Detroit — Thomas Kithier still awaits his day on the court. On Thursday, he gets his day in court.
The Clarkston basketball standout will have his emergency motion considered by U.S. District Court Judge Marianne O. Battani of the Eastern District of Michigan in a 2 p.m. hearing.
Kithier’s lawyers have requested a preliminary injunction to get Kithier back on the basketball court for the start of the second semester, or Jan. 15, even while his lawsuit plays out against his former school, Macomb Dakota of Chippewa Valley Schools, and the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
Kithier, 18, a Michigan State signee, has been ruled ineligible for the entire season by the MHSAA after his old school, Dakota, alleged he was transferring for athletic purposes. His lawyers, meanwhile, have argued Kithier’s transfer was mostly due to academic reasons, including two classes Clarkston offered that Dakota did not.
In a response filed Wednesday by Kithier’s lawyers — Ven Johnson and Steven Fishman — to Chippewa Valley and the MHSAA, the lawyers wrote, “There are both long-term and short-term ramifications to this case, and this dispute is not going to be resolved quickly. The purpose of the present motion is to ensure that Thomas does not needlessly suffer while the lawyers and the courts debate about his rights.”
In a lawsuit filed late last month, Kithier is suing the MHSAA, Chippewa Valley Schools and a number of officials associated with each party. Kithier is seeking the right to play his senior season as well as punitive monetary damages, though his lawyers have said money isn’t a priority.
The MHSAA has said repeatedly that it will continue to fight for its rules, which were voted on and put in place by its member institutions. The MHSAA has more than 700 member high schools. Chippewa Valley Schools hasn’t commented since the lawsuit was filed, despite a request from The News. Kithier’s former coach, Dakota basketball coach Paul Tocco, has declined comment to The News about allegations that he harassed Kithier via several text messages as Kithier was considering whether to transfer for his senior season.
In Wednesday’s court filing, Kithier’s lawyers argue that while future athletes could benefit from Kithier taking a stand, he shouldn’t have to suffer and sit out while the lengthy case plays out in a downtown Detroit courtroom.
“Defendants have sent a very loud message to children throughout this state: If you wish to pursue a better academic future for yourself, you do so at the jeopardy of your ability to participate in extra-curricular activities. There are other students watching this case,” Kithier’s lawyers wrote in Wednesday’s filing.
“Those students may be in inferior schools and may wish to seek a better future for themselves, as Thomas did. If those students continue to see that their decision to transfer will necessitate giving up the right to participate in activities with their classmates, they will only be dissuaded to act in their best interest.”
The MHSAA ruled in October and upheld on appeal that Kithier transferred to Clarkston so he could play alongside his AAU teammate and future Michigan State teammate, Foster Loyer. Kithier and his parents have strongly disputed that, including Kithier’s mother, Jane, in a scathing affidavit in which she stated Thomas was considering transferring as early as his sophomore year, and considered two highly acclaimed prep schools out of state as well as at least three other Metro Detroit school districts.
While the preliminary injunction is considered in Detroit, the case will be dissected, too, by lawmakers in Lansing. Thursday the Michigan Education Reform Committee will take up a bill related to the Kithier controversy that would prohibit a school district from stopping a student from participating in athletic activities due to a transfer, regardless of the reason for the transfer.
Clarkston superintendent Rod Rock is expected to testify during the legislative hearing along with sponsoring Rep. Jim Tedder, R-Clarkston. It’s not clear if the panel will vote on the proposal.
Jonathan Oosting contributed.