In order to set the record straight, I submit the following:
On the night of the vandalism of the Nyssa High School vans, Ron was picked up with another boy in Joseph when the planners and perpetrators of the vandalism asked them if they wanted to ride around and hang out.
Ron was not a part of the planning of the vandalism nor did he take part in the actual vandalism.
Based on a false Enterprise police report, Ron was charged in Circuit Court with Conspiracy to Commit Vandalism. The facts came out and that charge was dismissed.
Ron did not have any idea the other boys were going to vandalize the vans until he saw it happening. He was shocked and just wanted to get home, so he rode home with the boys because it was late and he had no other way home.
Knowing all of this, the Joseph High School Principal and Athletic Director, Larry Johnson, held a meeting with Ron and his mother, heard Ron's statement, said they had to do something because of heat from the community and Nyssa.
At the end of the meeting, without conferring, they presented Ron and his mother with the disciplinary letter of August 7, 2006, which they had prepared before the meeting without Ron ever having a hearing.
That letter stated, in part:
"On the night of May 19, 2006, Ron was part of a group who defaced and damaged Nyssa High School vans. Because of the seriousness of the alleged offense and the reflection it has had on both the school and community, Ron will be suspended from football competition per the athletic code."
Ron was suspended three weeks, ordered to write a letter of apology to Joseph and Nyssa School Boards, and complete three hours of community service.
On the witness stand under oath, every Joseph School Administrator and Dan DeBoie, as chairman of the School Board, testified that the August 7 letter quoted above did not say that Ron had been one of the vandals and that the "serious offense" was not the vandalism, but rather that the letter clearly meant that Ron was being punished for:
1) Not disassociating himself from the others when he saw what was taking place;
2) Not reporting the incident to his parents or the school;
3) Not trying to dissuade the others from doing the vandalism.
My question was: Why isn't this what you said in your letter imposing discipline?
This basis for discipline was not put into writing until the hearing before the school board and Dan DeBoie's letter to the Jordans of Aug. 16.
This even though the superintendent and the board made it clear that all the superintendent and the board were doing was upholding the principal and athletic director's actions as set forth in their letter of August 7!
Having been in the legal profession for almost 45 years, and dealing with language and how important the language used is in stating a conclusion or explaining or analyzing a situation, it is a mystery to me how school teachers and educated board members can say with a straight face that finding that "Ron was a part of a group who defaced and damaged Nyssa High School Vans," the "alleged offense", does not say to the public that Ron was one of the vandals, but really says that he failed to disassociate, to report and to dissuade! I would like to hear from anyone in the public, having no other knowledge of the facts that could say with a straight face that the letter does not convey the statement that Ron was one of the vandals!
The court found against the Jordans because the action of the district was not "arbitrary and capricious", and the facts could lead to each party having a different opinion!
So, be advised that children in public schools do not have to be treated fairly by the teachers and administrators the public entrusts their children with to educate and provide them with extracurricular activities for their development into good citizens.
A child can be punished for what he or she did not do in a situation over which they had no control or participation in!
This is the power of the Oregon School Boards Association and the teachers' union. This has been so ever since I served on the board of a large district in California for a number of years.
Ron happened to have a grandfather with the skills to defend him. But what about all of those kids and parents who could not afford to challenge the school staff and board!
It is obvious to this old hard-nosed attorney that this young boy was punished because of the need of the school staff and board to show the public that they were taking this incident very seriously, and we're going to do something about it - Mrs. Kilgore said as much!
Should we not be able to expect a more mature response from the adults we entrust our children to? Each child should be entitled to be judged on his or her own actions and not lumped together and punished for the actions of others - especially if we want to teach them to deal with others fairly as adults and that the Constitution protects them from being punished without due process. The general portion of the athletic policy under which Ron was punished is vague and permits the staff and board to enforce it in a discriminatory manner - depending on the student and the conduct.
Ronald D. Schenck