Highland Park Star Basketball Player Arrested For DWI: When is a Kid No Longer a Kid?

Today’s news that the star basketball player for Highland Park High School was arrested by University Park Police for driving while intoxicated raises a couple old questions from my past life as a community newspaper publisher, editor, and reporter:

1. When should a kid stop getting treated like a kid?

2. Is a high school athlete a public figure?

I know my responses to both those questions, mostly. And we know how both People Newspapers and the Dallas Morning News would answer those questions, since both outlets today reported the arrest of the 18-year-old player, David Allen. But there are many, most especially people in the Park Cities, who feel differently. I know this because I’ve been through a similar situation before.

In 2009, Park Cities People broke the news of the DWI arrest of the Highland Park High School quarterback, Luke Woodley. At the time I was the editor and publisher of the newspaper, and was pleaded with by some members of the community not to run the story. It was argued that Woodley, though legally an adult at the time of the arrest, was “just a kid” and that to publicize an arrest – especially an arrest on a charge as stigmatized as is DWI – would cause him harm.  At the paper we felt that, since we regularly covered the football team and Woodley was going to be suspended for some games as a result of the arrest, it was our responsibility to report what we knew.  I’m still comfortable with that stance, though there were many unhappy readers that week.

But one thought did give me pause as Dan Koller and I discussed how to play the story.  DWIs aren’t usually front-page news in Park Cities People. If an adult of no particular fame or official position is arrested in Highland Park or University Park, it merely appears as yet-another item in the police blotter.  To do anything more than that in Woodley’s case was to classify a high-school student as a public figure (at least within the confines of the Park Cities).  Still, once we considered that we were talking about the quarterback of Highland Park football, the premier position on the community’s most beloved sports team, we had no trouble saying that, yes, he is a public figure.

I remember asking myself whether an obscure lineman, or the kicker, or a member of the tennis or the golf team would deserve the same treatment. I wasn’t sure, or I wasn’t entirely comfortable with my answer.  And now we’re talking about the “star” of the basketball team, not a bench player. It raises the issue all over again.

Because a kid is one of the best athletes at his school he deserves more scrutiny than other students? Yes, that seems to be the case.

Readers will always care far more about news involving starters than back-ups. Life is like that.

27 comments on “Highland Park Star Basketball Player Arrested For DWI: When is a Kid No Longer a Kid?

  1. This story coming on the heels of the drug bust at TCU makes it, IMHO, more newsworthy. Why? The community has been discussing the drunkfest (yes it was too) that was Junior Symphony Ball, then you have a handful of privileged kids at a prestigious university in trouble for dealing drugs. The bigger story is the rampant use of drugs and alcohol among kids and the increasing permissiveness of many of our parents. Only when you experience consequences of your actions are you likely to change you behavior. I feel badly for the athlete and his family. I bet that’s not the first time he’s been drunk and I just thank god that he didn’t kill himself or someone else.

  2. He was arrested for suspicion of driving while intoxicated. So given that fact, published stories could be harmful to this kid.

    Yet, a plea or conviction is going to cause him harm regardless of any story printed. DWI convictions are funny like that. But considering the story in PCP also gave his season stats and the impact this would have on his team, it appears that his sports prowess makes him a public figure in local circles. Let’s follow that rule moving forward. Math Club is off limits.

  3. Funny, my child was at the Junior Symphony Ball and came home sober. So did her friends. Not fair to label the entire affair (and originally intended as a fundraiser for a very good cause) as a “drunkfest”. But I agree this young man is very lucky he did not harm someone else, not to mention himself.

  4. Lesser crimes (and let’s not forget, DUI is a crime) are reported in the news (e.g., shoplifting) all the time. No one bats an eyelash at that. If you have the potential to have the media go gaga crazy if you do something extraordinarily impressive, the same is true for the extraordinarily stupid.

  5. My daughter returned from JSB sober, but that wasn’t the case for a lot of the students there, good cause or not.

    In the eyes of the law, Allen is an adult.

    Just glad he’s okay, and no one was hurt. Publicity cuts both ways. No one in the community questioned his previous media mentions.

  6. Did you see a photo of the car he hit and then ‘ran’? Somebody could have been killed. Nothing new about HP parents getting their kids out of trouble. Still happening with John Hinckley.

  7. As this is on the “D” blog (I know PCP “broke” the story$, I must ask after seeing the TV news reports:

    - If he had been a Hillcrest, SOC, Lincoln, WT White, etc., would the story be different?

    - As Shapiro points out, an arrest is one thing. A conviction is entirely different. The local networks quoted standard language from 99% of dwi arrest reports. A BAC level was reported. Was it a PBT? There are so many things in a case 4 days old that are unknown.

    - Yes, drunk driving is serious. It should not happen. However, it is prosecuted without regard to many constitutional protections.

    - Does Oak Cliff People (excuse me if I did not get the correct name) cover the arrests of athletes in that area? Same with Preston Hollow People? A Jesuit hockey player was lauded today. If he slipped up outside of Dallas, would if show up here?

    -Full disclosure: I am an HP and TCU grad.

