Wrong Time, Wrong Place

A parochial school kid takes a leap of faith, transfers to a public high school and gets caught in a whirlwind.

Meyson Garcia was a student at St. Pius, where he played on the football team and got pretty good grades. But during the summer before his junior year, he got more involved with Young Life, a Christian program for youth in his neighborhood which headquartered at nearby Waltrip High School. He made a lot of friends there who urged him to transfer to Waltrip.

He talked to his dad Alson about moving into the public school system. Alson had graduated years before from Waltrip himself, thought it was a pretty good school and agreed. So in fall 2011, his son — the "St. Pius kid," as he came to be known — moved on over.

And that's why on Thursday, September 1, Meyson was at a varsity football game between Waltrip and Pasadena at Delmar Stadium in which Waltrip was getting its butt kicked. The 5'10", 180-pound junior wasn't suited up — he hadn't made varsity; he was on the JV squad — but was in the stands watching with his father and friends.

Alson and Meyson Garcia spent seven months in unnerving limbo.
Margaret Downing
Alson and Meyson Garcia spent seven months in unnerving limbo.
The wall that must not be breached.
Courtesy of Alson Garcia
The wall that must not be breached.

Toward the end of the game, Meyson went down to the front of the stands, he says, to say some words of encouragement to a friend on the varsity squad. He eventually jumped down to the field and climbed over a waist-high concrete barrier placed along the sidelines to get closer.

He didn't know it, but this was a big mistake. The Waltrip Code of Conduct doesn't allow bystanders on the sidelines. It didn't matter that he was on JV, or that he wasn't the only kid who'd ever done this at a game.

Tempers were running hot. One varsity player yelled at Meyson, telling him to get off the field, adding something about "You need to keep your white ass off the field, white boy," Meyson says. "Meyson told him okay, but that he is actually Mexican," Alson says. There are disputed accounts over whether Meyson said anything else in return — one witness says Meyson had an attitude because he hadn't made varsity; Meyson and his father say no, they understood all along that he'd never make it immediately after transferring.

The part that everyone can agree on is that Meyson promptly got back in the stands and that two brothers who played on the team, and who hadn't been involved in either of Meyson's conversations, came into the stands after him and started beating on him, one swinging his helmet at Meyson and punching him in the stomach, the other punching him in the face.

The fight got broken up, and everyone was separated. Initial statements were taken all round, and photographs were made of Meyson's bruised face (no one else was injured in the fracas.) Everybody went home to rest and recover.

The next day, Friday, Meyson spent almost entirely in Assistant Principal Lori Frodine's office, giving his statement to school officials and school Police Officer Reggie Washington. Washington issued Meyson a Class C misdemeanor citation — just like the other two boys got — for "disrupting a school activity."

By the following Tuesday, right after the Labor Day holiday, Meyson was at afternoon football practice when his dad drove over from work, walked on the field and told him he'd been suspended (along with the two brothers) and would not be coming back to school for the rest of the week.

Suspended from school and looking at a court date a month down the road — all of a sudden, Meyson's move to the public school system from the more sheltering confines of St. Pius was looking like a gamble that hadn't paid off.
_____________________

Waltrip High is neither the worst nor the best high school in HISD. In 2009, it reached "recognized" status with the Texas Education Agency, but by 2011 it had dropped back to "academically acceptable."

The school does take its football seriously, as a page from the school's playbook entitled "2011 Waltrip Ram Defense" asks in all caps: "CAN WE PLAY INTELLIGENT IN A VIOLENT FRAME OF MIND?" Rule 10 cites "adjectives to describes us: 'mean, reckless, aggressive, fearless, intimidating.'"

Rule No. 9 requires: "At least 10 hits on the QB and ANY THAT START DO NOT FINISH." Wow — this is a call to what? Put severe hurt on a quarterback? Are we talking the high school version of pro football's bounty system? (When contacted, HISD spokesman Jason Spencer sighed, called it "typical high-school bravado" and added, "Of course we wouldn't condone anyone encouraging students to try to hurt one another. I'm not aware of anyone coming forward to accuse Waltrip of doing that.")

