Varsity Kansas

Why Kansas high school athletes charged with sex crimes played through investigation

Two Wichita-area student-athletes, Eisenhower's Dylan Vincent, from left, and Maize's Dalyn Johnson, are charged along with Topeka Hayden's Zach Harvey, right, of sexual exploitation of a minor in Sedgwick County.
Two Wichita-area student-athletes, Eisenhower's Dylan Vincent, from left, and Maize's Dalyn Johnson, are charged along with Topeka Hayden's Zach Harvey, right, of sexual exploitation of a minor in Sedgwick County. Wichita Eagle and KC Star file photos

Four words underpinning the U.S. legal system typify many high schools' position toward those accused of off-campus crimes.

Innocent until proven guilty.

That's the stance taken by the respective schools of three standout athletes — two from the Wichita area and one from Topeka — who were charged with two felony counts of sexual exploitation of a child on Oct. 16 after an off-campus incident that allegedly took place around March 23, 2017.

Eisenhower basketball player Dylan Vincent, Maize football running back Dalyn Johnson and Zach Harvey, a Topeka-Hayden basketball player and one of Kansas' most coveted recruits, all competed almost immediately, and consistently, after the charges were filed.

Vincent helped lead Eisenhower to the No. 1 seed in the Class 5A boys basketball tournament and is signed with Hutchinson Junior College. Johnson signed with Ottawa University after helping the Maize football team to an 11-2 record.

Harvey was named to the Eagle's All-State team and holds scholarship offers from Kansas, Kansas State and UCLA, among others. Hayden won the Class 4A-Division II state championship.

The three are accused of having sexually explicit images or videos of a 15-year-old girl and encouraging the girl to perform sexually explicit acts last spring.

Representatives from Eisenhower and Maize declined to comment on any student's particular case, but each school has its own disciplinary standards. Those standards relate only to on-campus incidents, however.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association handbook, which governs high school athletics in the state, says student-athletes are allowed to compete as long as they are in "good standing."

"A student who is under penalty of suspension or whose character or conduct brings discredit to the school or to the student, as determined by the principal, is not in good standing," the rule says.

Maize High's student handbook states, "For students involved in a major misconduct out-of-season relating to substance abuse or criminal offenses, consequences will be administered per the Extracurricular Code of Conduct. This may include ... for a criminal offense, a minimum of five hours of documented community service."

Maize's "Extracurricular Code of Conduct" states that student-athletes are seen as "ambassadors for the school district and as role models for their peers and younger students." It also says student-athletes will be held to a "higher standard of conduct both in and out of school." Eisenhower's regulations are similar.

Dane Baxa, USD 265's community relations director, said it's especially difficult for schools to take any kind of disciplinary action with an alleged off-campus incident.

"Anytime there is any kind of alleged events outside of the school day, we rely on the judicial system to help us determine what really happens in those situations," Baxa said.

Baxa said school intervention "will be taken into consideration" only when an off-campus event disrupts the school's learning environment. The district is not typically notified about events that happen outside of the school day.

Each school's policies are different, though. Other than the KSHSAA rulebook, there is no secondary or tertiary guide that Kansas schools must follow. No such guidelines exist for the AVCTL, and City League athletic director J. Means said his league does not have one, either.

But that might change, he said.

"It's on my list to meet with my assistant superintendent every month," Means said. "This is something that's on my list to start that discussion: 'Should we have something more district-wide?' "

Means said each City League school has a different personality, with different thought processes guiding alleged off-campus crimes — so each school, for now, has its own code of conduct.

"It's hard to make a blanket deal for all seven," Means said. "But it has certainly given me pause."

Means made it clear that he doesn't condone the actions of Vincent, Johnson and Harvey, if the allegations are true. But having been the Northwest athletic director for eight years before taking over the City League in 2011, he said he understands that administrators must play the "what-if game."

That can be a dangerous situation, too, Means said.

If Vincent and Johnson were ruled ineligible after the charges were filed but were eventually found not guilty, the school would have taken competition away from student-athletes who didn't deserve to be punished.

Means said there are no good answers, and when a case becomes highly publicized, those decisions become even more scrutinized.

"You get put on trial before you even get close to being in trial," Means said. "If it happened, there should be a penalty, but you can't really have the penalty until you're sure that it happened."

Pretrial proceedings for Vincent, Johnson and Harvey have been pushed back several times. The next hearing in the matter is scheduled for May 29.