Roosevelt junior basketball player LaDontaz Tolbert got some good news on Thursday from the Indiana High School Athletic Association.
But it wasn't the news that Tolbert, or his mother Sharethia Tolbert, wanted to hear.
The IHSAA's Review Committee gave Tolbert limited eligibility for the remainder of this school year, meaning he can play junior varsity games for the Panthers through March 10.
On March 11 he will receive full eligibility.
The Review Committee overturned an earlier ruling by IHSAA assistant commissioner Sandra Walters, who ruled that the former Lew Wallace student was ruled athletically ineligible due to Bylaw 19-4, which states that the transfer was athletically motivated.
The family released a statement through Crown Point attorney Michael Jasaitis.
“The Tolbert family feels vindicated against the allegations of Lew Wallace that this transfer was primarily for athletic reasons and for that, they are pleased. However, the Tolberts believe that the remainder of the IHSAA ruling disregards a mother’s best intentions and difficult decision to transfer her son (against his wishes) for his own safety and protection. The IHSAA has stated in this decision that these circumstances do not meet the criteria for full eligibility, and continues to interject suggestions that the transfer was athletically motivated to support that conclusion despite evidence to the contrary. Consequently, the Tolbert family intends to continue to vigorously pursue the review of the IHSAA decision.”
Jasaitis appealed the Review Committee's decision with the Indiana Department of Education's Case Review Panel on Thursday afternoon. He said he would find out soon when the next appeal might be heard.
LaDontaz and some friends were walking home from school at Wallace on Aug. 29. A fight started. A gun was pulled on him. He did not tell his mother about it.
He went home and took his mother's gun for protection. When she learned what transpired she removed LaDontaz from Wallace and enrolled him at Roosevelt on Aug. 31.
The IHSAA said the gun incident took place at a gas station on 45th Avenue and Broadway, not on school grounds. Plus, he and his friends walked in the opposite direction of LaDontaz's home to buy snacks at the gas station.
They also questioned why no police report was ever filed after the incident.
Since the family did not change its address and since the transfer was ruled to be for athletic reasons, Tolbert received no eligibility, until Thursday's reversal.
In the IHSAA's final decision document, the state association questioned LaDontaz's relationship with Roosevelt coach Renaldo Thomas, who was Wallace's coach when the said student was a freshman.
The IHSAA also pointed out that LaDontaz's younger sister, Almesha Alexander, is a freshman special education student who remains at Wallace.
Sharethia told The Times earlier that she didn't remove her daughter from Wallace because Almesha never had any safety concerns there.
The Tolbert family and their counsel will take their fight further. LaDontaz transferred to Roosevelt for safety concerns alone and to remove him from some unsavory social influences.
Since going to Roosevelt, LaDontaz's grade point average went from a 1.7 to recently making the honor roll.