by KIM HILSENBECK
The Lobos were down by several touchdowns against the Rebels during the rival game. The rain never let up. And two Lehman High School students wanted to lighten the mood.
Fernando Mercado, a senior, and his friend Diego Garcia, a freshman, made a spur of the moment decision, according to Fernando’s mom, Norma.
“It wasn’t anything they planned in advance,” she said. “They just wanted to do something entertaining.”
The boys stripped down to their underwear and tied T-shirts around their heads. Then they took off down the football field to the cheers of onlookers on both sides of Jack C. Hays Shelton Stadium.
While the crowd enjoyed the show, it seems the Hays County Sheriff’s Office deputies did not find the prank as entertaining.
The boys reached the end of the stadium. Fernando leapt over the fence into the parking lot. Diego was caught by his rain-slickered pursuers and tackled to the ground.
Mercado said Fernando came back to turn himself in; both he and Diego were detained by the deputies and spent the night in the county’s juvenile detention center on misdemeanor charges of criminal trespassing, evading arrest and disruption of a school activity, according to Mercado.
In addition, she said, the boys are facing discipline from Lehman High principal Michelle Chae, who assigned them to 120 days in the Impact Center, the district’s alternative campus for students with disciplinary issues. Fernando is already at the center; Diego started this week. He was placed in school suspension since his detainment.
“I think they should be punished. I agree what they did is not OK,” Mercado said. “But 120 days is way too much punishment.”
Diego’s father, Oscar Garcia, said he also thinks the boys should be punished but not so severely.
“I understand what they did was wrong,” Garcia said. “But I think 120 days in the Impact Center is too much.”
Mercado and Garcia said they think between 30 and 45 days would be a reasonable punishment for the boys.
“I know what we did isn’t right and it’s good we got a consequence, but I believe it’s unfair,” Diego said.
While in the Impact Center, students are not allowed to participate in any school activities or events.
“He didn’t realize how much he would be punished. He will miss his entire senior year,” Mercado said of Fernando.
Garcia is considering placing Diego in a private school in Central Texas or even moving his family to Houston so Diego can continue to play soccer. While in the Impact Center, the boys cannot participate in sports.
Diego would have been on the varsity team if this incident had not happened. Fernando, according to his mother, is now playing academy level soccer so his high school athletic career is not affected.
Mercado said her son has been asking how long other students are in the Impact Center and for what offense. He told her one girl stabbed another student with a pencil and received 120 days. A boy was caught using drugs on campus and received 30 days. The two boys who vandalized Hays High School last spring, including racially motivated writings, received 90 days.
She wrote an appeal letter to the principal; the meeting was this past Monday.
“The principal listened to us but did not give an answer to the appeal. She said we will get her response within 10 days,” Mercado said.
Garcia has not yet filed his appeal for Diego. He was waiting to hear the outcome of the meeting between Mercado and Chae, but he said he is going to file the paperwork for an appeal.
Mercado also questioned the charges that were filed against the boys.
“Fernando was taking pictures from the sidelines for the school,” she said. “How can that be criminal trespassing?”
Their court date is Nov. 9, Mercado said. She is not aware of the charges being dropped against the boys.
Chae is not able to comment on the specific incident due to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) rules.
Hays CISD spokesperson Tim Savoy said, “Campus and district administration sometimes have latitude to determine a course of disciplinary action on a case-by-case basis depending on the specific circumstances. Sometimes, the district is required by law to take certain action depending on the conduct.”
Diego said Chae was at the football game and spoke with him before he was transported to the juvenile detention center.
“She told me I embarrassed the school and that I wouldn’t be coming back to the campus,” he said.
Mercado said she contacted the Hays Free Press because she wanted to let people know that Fernando and Diego are very sorry for their actions.
“They embarrassed their school, their parents and themselves,” she said.
Mercado said her son regrets what he did.
“He told me, ‘Mom, I want to be at my school,’” she said.
She also felt it was important to let other students know not to attempt anything similar.
“I don’t want other kids to think it’s cool and try to do it, too,” Mercado said. “It’s serious and the same thing could happen to them.”
Diego had a similar message for his fellow Lobos.
“Think twice. It would be fun at the moment but you’ll get a consequence,” he said.
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