Thomas Kithier family pleads case to school board

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Clinton Township — Thomas Kithier sat with his parents in the Chippewa Valley Schools Administration Building Monday night, listening to people speak on his behalf to try to persuade the school board to OK his transfer from Macomb Dakota High to Clarkston High so he could continue his basketball career.

Kithier, a 6-foot-8 senior power forward and Michigan State commit, transferred to Clarkston for his senior year, but was banned from competing by the MHSAA with Dakota administrators claiming his move was athletically motivated. The MHSAA agreed with Dakota’s assessment and ruled Kithier ineligible.

“I want everyone to understand that this is an academic transfer and I’m insulted that Chippewa Valley thinks otherwise,” said Jane Kithier, Thomas’ mother, a health and physical education teacher at Grosse Pointe North. “I am a teacher and education is very important. Dakota High School did not provide the classes he needed, it’s as simple as that, one being a math class, the other being a media production class, which is important because he’s considering majoring in communications with sports journalism being considered.

“(Dakota) has let other students transfer, and they let several football players go, so why aren’t they letting Thomas transfer?”

Added Karl Kithier, Thomas’ father: “This is a situation that an 18-year-old high school kid should not be in. We’re very proud of him, very supportive of him. This is a very tight family unit, but this is unfair to him. They’re (MHSAA) using him as a pawn. If there’s a transfer rule that’s broken, fix it, don’t use a kid as a test piece. It’s not right and it’s not fair.”

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Chippewa Valley Superintendent Ron Roberts opened the meeting with a statement regarding the Kithier case. Dakota and the Chippewa Valley district have come under heavy criticism in recent days since the decision against Kithier was announced by the MHSAA.

“This summer we were asked to sign a transfer agreement for Thomas to Clarkston High School,” Roberts said. “There was a lot of proof that made it clear to us that the transfer is what the MHSAA considers athletically motivated. The transfer agreement from the MHSAA requested our administrators to sign a document and attest to statements that our administrators believed were not true. We discussed the issue and agreed that signing off on the document would put us in unenviable and unacceptable position of lying to the MHSAA. We made the MHSAA aware of our reason for not signing the document and let them know of our concerns. It appeared clear to us that the circumstances behind the transfer were a direct violation of MHSAA rules. That is where Chippewa Valley’s involvement in the process ended.”

Roberts said Dakota is not considering reversing its decision.

Jane Kithier insists that her son’s decision to transfer was motivated by academics, not athletics.

“At no point (Monday) did (Roberts) really talk about Thomas and the academic reasons that he did transfer,” Jane said. “The piece that frustrates me the most is that people are not talking about the academic stuff here. They refuse to acknowledge it. He refused to acknowledge it.”

Thomas said he plans to stay at Clarkston regardless of his playing status.

“I’m just going to stay positive through the whole situation,” Thomas said after the meeting was over. “In life things won’t go your way, but you just have to wake up every morning with a smile on your face and just know that God will have my back. I’m just happy with who I am and thankful I have supporting parents.

“I just didn’t feel comfortable at Dakota. Things just changed over the years for me at Dakota and academically and socially it just wasn’t a good fit for me.

“Clarkston is great, academics and socially. I have a lot of friends at the school, great teachers, great principal, great vice-principal, my counselor is great. It’s an amazing community that has welcomed me and I feel like it’s that for every student. If you play sports, if you don’t play sports, they treat every student the same and I feel it’s a welcoming school for me.”

The Clarkston school board on Monday night passed a resolution calling for the reinstatement of Kithier's athletic eligibility and condemning the decision by Dakota and the MHSAA to prevent him from playing.