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BURNSTEIN COLUMN: Jayru saga slices both ways, issues surrounding all-state Cass Tech QB not cut & dry

By: Scott Burnstein, May 12, 2014, 7:00 am

DETROIT – I have mixed feelings about what looks like the outcome will be for Detroit Cass Tech all-state football player Jayru Campbell in the wake of his recent legal problems.

In terms of Jayru personally, I’m incredibly glad he will have a chance to put this behind him without having to serve any jail time and most likely without it going on his adult record.

Under the terms of a plea deal agreed upon in tandem by Campbell’s attorney, the prosecutor’s office and the court earlier this month, Campbell will get his felony assault charge dropped and the incident wiped from the record, if he pleads guilty to his misdemeanor assault charge, undergoes anger-management counseling and writes a letter of apology to his victim.

The high-profile prep quarterback and Michigan State-commit was hit with the charges out of Wayne County Circuit Court, stemming from his body-slamming of Robert Donovan, a school security guard in a Cass Tech hallway on January 22, an altercation caught on videotape that subsequently went "viral" on-line.

He’ll be back in court May 30 to read his apology letter aloud to Donovan and finalize the details of his plea.

These are all good things. At his core, I honestly believe Jayru is a genuinely kind-hearted kid. While covering him the past three years, I’ve found him intelligent and engaging. Except for his meltdown last fall in the Technicians’ state semifinal loss to Novi Detroit Catholic Central, watching him compete, dumbfounding opponents and pundits alike by leading Cass Tech to Division 1 state championships in both his freshman and sophomore years (2011 and 2012), has been a tremendous pleasure for me as a writer and sports fan.

I don’t think he is a thug or destined for a life of crime, but simply a slightly-lost teenager that has family stability issues and problems with his temper. Living his life in the public eye and carrying the weight of the hopes and dreams of hoards of citywide pigskin buffs squarely upon his adolescent shoulders (quite successfully mind you) unfortunately only exasperated and accentuated the situation.

Last month, Campbell was readmitted to Cass Tech by the Detroit Public School District after serving a two month suspension and according to comments made by his head coach, Thomas Wilcher, will be taking snaps under center for the school at some point in the fall.

The return to school in general is obviously a positive step. The return to Cass Tech specifically and the Technicians’ football program so quickly is where my mixed feelings on this entire ordeal come in.

Exactly what kind of precedent is being set here by DPS and Cass Tech?

Well, if you ask me, it’s a horrible one and something that really lends itself to a very slippery slope down the line when similar situations pop up in the future.

Let’s start out with what the Detroit Free Press’ Mick McCabe pointed out last week in a column of his relating to this same issue; Campbell’s suspension and re-admittance to Cass Tech contravenes a state law stating, “A student sixth-grade or above who physically assaults an employee must be expelled.”

Now, under the law, if the expelled student wants to apply for reinstatement, they are allowed to do so after three months.

First off, Campbell was never expelled. Second, his reinstatement was allowed after only two months and it is not known if he applied for it or not, nor what the process that decided to allow him to return to Cass Tech actually was (DPS is barred from commenting on specifics because he is a minor).

Would this had been the case if another DPS student, one that was not an all-state athlete and one-time poster-child for achievement in the economically and pride-ravished district was criminally charged with attacking an authority figure on school grounds?

No way. No how. The double standard here is glaring.

Finally, what appears in my opinion like a lax approach by Coach Wilcher in disciplining his star player is disturbing to me. Why so fast and unequivocal in opening the doors of the program back to him? Why not see how everything plays out this summer and then reevaluate when practice starts in August? What’s the rush? Where are the consequences?

If this was Campbell’s first scrape with trouble I might feel differently about this portion of the equation. However, it’s clearly not. His one-game suspension for slugging the Catholic Central player in the handshake line during the playoffs last year was too light in my opinion as well (he should have gotten at least two games, if not three).

I sincerely wish the best for Jayru in his life and his career. He can learn from this and become a better person in the end. But the way the powers that be in DPS and at Cass Tech have sent the utterly wrong message in how they chose to handle this situation and treat Campbell as some sort of schoolboy gridiron demigod, instead of a regular student, is a sad, sad statement on the manner in which business is conducted in the city of Detroit’s educational system.