Casper girl’s family questions school district code of conduct

By: 
Maya Shimizu Harris with the Casper Star-Tribune, from the Wyoming News Exchange
CASPER — Relatives of a Casper high school girl asked Natrona County School District board members last month why a certain Casper student athlete was allowed to play school sports after committing a sex crime against her. 
After hearing the family’s story, trustee Dave Applegate said on Monday that he thought the student code of conduct needs to be “revised to better clarify its intent and to better ensure its consistent application” among students. 
Students agree to the code of conduct to participate in school sports. The code defines behavioral expectations for student athletes and outlines disciplinary actions for violations of the code. 
But the girl’s family and others who spoke during the March 14 meeting said the district seems to apply the code unequally and unfairly. A woman identifying herself as the girl’s grandmother questioned, for example, why other students lost their ability to participate in activities for what she described as less serious matters. 
According to one email sent by the grandmother to a school official, the student athlete had been charged with a sexual crime against her granddaughter, but as a minor. 
Juvenile cases are kept sealed from the public. Crimes committed by juveniles only become public if the defendant is charged as an adult. That, according to the family, did not happen in this instance. 
The grandmother told trustees that the student athlete was ultimately convicted of a sexual crime and put on probation, which she said started in December and runs until August. 
“But yet he continues to be eligible to participate in Natrona County School District sports,” she told board members. “Can anybody tell me why?” 
The athlete at the center of the March 14 discussion competed in sports this fall and spring. 
At that meeting, trustee Clark Jensen said the board couldn’t legally comment on the student athlete or any disciplinary action against him. 
Applegate reiterated this on Monday. But Applegate said he had reviewed the code of conduct since that last meeting and had come to the conclusion that it needs scrutiny. 
Overall, Applegate said the code should be more explicit — regarding self-reporting requirements, consequences of not reporting a code violation, expectations associated with intervention plans, the enforcement responsibilities of coaches and athletic directors, the difference in consequences for a misdemeanor versus a felony and the application of the code to coaches and others associated with school athletics. 
Applegate also offered some thoughts on the school district’s extreme discipline matrix. 
The school board developed the school extreme discipline matrix a few years ago after a school incident that “raised questions about consistency and fairness regarding student discipline,” Applegate said. 
Community members brought those questions to board members. That prompted the creation of the matrix. 
“It has been used extensively across the district, more times than we would hope it would be the case,” Applegate said. “It has improved discipline consistency across the district.” 
But the matrix still leaves some flexibility, he noted. That flexibility lets administrators fit disciplinary action to specific situations. And the matrix doesn’t apply to all situations. 
The district can’t control, for example, student behavior that isn’t under school supervision. 
“Discipline issues outside of school and school activities are managed by parents, as they should be, and when necessary, law enforcement and the judicial system,” Applegate said. 
He ended his comments saying that policies, rules and laws “will always fall short.” 
“They are, in the end, blunt instruments,” he said. “A sense of fairness as reflected upon all parties is seldom achieved. But that is never an excuse for not trying to improve them.”
 
 
This story was posted on April 13, 2022

 

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