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Tolman players, parents seek playoff ban reprieve

May 12, 2014

PAWTUCKET – Tolman High’s options to overturn the one-year playoff ban saddled to its football program have been completely exhausted.

At a meeting that took place Monday night in the school’s library before an estimated gathering of 20 concerned players and parents, an additional course of action to repel what the Rhode Island Principals’ Committee on Athletics ruled this past January was discussed. The general theme of the roughly 30-minute meeting was that if the Tigers are going to enter the season with postseason aspirations, it’s up to the people who feel that they have been accused of wrongdoing to mobilize their efforts and apply pressure on city officials and school personnel.

“It’s in your hands,” stated Vernia Carter, a concerned mentor who has had several dealings with Tolman captains Mohamed Keita, Prince Johnson and Bryan Arroyo. The trio of current juniors stood before the group with Keita doing most of the talking.

Athletic Director John Scanlon explained why the football squad is in the predicament its in after a parent of an incoming Tolman student asked for clarification. Last Nov. 15 at Pariseau Field, an on-field skirmish marred the conclusion of Tolman’s 54-0 non-league victory over Hope.

The incident, which by all accounts was resolved in quick fashion, was deemed volatile enough to warrant harshly punitive discipline. After learning shortly before Thanksgiving that they would have no shot at the playoffs in 2014, Tolman opted to appeal and was granted a chance to state its case before the PCOA.

Principal Christopher Savastano spoke on behalf of Tolman. The Principals’ Committee voted unanimously (15-0) to deny the appeal.
In the months that have followed, Tolman has tried to see if there’s a way to make the RIIL overturn what was decreed. A group went before the ACLU, but they were informed that the case was too time consuming.

John Gagnon, father of Tolman football player Nate Gagnon, also spoke before the gathering Monday. The elder Gagnon talked about the inroads he made during a recent City Council meeting when two councilmen came up to him after he got up and spoke.

Gagnon told the room that two councilmen are pushing for the school department to do something. He also said that the only way for Tolman to show the Interscholastic League just how serious of a step its prepared to take is to get the superintendent to activate the lawyer that the school department has on retainer.

“You won’t do anything unless the superintendent is on board,” noted Gagnon.

“She wants what’s best for the students,” cited Carter about Interim Superintendent Patti DiCenso.

The three Tolman players encouraged their gridiron brethren to leave no stone unturned in its pursuit of promoting its crusade, especially when it comes to getting one’s parents or legal guardians to realize that a simple call to a high-ranking official could go a long way in dissolving the playoff ban.

“I think most of us felt we were getting a tough deal. We felt let down,” expressed Keita. “We’re doing our best to get the parents involved. That’s our initial target right now. The school has done everything within its power so it’s up to us as captains to make sure we’re being heard.”

Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03

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