USC student expulsion reversed
In the 2013-14 school year, a purse, a pocket knife, and a School Board decision created a grinding halt for one young woman’s high school education.
Now, thanks to the Minnesota Appeals Court, 18-year-old Alyssa Drescher can breathe easier knowing the United South Central School Board’s decision to expel her from USC last year has been over turned.
The USC school has a zero tolerance weapons policy, which mimics the Minnesota School Boards Association’s school weapons policy.
When a pocket knife was discovered in her purse after a random locker inspection, despite Drescher explaining she was helping her boyfriend with farm chores that morning when she left the knife in her purse, the school implemented their zero tolerance policy, ultimately expelling her for six weeks.
According to USC’s student handbook, a weapon is considered “any device or instrument designed as a weapon or through its use capable of threatening or producing great bodily harm or death, or any device or instrument that is used to threaten or cause bodily harm or death.” The handbook mentions guns, knives, clubs, explosives, stun guns, incendiary devices (lighters, for example), among others.
It also indicates that possession of a weapon results in initial suspension for three to five days, contact with the police department, and a recommendation to the superintendent that the student be expelled.
Superintendent Jerry Jensen made a statement at Tuesday evening’s USC School Board meeting.
“Our attorneys are looking at options for the district,” said Jensen. “Beyond that, I don’t have much to say on it.”
Though many who knew?Drescher said she was an above-average student, the USC?School Board still followed through with their decision. Her family then decided to appeal that decision.
Rick Drescher, father of Alyssa, says he did not have words to describe the elation he felt with the Appeals Court decision, which took almost a full year to complete.
Drescher’s attorney, Andrea Jepsen, said the Appeals Court’s decision proves two important points in not only the Drescher family’s case, but a multitude of others under the same umbrella.
Jepsen says that willful conduct is not the same as willful violation of USC’s school policy on carrying weapons. She explains Alyssa Drescher had no plans to harm anybody with her pocket knife, and according to Jepsen, under the law, one has to do more than create the possibility of harm to be expelled or suspended for willfully endangering others.
Jepsen also pointed out that students have a federal, constitutional right to an education and it was Jepsen’s job to show the Appeals Court that Alyssa’s right was taken away.
According to Jepsen, there are very specific situations when students should truly be expelled, and Alyssa Drescher’s case was not one of them. Jepsen says she hopes this case will show other schools with similar policies that they do not have the right to take away a student’s right to education without good reason.
As for the Dreschers, Alyssa plans to attend Minnesota State University in Mankato after attending Riverland Community College last year.
The Appeals Court’s decision will reflect on Drescher’s record and has the potential to increase her ability to apply for and be awarded scholarships.