© Texas Zero Tolerance
Texas Zero Tolerance
Texas Zero Tolerance
Fort Bend ISD

Reported in the Houston Press - (Note: Names of the those involved are used here with special permission - the case was detailed in the media)


High school senior and model student-athlete Pavlos Karnezis was filing into his first-period physics class one morning last November 4, 2005 when a friend approached with a pressing physics problem of his own: how to keep his pants up. Figuring he could cut string from the morning's lab project for a makeshift belt, the saggy-bottomed boy asked to borrow Pavlos's nifty little buck knife. A minute or so passed, and the physics teacher, wondered aloud if anyone had scissors to lend to cut the string. Pavlos’s friend then presented the knife he had borrowed from Pavlos to the teacher. The teacher snatched away the knife, walked it to the front of the room and finished the class, then escorted the boys to the principal’s office. Pavlos tried to explain that he hadn’t threaten anybody, that he would never threaten anybody, but it didn't matter. The physics teacher confirmed this assertion in a written statement to the principal: "The students had no intention of using the knife other than the intended use of cutting the string."  


Pavlos Karnezis was arrested and taken to the Fort Bend County jail where he was held for 25 hours while being housed with inmates charged with drug dealing and attempted murder. Pavlos’s parents were not notified of their son's arrest until he was already on his way to jail. The principal expelled Pavlos and sentenced him to the Fort Bend County Juvenile Boot Camp for the rest of his senior year. Pavlos was sent to Boot Camp.



Pavlos’s mom, Kathy Karnezis, appealed the expulsion. A panel of three assistant principals from other schools in the district was called upon to decide Pavlos's fate. The panel upheld the expulsion but modified the sentence. Instead of boot camp, Pavlos could instead attend an alternative education program within the district, where he'd receive coursework from Hightower. Pavlos's fight against the school district wasn't over. The process allowed for one final option: He could appeal again, this time to the district's board of trustees. On February 27, 2006 Pavlos appealed his case before the board. Each side had 15 minutes to present its argument. The five-member board deliberated in a closed session for seven minutes, then returned with a unanimous ruling: Remove the expulsion from Pavlos's record and let him return to Hightower. This was the first time in at least five years that the Fort Bend ISD's board of trustees had overturned a principal's decision to expel a student.  On March 6, 2006 Pavlos Karnezis returned to his school.

Impact of the incident on the student and his family:

An honors student with no prior disciplinary problems was arrested, removed from his school for 4 months, and was required to attend a boot camp. The student’s parents eventually withdrew their son from the boot camp and sent him to private school until he won his appeal with the school board allowing him to return to school. The student’s mom lost 20 lbs during the ordeal due to the mental anguish that was inflicted on her and her son. The parents spent $6,000 on attorney fees and $2,700 for private school even though the school board eventually exonerated their son.