Garfield Walk-Out

I hadn't really planned to write more about the Garfield student forced out of Garfield because SPS didn't believe he lived in the district and there is a waiting list for Seattle residents trying to get into Garfield. (It had been reported that the district had hired a private investigator but it turns out that staff did the investigation.)

Things have escalated a bit. There was an article in the Times and the PI, each a bit different. Yesterday about one hundred Garfield students (and the head basketball coach) walked out of Garfield to the district headquarters. They were not allowed in the building; only the student's parents (he did not attend) and the coach were allowed in.

From the Times:

One week after the school district terminated the enrollment of sophomore Tony Wroten, one of the country's elite basketball prospects, the Garfield students walked out of school at noon and walked three miles in 30-degree wind chill and rain to protest the decision.

In front of the district building, Garfield boys basketball coach Ed Haskins addressed the crowd. Calling Wroten's dismissal "an injustice against an African American," Haskins said of Wroten, "He is doing the right thing, and he is being persecuted wrongly for doing the right thing."

"In an e-mail to faculty, Garfield principal Ted Howard wrote, "This walkout by the students was not sanctioned by Garfield faculty. I know several faculty members were concerned about outside influences manipulating the students' views; I did share that with our student leadership making sure they were aware of the pros and cons of their actions."

From the PI:

"The news could get even worse for Wroten: If the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association's rules are interpreted literally, he might not be eligible to play for any high school team this season.

If Wroten enrolls at another school, he would be considered a transfer, and association rules require that transfer students attend their new school for one year before being eligible to play.

"If a student transfers from one member school to another, public or private, without a change of address, they have to miss a year of varsity participation," WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese confirmed Thursday."

Obviously, there are a lot of rules in play here. There's the state directive of where money goes with students, the district's rules about out-of-district students and the state sports WIAA rules. Tony Wroten apparently went to Seattle schools since kindergarten and has deep roots in the area. From a previous Times article of December 8, 2008:

"Wroten Jr.'s parents, who live in Renton, submitted a nonresident application over the summer so their son could stay at Garfield, which reopened in September after a two-year remodeling project. Wroten Jr. attended Garfield as a freshman, when classes were held at the old Lincoln High School in Wallingford.

Because the new Garfield's capacity for sophomore general education was filled by students from within the district, and because Wroten Jr. lives in Renton, he was required to apply for admittance for the 2008-09 school year as a nonresident.

The school district denied the nonresident application, but the Wrotens appealed in August, offering to move within the district's boundaries. The school district allowed the appeal and granted Wroten's eligibility.

The district also advised the Wrotens that it would conduct an investigation during the school year to verify the family's place of residence. According to a Seattle Public Schools official, the district performed a three-week investigation and discovered that Wroten Jr.'s legal residence is in Renton."

So they did move to Renton at some point, did apply as out-of-district residents, the district granted their appeal (based on his parents saying he did live in Seattle) and allowed him to stay at Garfield but warned his parents the district would conduct an investigation during the school year. So the crux of the matter really is where does Tony Wroten live? Does the district tell every successful non-resident appeal student that they will do an investigation or was there something that made the district not believe this appeal? Andid the district conduct a thorough investigation?

I know to the students it seems wrong and unfair but life isn't fair and if rules are there to optimize fairness (imagine if you were waiting on the Seattle resident list). I would guess because of Tony's superior athletic skills that his parents were trying to optimize where he played (because obviously he could have been first string at any high school, be it in Renton or Seattle). But, the fact remains that he isn't in school. (His parents are trying to get an injunction to the district's ruling to allow him back at Garfield.) When will he be continuing his education, not his athletic career? Isn't that more important? He's only a sophomore and even if he had to sit out a year, is that really the end of any hopes of catching a scout's eye (and then onto getting into college or going pro right out of high school)?

What is ironic is that the district said they didn't want to let the students in because:

"While we certainly value students expressing their viewpoints and opinions, class time is very precious and limited, and our expectation is that students will be in class and doing their schoolwork," district spokesman David Tucker said."

So they left the students outside freezing in the rain? (Oh please, yeah, that taught them a lesson.) Does that extend to the Garfield coach who left the school during a workday? I'm troubled that he left the building as well and declared the district's action as an "injustice" against a black person. Is that the state of race relations in this district such that an action that happens multiple times a year (investigations to make sure people are living where they say they do - I know because JSIS had problems with people renting apartments in Wallingford to get into it) is suddenly suspect because the student is black?

