Tom Harris is injured in a high school football game and ends up in the hospital.
Tanner Knox says he’ll make sure Tom receives reparation for what happened.
Thursday Morning, 10/4/2018
Thursday turned out to be almost the same as any other Thursday for Tanner. It was ‘almost’ the same because there were three one-time tasks that Tanner had to take care of.
The first task was completed when Tanner met and talked with Tom’s counselor and his other three teachers. The classes were World History and Geography with Mr. Livingston; Physics with Ms. Rykell; and English 2 with Mr. Kohler. They all said they’d let Tom catch up on the tests he’d missed once he got back to school. Ms. Rykell said she would have Tanner’s lab partner help him get up-to-date with the lab experiment that he’d missed. He texted their responses to Tom. His counselor said she was glad Tom would be back on Monday, and if he had any problems he should let her know.
The second task was his meeting with Coach Reynolds after the football practice during seventh period PE.
When Tanner got to the gym, he heard some seniors on the team complaining because the bye-week was so early in the schedule. They’d have preferred it to be later when the team would appreciate having a break. But it was what it was, and that’s what Coach Reynolds had already told the team.
The bye-week practice was defined as ‘light’ which meant the Edison offense focused on new plays and other plays that needed improvement, and spent time making all of them work. The defense, including Tanner, focused on how to respond to opponents’ plays that the coaches felt the team should have contained but had not been handled successfully.
When the practice was over, and he had showered and dressed, Tanner went to Coach Reynold’s office to take care of the second task. The door was open, so he walked in.
“Do you have a minute to talk, Coach?”
“Sure, Tanner. Have a seat.”
“Did you find out about the Ealington football coach and why they hired Simon Poulter?”
“They had hired Bill Crenshaw as football coach. His name was submitted to the NCS, and they still have him listed as the coach. Crenshaw got a better offer from the high school where he’d been a student and graduated, and he took it. He could do that because at that time the football coach at Ealington wasn’t a contract position. Ealington was desperate and found Simon Poulter. He had been a high school football coach in Oregon who was looking for a job. He took the job at Ealington High and moved into the area with his wife and three kids. That included his son Nicholas Poulter, an 18-year-old high school senior who transferred to Ealington High. Their other two kids are in middle school.”
Coach Reynolds explained what had been done. “Principal Ana Freitas, Athletic Director Lowry, and David Wells, the attorney for the school district, and I met and drafted four remedies we want the NCS and Ealington High School to take. These are the four points that are included in this letter.”
Tanner skipped over the introductory yadda yadda and got to the important part. It demanded the following remedies:
1) Ealington High School is to immediately suspend Nick Poulter, a senior at Ealington High School, from playing football on any Ealington High School team for the rest of the current football season for targeting and two flagrant personal fouls he committed on Thomas Harris, a sophomore member of the Edison High School varsity football team, causing severe internal injuries requiring hospitalization and preventing Thomas Harris from being able to continue to play football nor participate in any other athletics for the rest of this school year, and perhaps into the next school year as well.
2) The NCS is to terminate official Patrick Slocomb for deliberate failure to protect Edison High School varsity football player Thomas Harris while officiating the game between Edison High School and Ealington High School when he had clearly observed the targeting foul and the two personal fouls listed in #1 above.
3) Ealington High School is to suspend football coach Simon Poulter without pay for the next three consecutive football games this season for failure to control Ealington High School team member Nicholas Poulter.
4) Ealington High School will be responsible for payment of all hospitalization and physician’s costs for Thomas Alan Harris for the injuries listed in #1 above. A detailed invoice from John Muir Hospital in Walnut Creek is attached.
When he finished reading Tanner looked up and asked, “What do you think they’ll do? Accept these remedies? Appeal to the NCS? Tell us they’ll see us in court, meaning we’d have to sue them? Tell us to take a hike?”
“We don’t know. I think our remedies are reasonable. We could have asked for more stringent remedies, like firing their coach.”
“How come it doesn’t say anything about Nick Poulter being the son of Simon Poulter?”
“This way the NCS can draw their own conclusions, and they will conduct an investigation of what happened. Ealington High School already knows Nick Poulter is the son of their football coach.”
“Will the video of Tom being attacked be sent to everyone?” Tanner asked.
“The video clip you gave me and the full DVD have been copied to the Edison High School’s administrative server, and they are available for read-only access that requires a password; that password will be included in the cover letter.”
Tanner was pleased. His second task was completed, and he was sure Tom would also be happy with the results.
The third task on Tanner’s list was asking for the apologies.
“Tom’s new foster parents think Nick Poulter and the Ealington High football coach should each write an apology letter to Tom. Can that be included in the remedies letter?”
“I think it’s a great idea to ask for apologies, and that should be added to the letter. You should meet with principal Freitas and tell her that Tom’s parents are asking for those apologies. She’s preparing the remedies letter now.”
“Can I have a copy of the letter to send to my Uncle Gerald in Sacramento?”
“He’s an attorney, right?”
