05.16.06, 06:38 PM #1
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Boy turns in knife but may still be expelled...
Family says Warren Township eighth-grader is being punished too harshly for doing the right thing
A Far-Eastside couple say they are stunned that a Warren Township Schools principal suspended their son and recommended his expulsion for possession of a pocketknife even though he turned the knife in to the office as soon as he arrived at school.
After turning in the knife, the eighth-grader was suspended from Stonybrook Middle School for 10 days and may be expelled.
Elizabeth Voge-Wehrheim and Frank Wehrheim, the boy's mother and stepfather, have hired Indianapolis attorney Lawrence T. Newman to represent them.
"This young man made the most responsible choice under any policy possible," Newman said of the boy, Elliot Voge. "They are treating him as the most irresponsible student under the circumstances."
Elliot, 14, said he was walking to the school entrance in the brisk weather March 3 and had placed his hands in his coat pocket when he felt the Swiss army pocketknife in the pocket.
"I went straight to the office right inside (the front door)," he said.
He said he handed the knife to Teri Donahue, the school's treasurer, and told her he had brought it to school by mistake.
As a result of Elliot's actions, the school's principal, Jimmy Meadows, suspended Elliot for the maximum 10 school days as allowed by law and recommended Elliot be expelled. A confidential expulsion hearing is scheduled for April 10.
Suspending and seeking to expel Elliot until June 6 under the circumstances have so stunned Elliot, his mother and stepfather that they agreed to go public with his situation.
"When Mr. Meadows said he was referring Elliot for expulsion, I was in shock," said Voge-Wehrheim.
Jeff Swensson, Warren Township Schools' associate superintendent, said a principal in Indiana has the discretion to suspend a student for virtually any reason for up to 10 school days by state law but can only recommend expulsion.
A "very well-documented" hearing is held before a student is expelled, and there's no foregone conclusion, Swensson said.
On March 21, Superintendent Peggy Hinckley appointed an external hearing examiner. She wrote "there's reasonable grounds for investigation" after she reviewed the charges.
In his expulsion recommendation summary dated March 6, Meadows wrote that "Elliot informed me that he had a knife in his coat pocket because he was working outside on some wooden objects the day before.
"Elliot put the knife into his pocket after he completed the tasks," Meadows' summary continued, "and forgot to remove the knife from his coat."
Elliot said he was stunned to feel the knife in his pocket just seconds after he left a van about 7:20 a.m. March 3 that was driven by a classmate's mother. She had dropped him off near the school's entrance.
Elliot said in an interview that he was on the front porch at his home on Thursday, March 2 -- a day off because it was a professional day for teachers -- with his brother Tristan, 10, using Tristan's Swiss army knife to whittle wood.
Swiss army pocketknives are actually multipurpose tools, which may include a screwdriver, pliers and a bottle cap opener.
Meadows, in his expulsion-recommendation summary, wrote: "Realizing that the knife was an item he should not have on school property, Elliot immediately went into the main office and handed the knife to our school treasurer."
Meadows noted in his summary that "throughout the entire investigation and student due-process, Elliott (sic) was a model student."
The principal pointed out he asked Elliot "if he knew of another situation at Stonybrook where a knife was involved and the consequences given. Elliot acknowledged he knew first-hand of the situation and outcome."
Elliot later explained in an interview that a knife fell out of a pocket of a classmate in February in a fourth-period class, and the boy was suspended and later expelled.
In recommending Elliot's expulsion, Meadows, who could not be reached for comment last week, noted, "I personally wrote to Stonybrook parents twice this year concerning weapons, the school's actions, protocols and procedures. I also reiterated the importance in communication with our students concerning this serious matter."
Besides being notified by letter on March 21 of the expulsion effort against Elliot, the boy's mother received a letter dated March 20 from Michael J. Wallpe, Warren Township Schools' associate superintendent of school improvement.
Ironically, the letter states that Elliot is recommended for advanced placement courses in English, science and social studies for his freshman year at Warren Central High School.
Voge-Wehrheim said her son's suspension already has damaged grades on his latest report card.
She and Elliot note he has always had good grades, has participated in a variety of school activities and has never had any other disciplinary matter arise against him in his school years.
The family's attorney said school officials' actions send students the wrong message.
"Their message is to be dishonest, take more chances," Newman said.
He said Elliot could not be worse off at this point in school discipline than if he had taken the knife to school intentionally, kept it with him in school where it could pose a risk and just happened to get caught.
"What's the incentive?" Newman said of students who want to do the right thing.
School policy requires students "to report knowledge of deadly or dangerous weapons or threats of violence to the school administration."
Elliot "didn't want to keep it (the knife) on his person," Newman said. "The school is saying, 'Don't make this responsible choice.' ""Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.” -- Gen. George S. Patton
05.17.06, 07:16 AM #2
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So the kid realizes that he still has a knife in his pocket, does the responsible thing and lets them know and he was still suspended with the possibility of being expelled?
The idiot principle is the one that should be expelled.
I would imagine that before this is all over, the kid and his parents will be awarded a nice chunk of money."Viking - last to sleep, first to rise, last to leave, that's how the Nords of old rocked the house." ~ timmac in the 'Texas Linkers' thread talking about yours truly. :-)
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