- Associated Press - Sunday, February 28, 2016

WELLS, Minn. (AP) - In a case with statewide implications for school discipline policies, the Minnesota Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Monday about the overturned expulsion of a southern Minnesota high school student who accidentally brought a pocket knife to school.

United South Central Public Schools in Wells is appealing after the state Court of Appeals overturned the expulsion of Alyssa Drescher. The Supreme Court’s decision could influence school suspension and expulsion policies across Minnesota, The Free Press of Mankato (https://bit.ly/1QFkvZM) reported.

Drescher was expelled in 2014 for the final six weeks of her junior year. She said she left the knife in her purse by accident after doing chores on her boyfriend’s farm. It was found during an announced locker search.

Last year, the appeals court ruled that the district should not have expelled Drescher because she didn’t willfully violate school policy and didn’t endanger herself or others.

Drescher’s attorney, Andrea Jepsen, calls the decision a win not only for her client, but also for “a lot of kids who suffer disproportionately from wrongful dismissals.”

The school district appealed. In a statement, the district said the appeals court ruling “sets a dangerous precedent that limits the ability of school districts across the state to proactively address the presence of weapons on school property.”

Drescher’s attorneys contend that because she had forgotten the knife was in her purse and didn’t intentionally bring it to school, the act was not willful. And because the knife was in her purse in her locked locker, it did not pose any real danger, her attorneys argue.

The district is asking the Supreme Court to interpret “willful” to include students who act with “careless disregard” and to decide a threat needs only to be possible - not probable - to meet the law’s endangerment threshold.

Drescher is now a student at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and does not plan to attend the Supreme Court hearing, her attorney said. If the expulsion is reinstated, Jepsen said it could hurt Drescher if she decides she wants to transfer to a new college or continue on to graduate school.

The high court also will consider written arguments filed by several state education organizations supporting the school district’s position.

Jepsen does not expect a ruling for weeks or months.


Information from: The Free Press, https://www.mankatofreepress.com

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