Cut Short

A model student-athlete unthinkingly brings a knife to school and ends up in jail, then expelled. Why one-size-fits-all discipline fails kids.

But Pavlos missed the end of the football season and most of the soccer matches, nixing his goal of making the all-district team. He wasn't photographed with his teammates, and he's absent from the wide-angle shot of the entire senior class in the yearbook.

"I missed out on a lot," he says. "I didn't get to learn as much as I wanted. And I lost a lot of high school memories."

The ordeal also singed a hole in his parents' pocketbook. They spent $6,000 for the attorney and $2,700 for private school, and they're still waiting to get back the $3,000 they posted for bail.

Daniel Kramer
Kathy Karnezis spent four months battling the Fort Bend Independent School District after her son, Pavlos, was expelled and sentenced to spend the rest of his senior year in boot camp.
Daniel Kramer
Kathy Karnezis spent four months battling the Fort Bend Independent School District after her son, Pavlos, was expelled and sentenced to spend the rest of his senior year in boot camp.

It is clear that many families do not have the time and money required to win justice from a school district.

"There are good kids that get punished and they're not as lucky as Pavlos," Kathy Karnezis says. "It's a shame that kids are wasted like that."

Kathy Karnezis remains furious with Paquin. At the parent meeting in April, the mom says she raised her hand for 30 minutes but was never recognized to ask her question. She wants an apology. It's a good thing she's not holding her breath.

"I don't have a reason" to apologize, Paquin says. "I've done what I felt we needed to do."

Pavlos, meanwhile, tries not to dwell on the events of the last several months. He has too much to look forward to.

The school averaged his grades from the beginning of the year at Hightower with those earned at private school and community college. He graduated in the top 15 percent of his class.

In late April he received an acceptance letter to Case Western Reserve University.

And on May 27 he joined the rest of his class at the graduation ceremony held in the Toyota Center.

In cap and gown, Pavlos strode across the dais toward Paquin.

Pavlos averted his eyes from the principal's, as he had done whenever they crossed paths in the school hallways.

Paquin treated him like any other student. She handed Pavlos his diploma and shook his hand. She followed procedure.

Editor's note: In the interests of full disclosure, we want to note that a Houston Press editorial staff member -- not the author of this article -- has children who have attended Hightower High School.

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