VIDEO: The Pine Tree controversy timeline
POSTED: Thursday, October 10, 2013 - 10:17am
UPDATED: Friday, October 11, 2013 - 10:27am
Longview, Texas (KETK) — The Pine Tree Pirates football team started their season off on a high note, in their brand new football stadium, with a dramatic win over Van.
But, off the field, is where controversy started.
Head coach Derek Fitzhenry was accused of pushing a student at the game against Van and was put on administrative leave.
On September 9, during a regular board meeting, which was packed with a crowd of people, many openly in support of of the head coach and AD, the board met in an executive session and took no action concerning the athletic director position.
Fitzhenry was reinstated the next day and was on the sidelines for the Pirates' game against Kilgore.
Later that month, on September 25, KETK reported three current football players, Robert Hines, Tyler Smith and Ladarius Fluellen, had been arrested in June, one for possession of marijuana in a drug free zone, while the others were charged with just possession.
All three had played in every Pine Tree football game up to that date.
The three did not play against Lindale the following week, and are now in a Disciplinary Alternative Education Program, also known as DAEP.
But, on October 4, number 14, Jarvis Walls, played in his first game of the season, against Nacogdoches.
The reason why this raises eyebrows, Walls was arrested and charged with sexual assault back in May, and according to Gregg County his case is still open. The Kilgore Police Department tells KETK, Walls is accused of pinning a female down and forcing sex upon her against her will. Allowing Walls to play is against the school's athletic policy.
But, two days before the game, on October 2, KETK documented a change to the online version of the athletic handbook.
At 5:49 p.m., the policy for students and felonies stated that any athlete charged with a felony could not participate in any PTHS events.
But four minutes later, at 5:53 p.m., stipulations were added concerning a five month hearing time and whether or not the student has plead innocent.
When asked about the change the next day, superintendent T.J. Farler said she knew nothing about the change, and said changes are subject to administrative approval. The next day, the policy was changed back.
Head coach Derek Fitzhenry has since told our newspaper partners the Longview News-Journal, this was a policy they had been discussing changing since the spring, and was not able to pass out to the athletes and get changed online until 15-20 days into the school year. Even if this is the case, questions are still raised due to the fact Walls was not held out the "five months" the edited policy stated. He was only off the field for four months, which would violate the very rule Fitzhenry says he added.
However, Fitzhenry also told another outlet, he made the changes in April and it was a "clerical error," which caused the website to not be updated.
Superintendent Farler has not commented on these recent developments.
Now, the policy concerning felonies, is back to its original form.
Pine Tree ISD's regularly scheduled school board meeting will be held on Monday afternoon and KETK will be there.
We will bring you the latest from that meeting, and report what, if any, new developments arise concerning these issues.