The goal was the district championship, which, late on that September 1 night, didn't seem too possible.

Alson Garcia never saw his son as anything but the victim; what the school calls a "fight," he labels "an attack." The first warning he had that those in authority might hold a different view came from the two Delmar security guards on Thursday night, who told him: "They were sorry that Meyson was assaulted and that it appeared to them that he had done nothing to provoke the attack. They also told me I needed to go to Meyson's school immediately and set things right to make sure Meyson was not punished for this event."

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18 comments
Leopard
Leopard

Re: "We live in the time we are dealt", don't think so, our kids are having to grow up in a police state, don't think that this society which the previous generations have put in place in order to allow them a sense of security is not going to have a "blowback" effect. It's nice this gentleman was able to afford to teach his son to stand on principle, but what about all the kids who can't afford this. When they end up in the "school to prison pipeline", their lives can be ruined before they even get off the starting line. JP courts should not be handling juvenile cases, and if they are they should be afforded the same protections. In the end it is all about money, school administrators should be handling these jobs and police should be out on the streets, not in the schools, where students don't know what their rights are and are not allowed to exercise them if they did, without incurring a disproportionate response from law enforcement.

Jason Rahall
Jason Rahall

Kudos to Mr. Garcia for his support and dedication to clear his son's name. I can't help but wonder if this whole debacle was escalated to the police and court system because of some 'zero tolerance' rule in re: student fights or altercations. The school boards that enacted all the zero tolerance rules did so because they made for good sound bites, not because the rules would suddenly and magically put an end to altercations, etc. This seems like an example of taking the discretion away from experienced school administrators who could have possibly resolved the issue without the police or courts.

Every best wish to Meyson going forward.

MM
MM

First of all, if you expect to go to a high school football game in an urban city and not hear slang or "gangsta" play calls....you are in the "wrong place" its reality, and its a culture. Sadly, this article promotes readers to fear the waltrip football team, which makes me highly heated quite honestly. This father was quick to take his sons side, which was a given, but come on now...this kid should have known not to get on the field among these players. Before I say more, I am discusted by the article and this whole over dramatized situation.

kjhall
kjhall

To all the naysayers of this article, unfortunately, this is where problems start. Does you're name and reputation stand for nothing anymore? Is lying across the board from security guards to principals the norm? This is what our young adults are being taught by those in authority - you can lie and perjure yourself and get away with it! The only problem with this excellent article is the fact that prior to this incident there was nothing in the school code of conduct nor posted on school grounds about leaving the stands and entering the field. Meyson did nothing wrong but try to give his buddies moral support at the wrong time. He sure knows better now. Another valuable lesson life has taught him - mind your own business - which is very, very sad!

Al Moreno
Al Moreno

As a parent of 3 recent, and one more this year, Waltrip graduetes, it does not surprise me that answers or explanations were not given to the reporter or Garcia parents. I have had great dealing with officer Washington and Mr. Thomas, however most of the Administrators and Principals need to be replaced at Waltrip High School. There has been a lack of discipline on the football team for years ( I've had 2 play both varsity and jv) with little or no accountabilty. The coaches don't seem to get along very well and the players all recognize it. I have expressed my opinion to most of these people in more than one meeting. It is easier for the decision makers to say no or not address a problem to the students and parents and as a result frustration is at a all time high. There are great teachers and support staff that are there for the right reasons to help and teach the students, but thier hands are tied by the administrators in a lot of cases. I'm glad this is my last year as a parent and hope wholesale changes are made to the principals/administrators for the good of all students that may follow.

Alson Garcia
Alson Garcia

After 4 meetings with Waltrip administrators and HISD Security personnel, 3 Court appearances, and several thousand in legal fees, I still have not been told why Meyson was given the citation. I was told only that all the facts would be disclosed at trial (before the case was dismissed).

In spite of this event, Meyson did have some rewarding experiences at Waltrip High School. He was assigned to some wonderful, dedicated teachers; and he fully recognizes the benefits he received as their student. Meyson and I are sincerely grateful to these teachers for their support.

