House panel weighs bill to let Kithier play basketball

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — The state Legislature is considering getting involved in whether star Thomas Kithier should play high school basketball this season after a panel of lawmakers took testimony Thursday on a bill that would allow him to compete for Clarkston High School.

The controversy arose after Kithier transferred this past summer from Macomb Dakota High School to Clarkston. The Chippewa Valley Schools district that oversees Macomb Dakota refused to sign a transfer waiver to allow the 18-year-old to play basketball at the new school, arguing the move was athletically motivated.

Kithier’s parents have argued that Macomb Dakota didn’t offer certain math and other courses their son wanted to take and chose Clarkston over other schools in Metro Detroit as well as two acclaimed, out-of-state prep schools.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association ruled Kithier ineligible for his senior season because the move wasn’t primarily academically motivated. Kithier would have played with AAU teammate and future Michigan State University teammate Foster Loyer, who leads the the state’s defending defending Class A boys basketball champion.

Rep. Jim Tedder, R-Clarkston, said he sponsored the bill after hearing of Kithier’s case and called it “criminal” that the senior is not being allowed to play basketball. Tedder’s bill would stop state schools from prohibiting students from taking part in interscholastic high school sports simply because a student transferred from one school to another, regardless of the reason for the transfer.

But some lawmakers on the House panel did not seem sympathetic to getting involved. Rep. Daniela Garcia, R-Holland, and Rep. Pamela Hornberger, R-Chesterfield Township, said the issue isn’t well-suited for the Legislature.

Garcia added that the issue “does not even come to the top 100 items of things we need to do to help our students.”

But Tedder, who is a former teacher and wrestling coach, was incensed. He said after the hearing that this is the most “upset or insulted I’ve ever been discussing any issue before this legislative body.”

Dakota never signed off on the transfer waiver after Kithier moved to Clarkston in August, arguing the move was athletically motivated. The Michigan High School Athletic Association agreed, forcing Kithier to sit out 180 days — his entire senior season.

A typical, uncontested transfer would havecost Kithier just the first semester, which is why his lawyers are asking for a return by Monday.

“We are denying choice, and this is an affront to the educational enrichment of a student,” Tedder told other lawmakers, urging them to support his bill.

“These are kids. I don’t know what detriment to this child or any other child when something has been such an interwoven fabric of their lives and you rip it away – I don’t know what detrimental effect that will have. I hope zero. But we will never know.”