Graceville Parents 'Cry Foul' for 90 Day Suspension on Basketball Players

GRACEVILLE, Fla. - The parents of five Graceville High School students are outraged by what they consider to be overly severe punishments; a 90-day suspension.

According to members of the boys basketball team, they engaged in sexual activities with cheerleaders at a hotel.

The team were on the road in Lakeland to compete for a slot in the state tournament back in late February.

Christopher Smith is one of three starters given a suspension for violating curfew the night before the tournament.

"I was laying on the bed chilling with a girl and then we got up and went to the door and then we pecked on the lips and that was it," said Smith.

Smith said he kissed a girl.

The parents of another player confirmed with News 13 that their child actually engaged in sex.

Both players and both girls were given a 90-day suspension, essentially meaning they'll fail for the year.

Smith believes the punishments from the principal were too harsh.

"I felt like it was because if you do, kiss somebody in school, they give you three to ten days. Knowing it was me I knew she was going to give me ninety for it so," said Smith.

Smith's father, Shawn Smith, believes the situation may have been racially motivated.

"Yes, because all the cheerleaders, they were white girls and all the basketball players were black," said Smith.

Instead of accepting the 90-day suspension, Smith decided to attend an adult education center.

Jennifer Johnson, mother to point guard and senior student Derrick White, also believes the punishment is harsh.

She said her son admitted to allowing one of the cheerleaders enter the hotel room.

Johnson also said White was punished because the principal said he was using electronic devices to invite the cheerleaders to the room.

"I said you giving my son ninety days because of something someone else was saying...you don't have any proof? said Johnson.

Johnson believes others should be held accountable.

"And then I said where was the coach, where was the officer, where was the cheerleading coach, you know what have you," said Johnson.

News 13 tried to contact Graceville's Asst. Principal Jajuan Clark, and the Jackson County Superintendent Larry Moore.

Clark referred us to his Principal, Julie Burdeshaw.

Moore said he supports the suspension, and had no further comments.

Some of the parents along with community leaders have formed a committee to respond to the matter.


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