Lake Gibson Fined $900 for Football Practice Violation
Sat. September 01, 2012 at 1:01 a.m. | By Solange Reyner
By SOLANGE REYNER
LAKELAND | Lake Gibson was fined $900 and its football program reprimanded and placed on administrative probation for one year by the Florida High School Athletic Association after the school self-reported that it allowed a player to participate in nine training sessions when he was not enrolled at the school.
Because the school self reported the violation, the fines were decreased by a huge margin. Typically, the FHSAA requires schools to pay $2,500 per violation, which would have totaled $22,500.
"This has been reduced due to LGHS's self-reporting of its violation," the FHSAA said in a letter to the school on Aug. 28.
The student had attended Lake Gibson in 2010 but was expelled because he was charged with a felony while there, Polk County athletic director Don Bridges said.
"When he was withdrawn, he was taken out of the school system," Bridges said.
The student was released from the juvenile detention center on June 12 and started practicing with the football team soon after, Bridges said.
He practiced nine times, including five football practice sessions and four weight room sessions but had not completed a physical per county rules, and his name was not in the school system.
"The blessing was that he never got hurt because it wouldn't have been covered by insurance," Bridges said.
Matt Diaz, the athletic director at Lake Gibson, said the error was the school's and that "we can definitely do a better job of knowing whether our kids are enrolled."
The county learned about the issue on Aug. 20, the first day of school. The student showed up to attend classes, but Lake Gibson administrators told him that he was not in the system, Bridges said.
"His dad said he wanted to have a hearing because he wanted him to play Friday night," Bridges said.
They did and they found out that he had been participating in practice sessions despite his status. He was sent to Bill Duncan Opportunity Center, an alternative behavioral management school, and will be there until he can prove that he can return to school.
"If we see they are a model citizen, we may re-enroll them," Jerome Corbett, senior director of specialized services of Polk County schools, said. That could be anywhere from four-and-a-half weeks to 90 days, Corbett said.