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Pine Tree AD confirms he is the one who changed athletic handbook

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Pine Tree Athletic Director Derek Fitzhenry Pine Tree Athletic Director Derek Fitzhenry

KLTV 7 has confirmed it was Pine Tree Independent School District Athletic Director Derek Fitzhenry who made changes to the Student Athletic Handbook. However, Fitzhenry says that policy was changed in April 2013. This happened a month before a May incident involving a Pine Tree ISD football player who was charged with the sexual assault of a juvenile female. The changes affect how students charged with felonies are handled by the school.

Prior to that April change, the statement read:

"Students charged with felony offenses will not be permitted to participate in PTHS athletics. Felony convictions will result in a one-year suspension."

The section was changed to read:

"Students charged with felony offenses will not be permitted to participate in PTHS athletics until a formal hearing has taken place or the student has pled innocent. Also if the hearing has not occurred within 5 months, and the student has served all days in DEAP, the AD and coordinators will review the case for reinstatement until a formal hearing takes place. After the formal hearing, the case will be reviewed for participation. Felony convictions will result in a one-year suspension."

Fitzhenry says when the athletics policy was changed in April, the online version was not updated. He says this clerical error, in part, can be attributed to him spending the majority of the summer hiring coaches and then spending the beginning of the school year on administrative leave.

Last week, the online handbook was updated with the April changes. Then on Tuesday, the online handbook was changed to show the original paragraph that does not allow any participation from any students charged with a felony offense.

Pine Tree ISD released the following statement about the changes on Tuesday:

The PTISD Athletic Handbook 2013-2014 was posted on the district web page at the beginning of the school year as approved by district administration. The Superintendent was notified that changes were made to the Athletic Handbook and that a revised version was published online, Wednesday, October 2, 2013. The revised version was published without administrative approval. The original wording for the handbook has been restored today, Tuesday, October 8, 2013. PTISD will follow the procedures stated in the original handbook that was published at the beginning of the year and is now currently published online.

According to Fitzhenry, he and the assistant athletic director had discussed making the change last April because they felt banning any charged student from athletics entirely for an indefinite amount of time was unfair.

"It didn't allow for a slow moving court system or a student that was fighting the charges," says Fitzhenry.

He says a student shouldn't continue to be punished if their court date was delayed by no fault of their own. Fitzhenry also says the policy as it currently reads online is not fair or consistent with the district's policies regarding charges against students.

He still aims to make sure the policy online is changed to allow students who have pleaded not guilty or students who have not had a court date after 5 months of being charged to potentially participate in athletics. He says he will now have to meet with the superintendent regarding this policy.

He adds that there are other policies and procedures that will be changed in the online handbook.

Any PTHS students that have pending felony charges against them, as of right now, are not being allowed to participate in athletics.

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