We would also like to thank Waltrip's Vice-Principal Salinas, who advocated for Meyson, as a former St. Thomas alumni.

We especially thank Mr. Jon Moody and Vice-Principal Chris Westman, from St. Thomas, for taking a hard look at the information provided them; then being so open-minded and fair with Meyson and accepting him mid-semester. Meyson and I both feel extremely grateful that this "blessing in disguise" placed him in a better environment. He is very fortunate and happy to be a student of St. Thomas High School.

And we certainly appreciate and thank Margaret Downing for the time invested in following this event.

Deana Rouse
Deana Rouse

Are all HS Football Handbooks that Gangsta? That is ridiculous. It is no wonder the violence we see in young kids these days. Sure, kids have always gotten in fights, but it's gotten out of control with weapons, hatred, robbing people for a dollar! I think we found one of the culprits. Our schools are in trouble.

Legally Me
Legally Me

Thank you for a well written article highlighting the injustices faced by teenagers, especially those whom are deemed "outsiders" or "different". While the country seems to have gone on a crusade against bullying, in Texas, all bets are off when it comes to sports.

Too often adults forget that these are children and set an example where winning is more important than academics and integrity. Yes, sports programs are an important part of the school experience and can even supplement lacking school budgets, but at what cost? If those in charge are encouraging or tolerating socially unacceptable behaviors in the name of "school spirit," rivalries, etc., when all is said and done, these kids (high school, college, etc.) will be molded by their experiences. By getting away with the "big fish in a little pond" mentality, a severe injustice is being done to these athletes, when the bright Friday night lights fade and they're left with the challenges of surviving in a world where no one cares to imbibe your entitlement issues.

Best of luck to the Garcia family. It is a hard road to fight when those in power do not possess the integrity or knowledge to fairly carry out their duties. The fact that you stood up and fought to defend your reputation and honor says a lot. No one can ever take that from you.

KilgoreTrout
KilgoreTrout

For my part, I think it's an article worth writing and reading. People will not hesitate to give you a thousand opinions about public education, but they apparently aren't very interested in getting a glimpse at what is actually going on in schools (unless it involves a teacher screwing a student, of course).

Margaret Downing
Margaret Downing

I appreciate your reading this even if you thought it was dumb. I am confused by the "nobody got hurt" and "the system worked" comments. If the system worked why wasn't this settled within the high school instead of going into the courts? And I'd say having to pay almost $5,000 in attorney and private eye fees, as well as not knowing for seven months what's going to happen, incurs a certain amount of hurt.

Rob
Rob

What a waste of time I spent reading this article.

John
John

With the Houston Press the amount of ink devoted to a story is inversely proportionate to the importance of the issue. Astounding that you could write so much about the new kid who got in a scuffle at his new school. Doesn't that happen to every new kid? Nobody got hurt and the system worked. Where's the scandal? So lame. So very very lame.

TOLDYA
TOLDYA

Dumbest story I believe I've ever read.

WJH
WJH

I am "discusted" by your response. Promotes readers "to fear the waltrip football team"? The article has more to do with the school and legal system than the football team. School officials and teachers, whom we trust to teach our kids, should be held to account.

ALG
ALG

Margaret - Thank you for highlighting the 'judicial' issues in our public schools. Zero tolerance policies are just an excuse for education authorities to be lazy. Stories like this rarely get the attention they should. The negative comments about this article are ridiculous. The system did not work and almost ruined an innocent kid's life. And it did end his football career. Kudos to his father (and you) for getting the truth out.

Billyjames
Billyjames

So, a kid gets charged with a crime (misdemeanor?) and has to hire an attorney to get the charges dropped, and you think that's a worthwhile story? Happens every day. What's next, a 5-part series on people who have to fight insurance companies to get them to pay money they're owed? How about an expose on people who bought lottery tickets that didn't win? Take a number. It's called life. Find a real victim with a story that highlights a legitimate flaw in the system. This was a weak effort.

Nathan
Nathan

yeah i'd say the long stories about soldiers dealing with ptsd and soldiers getting fucked by KBR kinda prove different, at least for some of the time

 
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