Tanner nodded and said, “Yes, he is.”
“You should also ask Principal Freitas about that. I don’t think there’ll be a problem.”
“Okay. I’d like other copies of the letter, too. one for Tom, one for Tom’s foster parents, and one for me. Is that okay?”
“Yes. The principal knows that you and Tom have been working on this and that you’ve been doing all the work because Tom’s been in the hospital.”
“If it’s okay, I’ll go see her now.”
Tanner headed from the gym to the administration building to see Principal Ana Freitas. He jogged part of the way, the part where he wouldn’t be yelled at by a teacher or administrator for running in a building, and got there with enough time to meet with her about the apology letters before he had to catch his bus.
He walked up to the counter. A woman looked up from her desk.
“May I help you?”
“Yes. Coach Reynolds said I should talk to Principal Freitas. My name is Tanner Knox, and this is about the injuries Tom Harris received during our football game with Ealington High.”
“I’ll see if she’s available.”
She stepped into the principal’s office and returned.
“Principal Freitas will see you now. You can come around the counter and go right into her office.”
Principal Freitas stood as soon as Tanner walked into her office. They shook hands. That pleased him; it was an adult thing, and he appreciated that she did it with a teenager. They both sat down.
“It’s nice to meet you, Tanner. Coach Reynolds called me a few minutes ago and told me that you were coming to talk to me. He said you wanted several copies of the letter we are sending to the NCS, the principal of Ealington High School, the staff attorney for the Oakhill school district, and an information copy to the CIF.”
“Yes, I’d like four copies. One for Tom Harris; one for Tom’s foster parents; one for my uncle Graham Knox who’s an attorney in Sacramento and has been helping Tom and me; and a copy for me.”
“We can provide those copies this afternoon. I want to say that I’m sorry for what happened to Tom. Please pass that on to him. How’s he doing?”
“There are some good things. He won’t have to return to be fostered at the illegal group home where he’d been transferred. The foster family he’d been with before the transfer always wanted him back, and he always wanted to be back with them, and that’s where he will be from now on. His foster parents are also starting the process to adopt him. Best of all, he’s going home from the hospital on Friday and will probably return to school on Monday.
“There are some not so good things, though. He won’t be able to play football the rest of this season. He won’t be able to play most other sports this year. What he can do in PE will be restricted based on what his doctor says. Even worse, he might not be able to play football next year, either; that’s also going to be up to his doctor.”
“It’s unfortunate that he’s going to have restrictions about his participation in sports. Of course, what’s most important is for him to recover from his injuries. He’s lucky it’s not worse.”
“That’s true,” Tanner replied. “There is one other thing. Tom and his parents want both Nick Poulter, the player who targeted and fouled Tom, and Simon Poulter, the Ealington High football coach, to write apology letters addressed to Tom. Is it too late to add that to the letter? They also want the apologies to be sent to the Times and the Chronicle to be printed on their sports pages.”
“I think it’s appropriate to add the request for apologies in the letter we’re sending to Ealington High School and to the NCS. We haven’t printed the letters yet so we can add that request now. However, we can’t ask that a copy of the letters be sent to the newspapers. Tom’s parents would have to ask for that separately. There are rules about privacy that Edison High School is required to follow.”
“Tom’s foster father is an assistant district attorney for Contra Costa County in Martinez. I guess he’ll find an attorney to represent Tom if his folk’s decide they want to go to court,” Tanner said.
“So, let’s focus on the apologies we want them to write and send to Tom.” She opened Microsoft Word and brought up the letter. It was addressed to the principal of Ealington High School, the North Coast Section Commissioner of Athletics, and the North Coast Section Coordinator of Officials, with a copy to the California Interscholastic Federation.
Tanner and Principal Ana Freitas talked about what the apologies should say. After about a half-hour, their discussion resulted in a draft they both found acceptable.
“Here’s what I’ve added to the letter.” She turned her display so Tanner could read what she’d written.
5) We expect Simon Poulter, coach of the Ealington High School football team, and Nicholas Poulter, the player who targeted and fouled Thomas Harris resulting in a severe injury that prevents him from playing football or participating in any other athletics this year, to write individual apologies addressed to Thomas Harris and forward those apology letters to my attention by October 24th of this year. Upon receipt, I will forward the apology letters to Thomas Harris and his parents.
“How does that look?” she asked.
“That’s great. Coach Reynolds told me there’s a link to the video clip in the letter?”
“We worked with Mr. Farinholdt, and he saved encrypted versions of the video clip and the full videos of the game on the school’s server and set up a password for read-only access. Coach Reynolds wrote a paragraph that’s in the cover letter that describes the video clip and the game video. It includes the link and the password so everyone receiving the letter can access and view the files.”
“Excellent. Another question. Who at Edison High is getting a copy of the letter?”
“There’s a long cc list at the end of the letter. It has names and, if appropriate, titles, but no addresses.”
She scrolled to the last page and Tanner saw the list. It included Tom but not his foster parents.
