The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

April 9, 2013

Board hears support for student


COVINGTON, Ind. — The school board listened to pleas for leniency and statements from the public Monday in regard to the high school senior who had parts of a hunting rifle found in his vehicle.

Due to the size of the crowd, the school board meeting was moved from the superintendent’s office to the high school cafeteria.

School board president Jeff Dennis stressed school board members would not respond to any questions, but would listen to and take under advisement any statements or comments made.

The firearm was found during a random search of the student’s vehicle when he went to his vocational class. Since the firearm was found, the school corporation has followed the procedure as dictated by Indiana State law. Per Indiana Code 20-33-8-16, “a student who is identified as bringing a firearm or destructive device to school or on school property or in possession of a firearm or destructive device on school property must be expelled for at least one calendar year, with the return of the student to be at the beginning of the first school semester after the end of the one year period.”

The law also states “the superintendent may, on a case by case, modify the period of expulsion.”

Superintendent Kirk Booe explained the student and his parents have the right to appear at an expulsion meeting, where Booe will serve as the expulsion examiner.

Stuart Welliever, the school corporation’s attorney explained this is the beginning of the process and everything will be reviewed at the expulsion hearing. Several parents, students and family friends of the student voiced pleas of leniency.

Priscilla Hedrick said the student is an avid outdoorsman and made an honest mistake leaving the gun in his car. Hedrick said the student should be allowed to play baseball and graduate this year with his friends and fellow classmates.

Randy Johnson concurred with Hedrick, saying he was a hunter and when he was in high school there were times he probably had a weapon in his truck since he would sometimes go hunting after school.

Mary Fletcher asked board members to consider the student’s future.

Jamie Lopez said she “understands the board and superintendent are in a tough position.” Lopez and several others stated the student is a good kid and not a troublemaker. Lopez added a lot of parents are unaware of the punishment involved with a gun being found in a car on school property.

Mark Olani said school board members “were elected to look after these kids and make sure they have a future.”

Booe said he appreciated everyone coming to the meeting and expressing their opinions. He added just how much leeway he has as the expulsion examiner is the hard part. “I respect the way you realize it is a tough, tough job,” Booe said. “It is a difficult time for the school and community.”

The date of the expulsion hearing has not yet been determined, but will be sometime in the coming weeks.

In other business, school board members: