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Support for Rawlins grows on Monessen's school board

| Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 12:20 a.m.

There appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel in the ongoing controversy over whether or not graduated Monessen senior Chavas Rawlins should be allowed to walk with his classmates during commencement exercises in June.

In December, the Monessen School Board voted to give Rawlins, an outstanding football player who received a scholarship to West Virginia University, approval to graduate early but also said he would not be permitted to participate in commencement.

While word of the decision touched off a firestorm of debate and support for Rawlins, a likeable kid in the community, it appeared the school board was not going to budge from its decision.

However, there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel.

At Tuesday's board meeting, Director Maria Scuteri called the decision to not let Rawlins walk “a travesty,” yet the board took no action.

Board President Sharon Mauck now says she is in favor of allowing Rawlins to participate in the commencement festivities and said she plans to poll other board members about the possibility of calling a special meeting to discuss the decision.

“I want to see him walk,” Mauck said Wednesday. “I don't have any problem with him walking. What people (at the Tuesday meeting) failed to realize is that we could not change our agenda and vote on it at the meeting. People were seeking action, but we could do nothing at that time.”

Mauck said she spoke with district solicitor John Toohey and was told that if the decision is revisited it would be considered a “reconsideration” and that it would take a vote of six of the nine board members to overturn the decision.

Mauck said it is her hope to have Rawlins and his family meet with the board in private to discuss the situation.

“I don't know if the rest of the board is going to be ticked off at me or what, but I think we need to look at this in a different light,” Mauck said. “I know that Chavas is a remarkable kid. I just think there were some adults involved in the situation that were causing some issues.”

Mauck added that she is not grandstanding on the issue; she merely wants to make sure the right thing is being done.

Having the board reconsider the decision is the right thing.

There are many theories on what led to the original decision, ranging from comments Rawlins made on Facebook and Twitter to the board feeling pressured into allowing him to leave school early to a general consensus that once a student graduates, that student is no longer eligible to participate in any school functions.

Regardless of why the original decision was made, it was obviously the wrong decision.

Rawlins is a student-athlete who should be praised for his scholastic career, not punished.

One of the best ways to show the makeup of Rawlins is to relate how he handled his meetings with college recruiters.

While he was being courted by Division I coaches from all over the country, instead of basking in that limelight, Rawlins saw fit to have several of his underclassmen teammates sit in on the interviews with the coaches. He felt not only would he be able to get his teammates noticed by coaches, but the experience would also help the teammates to better deal with the recruiting process.

It takes a special kid to use his own earned fame in hopes of helping others benefit from it.

That's a person who deserves to be celebrated.

Not only should Chavas Rawlins walk with his class, maybe he should be asked to give an address at commencement as well.

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or

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