Emotions run high at meeting
Once again, emotions ran high in front of television cameras and a packed audience at the Blue Earth Area School Board meeting.
A total of eight concerned parents and citizens participated in the public comment portion of the Jan. 8 meeting. Displeasure over the school’s response to an alleged incident involving four BEA football players took center stage for those who decided to address the board.
Wyatt Tungland, Dalton Nagel, Blake Barnett, and Caden Ochsendorf were charged last November in connection with an alleged off-campus assault. The alleged victim in the assault happened to be a fellow Blue Earth Area football player.
In addition to serving a 10-day suspension from school in November, the student-athletes in question have been ineligible to play or practice in the winter sports season, and have been excluded from all extra-curricular leadership roles at the school.
Concerned residents such as Shawn Ehrich, a 1991 BEA graduate, believes the punishment handed down by the school has been too excessive. Ehrich participated on the Bucs football and wrestling teams during his time as a high school student.
“Why are these boys being punished so severely,” Ehrich asked of the School Board. “The decision to take their entire season away has caused families to leave the district and professionals to leave their workplace, and many other families to consider to do the same. Is this what we want to happen?”
Meanwhile, Renee Nagel and Naomi Ochsendorf, mothers of two of the BEA football players facing charges, also spoke at the meeting.
Nagel, the mother of Dalton, indicated frustration over the negative reputation placed upon her son and the other football players involved in the alleged incident.
“I am very displeased with the fact that my son and three other boys involved in an incident outside of school, and off school property, have been attached to this whole bullying taskforce that was created at the school,” Nagel said.
“These boys have not been proven guilty of anything in the court of law, why are they being proven guilty at the school,” she questioned.
Ochsendorf revealed her decision to remove both of her sons, Caden and Cooper, from Blue Earth Area High School following the alleged assault.
Ochsendorf’s sons now attend Maple River High School. As she wept in front of board members, Ochsendorf explained having her children remain at BEA was not worth the risk of expulsion for Caden, who was one of the four student-athletes allegedly involved in the assault.
“All it would take is a teacher or a student to make an allegation and he would no longer be welcomed in the school,” she said.
Following public comment, the School Board chose not to respond.
Towards the conclusion of the meeting, the board went into closed session for over an hour. Citing private educational data regarding information about a student, details of the closed session were not released to the public.
Other action items from the meeting included:
Jesse Haugh was elected as the chairman of the School Board. He replaces Frankie Bly, who had previously served as board chairman since January, 2002. Meanwhile, Bly will fill the role of vice chair.
Sheila Ripley will handle clerical duties, and Sara Hauskins will be the board treasurer.
A total of 21 winter sports coaches were approved for the 2017-2018 season.
The hiring of paraprofessional Erin O’Rourke was also approved by the board.