After a three hour expulsion hearing last Thursday night, the United South Central School Board unanimously decided USC honors student Alyssa Drescher, who has no history of disciplinary problems, will be expelled for the remainder of the 2013-2014 school year.
Friends and family sporting shirts reading, "Stop the unfair punishment" packed the ITV room at USC in support of Drescher.
Drescher, a junior at USC, had her locker searched during a random drug inspection on April 15. No drugs or illegal substances were found, but a three-inch camouflage knife was.
A trained dog from Mapleton assisted the school's liaison officer Rick Herman in conducting the search.
Herman verified to the board that the canine used for the drug test was indeed capable of performing such duties.
"Before we started the locker checks, we did a validation test for the dog," Herman says. "We secured a bag of marijuana in a locker and the dog found it."
Herman went on to explain that he had reasonable cause to search the locker.
According to USC principal Kelly Schlaak, the dog picked up the scent which was believed to be a strong lotion and perfume fragrance.
"I talked with Drescher about two hours after the knife was found in her purse," Schlaak explains. "I told her to cooperate and tell the truth or the penalty could be more severe."
The end result of the initial meeting between Drescher and Schlaak was a three-day suspension, but the Drescher family received a letter in the mail a few days after the incident from superintendent Jerry Jensen stating there may be up to a 12-month expulsion.
Schlaak gave the minimum required suspension for the offense. She could have given Drescher a five day suspension, but decided on three because she was cooperating.
"The initial three-day suspension was given so an investigation process could happen," Jensen explains. "If we thought we needed five days to check everything, then it would have been a five-day suspension."
Drescher had forgotten the knife in her purse, her father Rick Drescher told the board, after having used it to cut hay bales at her boyfriend's home a few days earlier. She simply forgot to take it out before heading to school, he said.
"I would never intentionally hurt anyone," Drescher told the board. "I have never been in trouble. I am an honor student, involved in sports and volunteer at the Big Rebel Little Rebel program."
Drescher also addressed the board about her concern of getting into college.
"My dad raised me to make the right choices," she says. "I am terrified I may not get into college with an expulsion on my record."
Representing the administration was attorney Trevor Helmers and he suggested the board to use common sense and understand the facts of the matter.
"The rules are flexible," he says. "If a student forgets or brings a weapon to school they can immediately hand it over, but Alyssa only admitted to the knife when questioned."
He also brought up the fact that what is to be decided will affect the next incident. Jensen also voiced his concern about student safety.
"The locker was unlocked and it could have gotten into the wrong hands," Jensen says. "The primary basis is our students' safety."
Bruce Mandler, who owns the Marketplace Foods grocery store in Wells, also spoke on Drescher's behalf.
"Alyssa is just a great overall kid," he says. "Any parent would be proud to have her as a daughter."
According to the family-run Facebook page in support of Drescher, which has 1,348 likes, the incident was an honest mistake.
Helmers concluded to the board that there was evidence proving Drescher had a knife and she knew it was not allowed.
"The fact of the matter is that she had a weapon on school property," Helmers explains. "There is no questioning the facts discovered."
"The family and I are very disappointed with the final decision," Drescher's attorney Christopher Johnson says after the hearing. "We don't think the punishment fits the crime and we will be pursuing further legal options to help protect Alyssa's rights."