“Could you add this to the cc list after Tom’s name: ‘Paul and Linda Jackson, parents of Thomas Harris’? I have their address on my phone, and I can text it or email it to you.”
She handed him a business card that had her email address. “Thank you. Please email it to me now. We don’t have the names of Tom’s new foster parents in his student file, just the name of a foster home where he’d been staying previously.”
“He’s not there any longer. In fact, that place has been closed by CPS because it wasn’t a licensed group home. He’s returning to the foster parents he’d had originally, and they are going to adopt him. Mrs. Jackson will be here tomorrow with Tom to re-register him so he can return to school on Monday. They’ll take care of the official address change then.”
Tanner pulled out his phone, copied the Jacksons’ address in a short email message, and included Tom’s name. He remembered that he wanted a copy sent to his uncle Gerald, so he included his name and address in the message as well. He sent the email to Principal Freitas.
“I included the name and address of my uncle, Gerald Knox. He’s the attorney in Sacramento I’ve been talking with, and he’s given advice to Tom and to me. He should get a copy of the letter, if that’s okay.”
“I’ll add the Jacksons and Gerald Knox to the cc list and to the file we’re using to address the envelopes. We’ll print four original copies of the letter that I’ll sign, and then make copies for those on the cc list from one of those originals, and we’ll mail them this afternoon. If it’s okay, I’ll give you the envelopes with your copy, Tom’s copy, and the Jacksons’ copy.”
“I have another question. Are you sending a copy of the letter to Simon Poulter, the Ealington football coach?”
“No. I’m leaving that up to the Ealington High School principal and their staff. Our Athletic Director Douglas Lowry suggested that we let their principal and school district attorney handle what they do with their football coach and the player. Our staff attorney agreed.”
She printed four copies of the letter and signed them, then called her assistant and asked her to join them.
“Jennifer, these three copies I signed are the ones we’re mailing to Lionel Cates, the principal of Ealington High School, and to the two administrators at the NCS. Here’s an additional signed copy; please make enough copies of it for the names on the cc list. I’ve added three names to that list and I emailed the addresses for Linda and Paul Jackson and Gerald Knox to you. I’ve also added a section 5 asking for apology letters to be written to Tom — she stopped and grinned — Please print the envelopes and stuff them each with a copy of the letter. Then you can give Tanner his copy and the copies for Thomas Harris and for Linda and Paul Jackson. Do the three letters I marked with an asterisk first, you can give them to Tanner so he can leave on time to catch his bus. Then you can mail the rest of the letters so they’ll be picked up by the mail service tomorrow morning.”
“Tanner, it shouldn’t take more than about five or ten minutes. Can you wait?” Jennifer asked.”
“That’ll be okay. My bus leaves the pick-up area in about fifteen minutes.”
“No problem,” she said. “I’ll have your copies ready in time. You can wait in the reception area.”
“Mrs. Freitas, thank you for the apology letters and all your help,” Tanner said. “I’m sure Tom will appreciate what you’ve done. What you’re asking for will help resolve this for Tom, and it will make sure it doesn’t happen to any other varsity football player whose school has a game scheduled with Ealington High School.”
“You’re welcome, Tanner. You seem very focused on getting reparations for what happened to Tom Harris. I thank you for that, and I’m sure Tom does as well.”
“I have a question if it’s okay.”
“Certainly. What is your question?”
“What do you think the principal of Ealington High will do when he gets this letter? Talk to Coach Poulter? Talk to his vice principal? Talk to the school’s attorney?”
“That’s a good question. If this kind of letter was mailed to me, what I’d do is contact the attorney for the school district. I’m sure the attorney would say I shouldn’t talk to anyone about this. Then he’d investigate the demands in the letter. He’d insist that we must handle all contact through his office.”
“What should we do? I mean me, and Tom, and Tom’s foster parents?”
“I guess you’ll have to wait until next week. We expect the recipients will receive the our letters by next Friday, then we’ll see if the apology letters arrive here by the 24th.”
“What if we don’t receive the apology letters?”
“Then we’ll turn it over to our school district’s attorney and let him take whatever next step is necessary. But I can’t believe that we won’t receive the apology letters. If for some reason they are delayed, I think Prinicipal Cates of Ealington High School will contact us in advance and let us know the reason for the delay and tell us when the letters will arrive.”
“Okay. Thank you again for doing this for Tom.”
“You’re welcome. When you see Tom, please say hello to him for me.”
They stood, and again Mrs. Freitas shook hands with him.
Tanner went out to the reception area, and Jennifer handed him the envelopes for Tom, the Jacksons, and him.
“Thank you. That was quick.”
“You’re welcome. I hope the next time I see you it’ll be for something more pleasant than what happened to Tom Harris.”
“I agree,” Tanner said.
His third and final task was finished.
Now that all three tasks were complete, he rushed to the pick-up area, and about two minutes later he boarded the bus that would take him from Edison High School to the hospital. He was eager to show Tom the letter including the part asking for the apologies. Things were finally moving in the right direction.
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