LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A dozen JCPS schools violated district policy when former University of Louisville basketball players were selling autographs on school property. It appears the schools and even the JCPS athletic director did not know they were in direct violation of JCPS policy when they allowed Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng to sign autographs for money after motivational speeches.
Students were rocking red at Lincoln Performing Arts Elementary School expecting to see UofL's big man, but Gorgui Dieng was told not to show, after JCPS cried foul.
"We were real excited to be a part of that," said LPAS Principal Susan French. "We did receive notice over the weekend that would not be able to happen."
The reason? A flyer from the organizer PPS Sports telling parents they had to pony up if their child wanted to get Dieng's autograph after the motivational speech - $20 for a poster, $40 for a basketball and $50 for a "Championship Combo."
"I mean if it's against policies they would of course have had no other options but to cancel it," said Victoria Allen, a LPAS parent. "But I feel like it could have been something positive."
PPS has already held a dozen of similar events at JCPS schools with Dieng and Siva. When parents at some of the schools started complaining about getting charged for players signatures, school administrators took a closer look and discovered the autograph sale was a violation of board's rules against public solicitation in schools.
JCPS spokesman Ben Jackey said some of the principals thought the appearances would have been ok under another board policy, but the JCPS General Council determined it was not.
"When it came to asking our students to pay for autographs, that's not in conjunction with policy, that's not in conjunction with our strategic plan," Jackey said. "And it really didn't have an educational value."
So how did it ever happen in the first place? Jackey said PPS Sports owner, former University of Kentucky basketball player, Jeff Sheppard, contacted many of the schools directly, bypassing administrators who may have known the rules prohibiting the practice of selling autographs on JCPS property.
In other cases, Jackey said the opportunity to have the players speak at schools was passed on to JCPS regional administrators through Jerry Wyman, the JCPS Athletic Director. But no one there was aware it violated board policy, a policy that can be found right on the JCPS web site.
French said LPAS administrators called Sheppard to see if Dieng would still talk without selling autographs.
"We were told that without the sale of the memorabilia items, that they really couldn't do that," French said.
Sheppard said he's held similar events in other school districts around the state without issue.
"And I still think that we'll be able to sit down with the public school system and try to figure out maybe how to do this is a different way," Sheppard said.
In all JCPS canceled a half dozen player appearances that had yet to happen. Sheppard said they are great events that send a important message to students at no cost to the district or the schools as a whole.
Sheppard did acknowledge that his company splits the profits of those autograph sales with the players, although he wouldn't reveal the percentages.
"Once these student athletes are finished with their career and either they graduate or their eligibility is up or they declare for the NBA they do autograph sessions around the state," Sheppard said, "and this is no different."
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