USC to ask Minnesota Supreme Court to review expulsion case

Published 2:41 pm Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The United South Central School Board on Tuesday voted to petition the Minnesota Supreme Court about the expulsion of a former student who brought a pocket knife to school in 2014.

Last month the Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned the expulsion of Alyssa Drescher for the last six weeks of her junior year in 2014. The Court of Appeals decision ultimately removed the expulsion from her record.

In its July 20 decision, the Court of Appeals found that Drescher didn’t willfully violate school policy when she brought the knife to school and that she didn’t willfully engage in conduct that endangered herself or others.

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School officials found the knife in a random drug search April 15, 2014. Drescher said she accidentally left the knife in her purse after a day of cutting hay bales at her boyfriend’s home a few days before. The purse was in her locker at the time of the search.

School officials said when Drescher remembered she had it in her purse, she should have immediately informed a teacher. There is an exception for students who tell school officials if they find a knife or who tell a teacher they accidentally brought a knife to school.

“The Court of Appeals decision radically departed from the previous standards that school boards were required to follow in order to expel a student pursuant to Minnesota’s Pupil Fair Dismissal Act, and will have far-reaching impact if allowed to stand,” the school board said in a news release.

The statement said the board sought the input of other school districts, school organizations and other school administrators and received encouragement to appeal the decision.

The board gave multiple reasons for its decision to seek review from the state Supreme Court.

“Although the student involved in the original matter has graduated and is no longer affect by the district’s policies, the court’s decision sets a dangerous precedent that limits the ability of school districts across the state to proactively address the presence of weapons on school property,” the release said. “While the district harbors no ill will toward this particular student, it has duty to ensure the safety of students, staff and visitors to school property.”

It said the Pupil Fair Dismissal Act grants school districts the ability to discipline students who endanger others, but the court’s decision decreases the ability of schools to do so.

“While the board does not like having to discipline students through expulsion, the new limits enacted by the court go too far in preventing school districts from taking expulsion action when it is deemed necessary,” the release stated.

The board argued the court’s decision essentially requires a school to wait until a student is actually using a weapon against others before disciplining that student for having the weapon at school.

It said local school officials should be able to make the decision of whether a weapon endangers others instead of waiting for a court to decide an issue over a year later and should be able to define violations of its own school rules.

“The board understands that the community does not want weapons in its schools and believes that this petition is necessary to ensure that it retains the ability to prevent the free-flow of weapons into the school environment,” the release stated.

The board said it expects support from the Minnesota School Boards Association, the Principal’s Association and other statewide organizations.

Drescher’s father, Rick Drescher, said the common sense solution for the school board following the Court of Appeals decision would have been to drop the issue.

“This just goes to show you that the school board can’t admit they’re wrong – that they can’t apologize for anything,” he said. “They’re going to waste taxpayers’ money instead of admitting that they’re wrong.”

He said children at the school have seen a double standard from their teachers and the school administration.

“Kids should not be taught that,” Drescher said. “Kids should be able to trust their teachers and their school district.”

He said though his daughter has since completed high school as a post-secondary student and will attend Minnesota State University, Mankato, this fall, it has been a difficult experience for her to go through.

“A teenage kid learning not to trust the school system, that’s not what our kids are supposed to be taught,” he said.