Bel Air student requests open hearing to discuss his suspension

April 23, 1995|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,Sun Staff Writer

A Bel Air High School senior athlete will allow a rare open hearing with the school board this week when he tries to get his suspension for stealing reduced by the school board.

The student, 17, says his civil rights were violated when a school administrator entered his home looking for the stolen goods, and that school officials hurt his chances for getting a wrestling scholarship when they suspended him for theft because it caused him to miss taking the Scholastic Assessment Test.

The student, whose name is being withheld by The Sun because he is a juvenile, has admitted selling another student a watch he found in the back of his shop class, but he denies stealing cash, jewelry, shoes and clothing from students' gym lockers. He has said he didn't know the watch he sold belonged to a teacher.

Wallace C. Brenton, administrative assistant for safety and security, said greed drove the youth to steal the items and try to sell them.

The youth admitted stealing them and wanted to know what he could do to preserve his right to graduate when he was called into the principal's office on March 24 to discuss the alleged thefts, Mr. Brenton said. The same day, the youth was suspended for five days.

Now, a rare, open hearing appealing the suspension is scheduled Tuesday before the Harford County school board. The appeal was brought by the student and his mother.

They want the school board to eliminate the remaining week of the youth's suspension, she said. Usually, hearings before the school board dealing with student disciplinary issues are closed to the public, but the youth and his mother have requested that this one be open.

During that March 24 meeting, the student said, Mr. Brenton, Bel Air High Principal William Ekey and a Bel Air police officer intimidated him. Mr. Brenton told him they could go retrieve the items from his home, the student said, " 'or we'll take you out in handcuffs.' " He said he told the officials he had "taken" the items but not stolen them.

He said Mr. Brenton drove him to his house, with the police officer following in a separate car. The student and Mr. Brenton went into the house and into the boy's bedroom. The student said he gave Mr. Benton a bag of old athletic shorts, shirts and shoes of no value that had been left behind in the school's locker room after wrestling season.

Mr. Brenton said the items were stolen.

The student said, " 'These are the things I stole,' and he gave them back to us," Mr. Brenton said. The bag contained a pair of Timberland boots worth $160 that another student had reported stolen in December, a $40 pair of basketball shorts reported missing in January and other items whose owners could not be identified, Mr. Brenton said.

The youth and his mother said the trip to their home violated their civil rights because the mother did not give the administrator or the police officer permission to enter the house and, as a minor, the student is not eligible to grant that permission. Mr. Brenton said the youth's approval was all that was needed to go into the home.

The student, a wrestler and football player, was suspended for five days beginning March 24 by Mr. Ekey, and after reviewing the case a school administrator added 20 days to the suspension a week later, prohibiting the youth from entering school property to take the SAT.

It was the youth's first chance to take the test, which is offered several times during the school year. His mother said she could not afford to pay for him to take the test at those other opportunities.

The youth will now take the test in June, but he said it will be too late to be considered for any scholarships by then.

The student, who ended the wrestling season with 22 wins and 2 losses in the 130-pound weight class, said he was pursuing wrestling scholarships at Coppin State College, Towson State University and West Virginia University, among other schools.

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