Rio Grande High School wrestler Nick Chavez has a state championship while the justice system, some South Valley political power brokers and the anti-bullying efforts of Albuquerque Public Schools all have a black eye.
A state senator, a Bernalillo County commissioner and an APS Board member all saw fit to use their official clout and hearsay knowledge to intervene on behalf of Chavez after he was suspended and therefore not eligible to compete for a state title last weekend.
They all said they wanted only to make sure there was a thorough and fair investigation of young Chavez — a heavy favorite to defend his title in the 195-pound weight class two days later — after the deputy assigned to the school watched him slap a smaller and younger student in the face and take $15 from his wallet during lunch.
The officer wrote a report, and Chavez, 18, was charged with larceny and battery. Rio Grande High School administrators did the right thing. They followed procedure and suspended the student.
And the district held its ground in the face of calls from politicos urging “due process” for all — with the possible exception of the victim. After all, perhaps it was just “horseplay.”
Besides, those big blue state trophies do look nice in the trophy case, and the young wrestler has scholarship potential. Plus, he’s a focal point of school and South Valley pride, so of course he can’t be held accountable for his actions in the same way and time frame as other students without “a complete and thorough investigation.”
Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, Commissioner Art De La Cruz and APS board member Analee Maestas say they came to his defense to ensure there was no overreaction to “horseplay” — although it’s hard to believe they reach out to APS for every student who gets suspended.
In the end, Chavez’s family went to court and got a temporary restraining order from District Court Judge Clay Campbell that allowed Chavez to wrestle.
And the system and students who aren’t famous and connected lost.
Chavez is not the first Rio Grande student to have not-so-divine intervention keep him from facing the consequences of his actions.
In 2007, APS officials buckled under pressure from then-Commissioner Teresa Cordova to change the English grade of Cordova’s son with former APS board member Miguel Acosta so the young man could walk the line with his graduating class.
Yes, the cases are different; the current one is arguably more serious because it involves violence, and according to APS Superintendent Winston Brooks the victim for months has been the target of threatening phone calls, his home has been paintballed and windows broken.
Perhaps those incidents should be the focus of the politicos’ desire for “a complete and thorough investigation.”
If there is a positive side to the Chavez case, it is that educators up to the superintendent are standing up to bullying.
But in the end this was a drama in which adults who felt the rules should not apply intervened and, ultimately, prevailed.
And what kind of lesson is that?
— Albuquerque Journal