An attorney has withdrawn a motion for injunctive relief for the Woodford County High student who was put into an alternative school and stripped her of her position as senior class president after she bought a prescription pill from a classmate.
But Lexington attorney T. Bruce Simpson Jr. said he will still pursue claims in a suit alleging that school officials violated policies set in place for student discipline.
"They treated her contrary to those policies," Simpson told the Herald-Leader. "We believe she's been wronged, she's been damaged, and if they keep her from going to those advanced-placement classes ... they're going to be liable for damages."
A hearing had been scheduled for Thursday in U.S. District Court but was canceled after Simpson withdrew the motion.
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Simpson said in an email he did not wish to put the student, identified simply as "K.C." in the suit, through another hearing that "would be substantially adverse to her emotional well-being."
"Thus, she will remain in the alternative school until her punishment is complete," Simpson wrote in the email. "Her father will try and find additional tutors to help her catch up on the advanced placement classes she has missed and will continue to miss."
The civil suit was brought last week by Steve Coleman, the girl's father. The lawsuit named Superintendent Scott Hawkins, Woodford County High Principal Rob Akers, Assistant Principal Jennifer Forgy and the Woodford County Board of Education as defendants.
There was no immediate comment Friday from Robert Chenoweth or Grant Chenoweth, attorneys for the school board.
After a 90-minute hearing on Sept. 26, Judge Danny Reeves denied a motion for a temporary restraining order that would have directed the defendants to stop requiring K.C.'s continued attendance in the alternative school or from prohibiting her to attend her normal schedule of classes at the high school. Had it been held, Thursday's hearing would have been more extensive.
In addition to stripping K.C. of her position as senior class president, the 17-year-old was banned from the high school campus, prohibited from participating in any school-related activities, and was permanently removed from the cross-country team.
The purchase of the pill came on Sept. 9 after K.C. discussed her anxiety about upcoming college-entrance tests — particularly the ACT exam scheduled for Sept. 13 — with another student.
The classmate told K.C. that he had a prescription for Vyvnase, a medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and that he thought it would relieve her anxiety and help her focus if she took it prior to the ACT exam. The classmate said he would sell the pill to K.C. for $5.
K.C. bought the pill and made no effort to conceal or hide the purchase. She did not ingest the pill but instead put in her eyeglass case.
But during a third-period class, Assistant Principal Forgy entered the classroom and, in front of other students, instructed K.C. to gather her belongings and accompany her to the principal's office. The suit said Forgy refused to inform K.C. why she was being detained, and "K.C. was unaware of the basis for her removal from class."
Without explaining why she was called to the office, Principal Akers asked K.C. if she "paid another student for something," the suit said. When K.C. did not immediately divulge that she purchased a Vyvnase, Akers directed an enforcement officer to search K.C.
After then realizing what Akers was referring to, K.C. acknowledged that she had purchased a pill from another student. K.C. voluntarily handed the pill to Akers. He informed her that a "witness" had "turned her in," the suit said.
Akers and Forgy did not perform any further investigation or questioning, the suit said. "Without giving K.C. an opportunity for a hearing or to offer any mitigating reasons for her conduct, defendants levied the following punishment: a five-day suspension (reduced to two and one-half days if K.C. enrolled in and completed a drug treatment therapy); 30 school days of placement in alternative school; a complete ban (except for after-school communications with teachers) from campus and all school-related activities, including all extracurricular clubs and sporting events, and homecoming activities; permanent removal from position as senior class president; permanent removal from the cross-country team and temporary ban from the softball team.
The suit said that a "Level III offense" such as this can mean referral to the principal with disciplinary action including options of contacting parents, assignment to an alternative classroom, loss of privileges and/or suspension for up to five days. Drug and alcohol related offenses may also result in mandatory drug/alcohol counseling.
The suit said there was no basis in applicable code or policy which provides for or enables a 30-day mandatory enrollment in the alternative school.
However, in an affidavit, Superintendent Scott Hawkins said that four other students (and a fifth in a pending case) were assigned to 30-day stays in the alternative program after they were cited for drug offenses.
The suit said the only available method for placing a student in the alternative school for periods longer than five days would be through a Placement Committee consisting of a principal, parent, student and other appropriate school personnel. The disciplinary code says repeated Level III offenses may result in referral to the Placement Committee. In this case, K.C. was not afforded an opportunity to appear before a Placement Committee, the suit said.
Upon leaving the school, Steve Coleman took his daughter to a certified drug-screening facility in Lexington to perform a nine-panel drug screen. "The results of the drug screen came back completely negative for the presence of any drugs," the suit said.
K.C. was enrolled in five advanced-placement classes in chemistry, literature, Spanish, statistics and environmental science. She had no prior criminal record and no prior disciplinary actions or violations of any kind at the high school.
During her senior year, K.C. was a member of the National Honor Society, the Beta Club, and served on the student newspaper and DECA, a group for emerging leaders in high school.
"Certainly no one at Woodford County High School would dispute that K.C. has always been a very conscientious, dedicated and excellent student," Simpson wrote in the email. "She is an honor student.
"Hopefully, with the additional tutors and additional study after she attends alternative school, she will be better able to keep up with the advanced placement courses she is missing."