Senators pen letter to USC High
Published 10:48 am Wednesday, May 7, 2014
A group of 23 Republican senators is speaking out in favor of the 17-year-old United South Central student expelled last month for mistakenly bringing a pocket knife to school.
The senators last week sent a letter to United South Central Superintendent Jerry Jensen and the school board asking for a “common sense solution” that could allow junior Alyssa Drescher to return to school and finish the year with her friends and classmates.
The United South Central school board on April 24 voted to expel Drescher for the remainder of the school year after an expulsion hearing that lasted 3 1/2 hours, including testimony and closed deliberations. Authorities found the knife in her purse during a random drug search at the school April 15. Drescher said she accidentally left the knife in her purse after cutting hay bales at her boyfriend’s home a few days prior.
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Assistant Minority Leader Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, who headed up the effort, said the letter was sent with good intentions and asked whether there is anything state legislators can do to make changes in policies or government bureaucracy.
“It’s unfortunate that an otherwise well-behaved, good student and her family has to be put through this because of the legalese,” Chamberlain said in an interview with the Tribune. “Is there a better way to handle this?”
The letter indicates that state statute allows school boards some flexibility in their decisions as well as allowing an appeal to the commissioner of education.
“While we are strong advocates of local control, if there is anything in state statute or from the Department of Education you believe takes away your flexibility to make decisions for your community, please let us know,” the letter continues.
Chamberlain said school officials and legislators should be focused primarily on finding the best outcome for students and their parents, opposed to the bureaucracy.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that every child gets the best possible opportunity to succeed,” Chamberlain wrote in a separate letter to Drescher and her family. “This is why it is so troubling for me to see such a bright future potentially put in jeopardy over a rigid bureaucracy and a minor mistake.”
He said out of the 28 Republicans in the caucus, three chose not to sign the letter and two were not present the day he asked for signatures. He described the situation as “unfortunate and frustrating.”
District 23 Sen. Julie Rosen of Vernon Center was among the signers from the caucus. A portion of her district covers part of the USC district, such as Bricelyn and Easton, but not Wells, Walters, Freeborn or Kiester. They are in a district belonging to Austin Sen. Dan Sparks, a Democrat.
Drescher’s father, Rick, said he was happy to receive the letter in the mail and hopes it can make a difference.
The family has been interviewed by media outlets all over the state, along with a few from out of state, including “Fox & Friends.”
He said his family and their lawyer, Christopher Johnson, are appealing the school board’s decision to expel.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the We Support Alyssa Dee Facebook page had more than 6,500 likes.
A call to Jensen Tuesday was not returned as of the Tribune’s press deadline.