When an area television news reporter stated on air that Lee’s Summit West High School senior Jamone Boyd was “recruited” to play football at the school and lived with a “host” family, Mark Handel took the report personally.
Handel and his wife, Johnna, are the legal guardians of Boyd, a high-profile football player who is being recruited by some of the best college football programs in the country. Considered by some recruiting publications as one of the top-five football recruits in the state of Missouri, Boyd was arrested Nov. 26 after a vehicle search by a school administrator at Lee’s Summit West High located what turned out to be marijuana.
Boyd was issued municipal citations for resisting a law enforcement officer and possession of marijuana after the episode which also included a school resource officer using a Taser on Boyd after he allegedly became belligerent with the school administrator. A second Taser application was used on Boyd after he fled the scene on foot.
The following media firestorm included a television report that Boyd was recruited to play football at Lee’s Summit West.
“We were very offended by it,” Handel said of the television report in an interview Nov. 30 inside the Journal’s offices. “It’s hard not to say anything because we are a family that stays under the radar with things. We’re not looking for publicity with anything.”
Lee’s Summit R-7 School District officials, while not allowed to speak on a specific student because of privacy laws, said they have checks and balances in place that makes it extremely difficult for a student living outside of the school district to attend an R-7 school.
“It’s a very stringent policy,” said Matt Miller, director of student services in the R-7 school district. “It’s been modeled after Missouri statues for residency. Also, it’s very consistent with policies and procedures for surrounding districts as well. The way that most students prove residency is by showing some documentation of either a rental or lease agreement or a utility agreement that shows the address where the family resides. That’s one way we tell if they’re there or not.”
There are also parameters in place that allow for certain exceptions for students to enroll in an R-7 school, Miller said, including homelessness. There is no indication that Boyd was homeless, but he was facing difficult circumstances in Kansas City that prompted the move into the Handel household.
Legal records indicate Boyd has been a legal member of the Handel family since Decemeber 2010 after moving in with the family the previous spring after his prior school announced it would close. Handel said Boyd came from a tough situation in Kansas City and the family was asked by a friend to help Boyd overcome the plight.
Boyd was just a kid in need when he met the family, Handel said, not a top-rated defensive lineman being courted by several schools in the Big 12, Big Ten and SEC conferences.
“When Jamone came into our home in April of 2010, the intent was to help the young man and make him a part of our family,” he said. “That’s what the intent was. Not to get headlines – all he was was a student. He was student in the Kansas City school district at a school (Westport High School) that was getting ready to close. And that’s all it was.”
Miller added: “If a family is seeking guardianship, then they would file a motion in court and they’ll have a docket number. We verify that by going through (online court information website) casenet. We can look up a family and see that they’ve filed for guardianship and we would allow them to enroll prior to the final disposition of the court. Now, if they’re just having a ‘hard time’ somewhere else and they want to go live and seek access to our school system, they wouldn’t be allowed to attend school in Lee’s Summit. They would have to have a legal guardian. Then they are required to establish residency in the most typical way.”
David McGehee, superintendent for the district, said an out-of-district student would have a difficult time attending a Lee’s Summit school if it was determined the student was not a resident of the district.
“If I get a call, the first thing I do is go up and check with the director of student services who I know is responsible for looking into anything that isn’t just a straight ‘hey this person bought a house and lives here’ and so on,” McGehee said. “Just to make sure, if I have a name, I’ll go up and make sure we follow up on it to determine that we don’t have any issues going on.
“I’m pretty confident that we are as diligent as anybody around when it comes to school districts in trying to ensure that we are educating the students we are suppose to be educating. That comes from years and years of rapid growth and barely having the room to educate the kids that are ours, much less trying to cope with those that are not.”
Boyd, who was suspended from school for the incident, faces an uncertain future at Lee’s Summit West. While Handel says Boyd will graduate, district and school policy calls for a student found with illegal drugs on school grounds to “be suspended for up to (10) days with a possible referral to the Superintendent, which could result in a suspension of up to 180 days.”
It remains unclear what Boyd’s situation will be after his 10 days of suspension are up.
“It’s painful,” Handel said. “I ache for him. But I also know life is about experiences.”
Despite the initial dust up over the incident, Handel said Boyd has the family’s support and he expects Boyd to learn from the events of Nov. 26 and go on and do great things.
“We have a deep faith that God has a plan and he has a plan for all of us,” Handel said. “He has a plan for Jamone. I think life’s lessons many times are learned when they are the toughest. Not that you ever want to see anybody go through it, let alone your love ones. You just come to the understanding that it’s going to shake out. He’ll be fine.”
Handel’s family also includes 17-year-old Grayson, a junior football and baseball player at West, and 9-year-old Sydney.
“(Nov. 27) was an interesting night,” Handel said. “I tuned in to 980 (KMBZ AM radio) – the Darla J. show – and the entire first hour was devoted to what happened at West that Monday. They talked about it – and certainly I’m not going to comment on anything that happened in that respect – but when it came to referring to our family as a host family, they were insinuating that Lee’s Summit West recruited Jamone. I felt compelled to contact Darla J. and set the record straight.
“When Betsy Webster came from KCTV-5 to our door I told her the same thing. It’s offensive that you put inaccuracies into your story by Bonyen Lee that refers to West recruiting Jamone to play football and us as a host family. I said, ‘you don’t even know the story. You’re not even close to what the story is. To put inaccuracies in your story, and then not fix them, you’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg. You’re not seeing the real deal underneath. It’s a much, much richer story. It’s a cool thing, but you guys missed out on that.’”
McGehee, again without mentioning specifics, knows the residency question raised in the Boyd incident was sure to cause pause for some.
“I think that the family has stepped up and did a good job being proactive and making sure that some of the misreports in this particular case that occurred recently are corrected,” McGehee said. “It’s made our jobs pretty easy in that case because we can’t jump out there and talk about kids, but we can talk about policies. (Handel) has done a good job of taking a proactive approach.”