Minnesota student expelled for knife in locker wins appeal

Back in April 2014, the United South Central School District in Wells, Minnesota expelled high school junior Alyssa Drescher for the rest of the school year after a liaison officer found a knife in her locker.

According to court documents, Drescher accidentally left the knife in her purse after using it to do chores on a farm. A drug-sniffing dog making a sweep of the school had a hit on her locker, likely due to perfume, and a search led to the discovery of the knife.

Monday, the Court of Appeals decided the district had no right to expel Alyssa Drescher. The district argued that Alyssa violated its policy that “no student…shall possess, use or distribute a weapon when in a school location.” However, the Court of Appeals decided that Alyssa did not commit a “willful violation” of the policy because she did not intend to violate the policy, and had no ill-will. Even more, the Court of Appeals said Alyssa did not “endanger” anyone because the “mere presence” of the knife inside her purse in the locker did not create “probable harm or loss.”

Read the court's opinion at http://bit.ly/AlyssaAppeal

Drescher appealed her expulsion to the state education commissioner through the Pupil Fair Dismissal Act, which allows students to appeal school boards’ discipline decisions. The Act allows school districts to expel students on various grounds, but requires a “willful violation” of a policy, “willful conduct” that disrupts others, or “willful conduct” that endangers the student or others.

The School Law Center, a law firm specializing in the education field, represented Alyssa. Andrea Jepsen, one of the attorneys, told me that she hopes this decision encourages other districts to follow the law, in addition to wiping Alyssa’s slate clean.

The superintendent for the school district told me that the district is not commenting, but exploring its options.

Watch Fox 9 at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. to see Ted Haller’s interview with Alyssa Drescher.

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