guess he is suspended for nine weeks, which is essentially the football season. I guess that is a pretty tough pill to swallow, I get that.”
Wade would not elaborate on the prior infraction but according to the DeWitt Public Schools Handbook a level three offense may result in loss of extracurricular activities and suspension up to 10 days and could include recommendation for a long term suspension up to nine weeks.
A level three offense includes assault, fighting, bullying, and harassment among many other things. The Minix family vehemently denied any other level three offenses being on Logan’s school record.
“What he did was wrong, he should have been punished,” Logan’s father Ted Minix said. “We are reasonable people. If they would have said to us initially we want him to do some counseling, some community service, three game suspension. Fine. We wouldn’t have fought it at all.”
The family acknowledged the mistakes their son made, but are also very displeased with the ruling and are not sure what the next step is for Logan. Unless they decide to pursue a civil lawsuit against DeWitt Public Schools, the family will have to accept the suspension that is in place.
“It is like Wayne (Baum) told me, ‘it is like your son committed shop lifting and they want to give him a sentence that is more appropriate for armed robbery,’” Ted Minix said.