  8. @Thekid: Those are good questions. Though I’m not involved with the editorial decisions of People Newspapers anymore, I believe Preston Hollow People and Oak Cliff People would cover prominent athletes of those communities just as Park Cities People does for Highland Park High School. That being said, there is no single school behind which the entire community unites in either Preston Hollow or Oak Cliff, so the community-wide prominence of the Hillcrest quarterback is less than that of a quarterback for Highland Park, where the vast majority of the Park Cities lives and dies with that team each fall.

    So, as you suggest, does the Park Cities get different treatment from the local media? Yes.

  9. Once they’re 18, publishing their name is fair game (no pun intended). Students in all communities need to think about their futures even when they’re away from the field and the classroom.

  10. I was particularly interested in how much suspension time your Mr. Allen will receive from the school. DMN speculates that he might miss the 2nd round playoff game. Last time HP faced this dilemma was a couple years ago with the star quarterback. If memory serves, HP counted an intrasquad game and a preseason scrimmage and one game as his three-game suspension. Perhaps the Scots can have an intrasquad scrimmage in the next couple of days and the player will be free to return to the court.

  11. Long Memory, since they are in post season already, I doubt they can get away with that. They did just win first round without him. I feel bad for his team, but I hope they will do the same for second round if that is the appropriate punishment as outlined in the code of conduct.

    As far as news coverage goes, the hit and run combined with DWI probably makes this news worthy, at least for the Park Cities People. His position within the team currently in playoffs adds legitimate interest also.

    Since most of the top athletes at HP are also leaders in other areas (student council, FCA, academics, etc), I have no doubt he can get past this. This will likely be a life changing lesson, but I’m glad it wasn’t a life ending lesson.

  12. Publishing a story on the DUI arrest of the 18 year old Captain of the any team at the sole public school in your coverage area is news, in that area…..and entirely appropriate.

    However, this is not a newsworthy story for the entire Metroplex.

    What was not appropriate was the extended coverage at the DFW media outlets. Especially the driveway ambush by Craig C. of WFAA. Is he trying to be his generation’s Geraldo?

    The Metroplex has many more important news items than what Craig’s story warranted and was just lazy journalism by him and his News Director because HPHS is geographically close to WFAA studios. I doubt if the same arrest happened to the team Captain at Keller, Carrollton, Carroll, or Mesquite, that WFAA would have covered the story.

  13. If memory serves me, when the warehouse party fiasco happened half the football and basketball team including most of the starters were busted. The punishment was suspension from “3 games”. The football coaches had all the players not in track already signed up the very next monday so they could “serve” their suspensions by missing track meets.

  14. I agree that this isn’t a story for extended televised media coverage (at least not in a market this sized). If WFAA simply devoted a couple of sentences to it at 5 o’ clock, that wouldn’t be terrible. But I don’t think he deserves to have cameras and reporters in his face. But, I don’t really appreciate that style of reporting in general.

  15. Extremely out of line for WFAA to cover this – Dallas is one of the largest TV markets and this is simply not news to 99.5 % of its viewing area. Shame on you, Craig Civale Square Head. @Kakhi jack, aren’t you friends with Meritt Patterson? I think we’ve met.

  16. Not personal friends with Merritt, but own a house a little over a block away, and am HP grad. Aside from some years in Lubbock and Denver, Dallas/UP has always been home.

  17. Yeah what was up with the mother – she sounded a bit slurry herself. Perhaps that was unfair trapping her into a lie. However, if you have a team in 4-A basketball playoffs, it’s news. That covers a lot of territory.

  18. Dear Mrs. Allen, if you’re reading. Do not answer calls or emails from anyone in the media. “This is a private parenting issue and we’d appreciate you respecting my family’s privacy.” Not “He’s the most awesome kid in the whole wide world.”

  19. All of you with high school age children should sit them down and make them watch the dashcam arrest video. Tell them that lying over and over again to a police officer is not the right way to handle a situation like this. Then…after watching the part where the student tells the officer that if he knows who he is, he should probably just get a ticket, they are in the playoffs and the next game is on Tuesday? Yeah. Show that tape to a jury. I dare you! Maybe it was the booze talking but he just totalled two cars, left the seen of an accident, was caught red handed, drunk and the only thing he seems to care about is himself. Not good!

  20. PRPro you are so right. After reading the father’s comments “He’s just dying. He’s just dying. He made a mistake. He’s 18.” and Mom’s “He is the most awesome guy in the whole wide world,” it really doesn’t give the impression they understand the gravity of the situation.

    I’m sure by the time they picked their kid up, he’d had some time to sober up. And, they hadn’t yet seen the dash cam video either. I’m sure they are just trying to save face and protect their son from further damage by pointing out he is otherwise good, but it just looks kind of…flippant?

    I cannot imagine what my parents would have done if that were me. It kind of still scares me. I guess it was really ingrained in me that my actions were a reflection on them because even as an adult, I can’t imagine how much they would be hurt if I made such a dumb decision. Not disappointing the people who gave me so much is as big a motivator now as it was in high school.

  21. Unfair trapping her into a lie? I would say the apple does not fall from the tree here – son leaves the scene of an accident and lies about drinking and mother lies to cover it up. Pathetic.

  22. How dare they arrest him! Little Lord Fauntleroy must be turning over in his grave.