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Ex-Jefferson star could be expelled

Regardless of a committee's decision, his mother says Mike Taylor will attend Apopka.

By MIKE READLING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 11, 2002


TAMPA -- Former Jefferson standout Mike Taylor is scheduled to have a hearing Thursday to determine his future in the Hillsborough County school system.

The Taylors and their attorney will meet with General Area Director Myrna Robinson and two members of the school board, one of whom is an attorney, at 2:45 p.m. Thursday. The committee will either decide to expel Taylor from the school system or recommend an alternative education program. That program would give him the opportunity to earn a high school equivalency degree but not attend graduation ceremonies.

"That's not even an option," Taylor's mother, Vanessa, said of the alternative education program.

Regardless of the board's decision, Vanessa Taylor said her son will enroll at Apopka High, outside Orlando, and could attend classes as early as Monday. Vanessa Taylor, a nurse who recently found a job in Apopka, said her goal in the meeting is to keep an expulsion off Taylor's transcript.

"If they want to include a stipulation that he can't attend a Hillsborough County school until the 2004 school year, that's fine," Vanessa Taylor said. "I don't want him to be expelled.

"It's not like he's going to be going to school here anyway."

The final straw for Taylor, a senior with a history of discipline problems at the school and with the football team, came Aug. 28 when he drove four friends around the school's track while the band practiced on the football field.

Taylor called the lap in his 2001 Ford Mustang his "victory run" and had been cautioned by his mother not to do it. The band director stopped the car, which, according to people on the field and in the car, was going between 40 and 60 mph, and disciplined Taylor.

"He made him do push-ups in front of the band," Vanessa Taylor said. "That's fine. It's over with."

Football coach Mike Simmonds added to the discipline by making Taylor, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound defensive back rated the 35th-best player in Florida by Rivals.com, run after practice. After he talked back, Simmonds kicked him off the team.

"The band director said I could have hurt somebody if I lost control and I got into it with coach Simmonds," Taylor said the day after the incident.

The following morning, Taylor was suspended 10 days by Jefferson principal Dan Rivero. Vanessa Taylor said she got a message on her answering machine at 1:30 p.m. informing her of the action.

Rivero did not return a message left at his home Tuesday.

"He never got to tell his side of the story and I was never informed," Vanessa Taylor said. "They never had me come down to the school or anything."

Simmonds declined to comment on his former player, saying only that he did not "want to discuss team or school decisions in the public eye.

"It's not right for the student or the school and it's not right for the team." Simmonds said. "It's a dead issue regarding Mike, the football team and, I think, Jefferson High School. The decision has been made."

Vanessa Taylor said the majority of evidence used against her son comes from disciplinary referrals from as far back as sixth grade. Most of the referrals are for tardiness, skipping class and chewing gum, she said.

Mike Taylor, who was also suspended for 10 days in April after he threw an in-school suspension form on the ground, said some of the referrals are the result of being called out of class by college recruiters.

Taylor is one of the most highly recruited players in the state. He has received hundreds of college letters and still gets calls from coaches who have heard about his situation, Vanessa Taylor said.

It is doubtful that Taylor could get clearance to play football at Apopka but that doesn't matter, Vanessa Taylor said.

"I just want him to get a diploma," she said. "If he can't play this year, that's fine. As long as he passes the SAT we can go from there. If he has to miss this year, that's fine, college coaches know what he can do.

"It's not like I have a big head, but I've got three bags of college letters here."

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