I just get puzzled when I see things escalate like this. I suspect the the district may not have the time or resources to investigate every non-resident but if they get a report that someone is not a resident, do follow up with an investigation. This is a pretty standard practice at many colleges and universities to do investigations only on cause or complaint.


Jet City mom said…
The weather was harsh yesterday-I think that the students- should at least have been given an opportunity to have their concerns heard- if a parent had locked them out of the house in that kind of weather- the district would have called CPS ( or not- given their track record).

It is curious however, that if the rules were clear, that the family would have moved from the area- if they wanted their son to attend Garfield. It doesn't make sense to me.

When will he be continuing his education, not his athletic career? Isn't that more important? He's only a sophomore and even if he had to sit out a year, is that really the end of any hopes of catching a scout's eye (and then onto getting into college or going pro right out of high school)?

I would assume that he is being homeschooled- as many are who have special talents that require lots of practice.
I don't claim to understand all the rules and regulations surrounding athletics, but I believe- that the scouts already know about Wroten.
The eighth-grader

He's the crown jewel of area recruits for the next decade.

An impact player in the same breath as former Bremerton High School star Marvin Williams, the second overall pick by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2005 NBA draft.
Someone who could compete in high school right now -- if only he were old enough.
That is the type of talk surrounding Tony Wroten, an eighth-grader at Washington Middle School in Seattle.
"Right now, he's kind of one of a kind," Williams said. "He's got that something special that already shows itself."
Murray agreed that Wroten is the real deal.

o evident is his talent, Wroten has played up a grade level in Seattle's Rotary Style select program since he was 8.
"He's pretty much had to, it would be so unfair to other kids," his father said.
On the national scouting radar for the past two or three years, Wroten has kept busy over the past month.
On Jan. 14, he earned tournament MVP honors at the U.S. Elite camp at Baylor University in Texas. The next day, he drew the attention of UW coach Lorenzo Romar while playing for Rotary Style's 14-and-under team at a Martin Luther King Day tournament in West Seattle.
Most recently, Wroten was selected for Team Phenom, an Adidas national eighth-grade select team composed of the top 12 players in the country. The squad will travel to various tournaments over the next six months, including stops in New York and Italy.
Kathy Barker said…
The students walked out because Tony already IS a student at Garfield. He is one of them. They did the right thing; you don't separate students and communities, and you protest when that happens.
If the adults protested as strongly to protect communities,there would be no school closures.
An injury to one is an injury to all.
Greener Grad said…
Everyone knows that it is quite common for Seattle parents to lie about their addresses (using grandparents, friends or office addresses) in order to get their kids into one school or another. As long as the district plans to investigate a sample of students instead of just athletes, it's fair enough... Here's a tip for the District: Don't just follow the kids home from school. Look at the parents' voter registrations (available online!) and drivers' licenses...
Unknown said…
2 points;
one its not about race its about character, even if many do it, its still a lie,

two, this reminds me of the Bainbridge issue last year, where the disgruntled and oft mistreated nerd took revenge and gave the administration a CD of all the athletes drinking and parting against their contract...

the school not investigating a report/concern that he was not living in district just because he is a "boy basketball god" is even creepier than everyone in town lying about their kids place residency or...
Ananda said…
People seem to be missing that Tony Wroten was NOT properly a non-resident last year. "Tony Wroten said he used his grandmother's Seattle address last year and didn't have to worry about a waiting list."

This appears to be a family with a serious truth telling problem.

Other news reports indicate that the District does 25-30 of these a year, it is just that this one got attention because of who the students are.
Danny K said…
I attended high school in Europe, so I always find it strange that U.S. high schools spend so much time and energy on sports teams -- would they care so much about this guy if he weren't a talented young athlete? Would he even care about going to Garfield if it wasn't for the team there?

It all seems like a weird sideshow given the extremely serious issues facing Garfield and Seattle schools in general.
Roy Smith said…
Another article about Tony Wroten

The comments on the article bring up the interesting point that even if SPS loses the lawsuit, the Wrotens and Garfield basketball aren't out of the woods because the WIAA will most certainly be looking into the situation, and if WIAA determines he is ineligible (and they have different, and generally more stringent, criteria than SPS, so it still could happen, regardless of lawsuit results), Garfield could end up forfeiting any games he plays in with them.

And for everybody's entertainment, Tony Wroten's Myspace Page, which identifies him as being from Renton. Not exactly bulletproof evidence, but certainly not helping his case, either.

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