the north face womens jacket ‘Joke’ turned Lindy Waters’ life upside down
NORMAN Lindy Waters Jr. heard the whispers and the veiled questions. Colleagues. Acquaintances. People he thought were his friends.
All wondering what Waters’ son had done. Or offering their own theories. Suggestions of help. Thinking the worst.
Lindy Waters III, “Trey,” a senior basketball star at Norman North, in October was expelled from school for the rest of the academic year. Had to be something serious, something criminal, to receive such a penalty.
Lindy Jr. regularly would get stopped on his walk to his office on the OU campus, would get phone calls, would have visitors. All wanting to talk about Trey. Some, he had to tell to get away. How dare they think something diabolical about a kid they knew.
Trey Waters indeed screwed up. But he did something stupid, not criminal. Something silly, not diabolical. Trey Waters lost a video game bet and posed for a picture with a friend’s Airsoft pistol, which is a replica gun. A virtual toy. The photo showed the pistol held between Trey’s waist and collarbone, with the caption, “Who’s the shooter?”
The picture was sent to five friends via snapchat, the social media tool that keeps photos for only a maximum of 10 seconds. One of the friends captured the photo via screenshot and put it on Twitter.
Soon enough, Trey Waters’ life was upside down.
Life is almost back to normal for Trey Waters. In the last 3 months, he’s been kicked out of his school; attended and played basketball for a prep school in Wichita, Kan.; been allowed to return to Norman North at the start of the spring semester; and won an appeal with the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association which will allow him to again play for the Timberwolves, after sitting out 10 games. That means Waters will return for the second game of the regional tournament in February.
Quite an odyssey for something silly.
“Everything can get blown out of proportion,” said soft spoken Trey Waters. He’s learned a hard lesson. “Who you can trust. Learn from your mistakes. Live through them.”
School is going fine he is an excellent student; Waters has signed with Oklahoma State but had Harvard among his final four choices and Waters is practicing with his Norman North team. In some ways, it’s like old times.
“For the most part, I still get treated the same way,” he said. “Everyone at school knows it was a joke. They just thought it was all stupid.”
Here’s the irony. Waters was home playing video games because of a school shooting threat. On Friday, Oct. 2, a student took a photo of scribbling in a girls bathroom which threatened a mass shooting at noon Monday. That girl’s family reported the photo to Norman North officials on Monday morning.
The school sent out an alarm, saying students could leave or be picked up. Trey took his sister, a North sophomore, home, then went to a teammate’s house to hang out before basketball practice. Thus came the video game, the bet (Trey lost), the picture (which did not show his face) and the social media sharing.
The next morning, Trey Waters flew out for New Hampshire. He planned to visit Brewster Academy, a prep school he was considering attending for a year in lieu of college. Also that morning, the Waters say, a similar shooting threat was discovered in a boys bathroom.
An hour or so later, North principal Peter Liesenfeld was alerted to the airsoft photo. On the tagline was a question, “Is this Lindy?”
Liesenfeld began trying to reach Waters. When Waters landed in New Hampshire at noon, his phone had exploded. Messages from teammates and friends and administrators.
Without even calling his parents, Waters called Liesenfeld and admitted to posing for the photo as a joke. They had not even yet talked to their son. “It was devastating,” said Trey’s mother, Lisa Waters.
You can understand school administrators’ lack of tolerance on the subject. Guns and violence in school is no joking matter. But the lapse of judgment by Trey Waters and his friends came at the worst possible time.
Liesenfeld did not return phone calls, and a Norman Public Schools spokesperson said no administrator would address the case. But the Waters family did not consider Liesenfeld an adversary. He was principal at Longfellow Middle School when Trey and his sister attended there. Liesenfeld knew the family well.
The Waters say Liesenfeld initially showed support for Trey. Said he was likely to get a suspension ranging from three to 10 days. They did not hire a lawyer. Did not talk to other school officials.
A week went by. On Oct. 13, the verdict arrived. Suspension for the full academic year. The Waters were stunned. They talked to a lawyer, who told them they would not win upon appeal.
Lindy Waters Jr., who had been a basketball star at Southern Nazarene in the 1980s, started calling friends and coaches for advice. They considered online classes. But the Waters also put out a feeler about prep schools, and the next day, seven had responded.
One of them was Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, which had produced OU star Buddy Hield.
On Friday, Oct. 16, going stir crazy, the Waters drove to Wichita to check out the academy. Sunrise officials indicated they would like to have Trey, but their second quarter was starting that Monday. Waters needed to enroll immediately.
The Waters had the forms to appeal to Norman Public Schools, but the timetable was dwindling. Trey already had missed more than a week of school and would miss much more during the appeal process. On Sunday, Oct. 18, the Waters drove to Wichita and the next morning enrolled their son at Sunrise.
The Waters say 10 of the 12 players on Sunrise’s varsity roster are Division I recruits, and Trey says he enjoyed the basketball and the people. He played in nine games and two same day scrimmages.
“They’re not a bad school,” Trey said. “They’re a great school. Christian based. Great kids. Great teachers.”