Student accused of casting spell seeks transfer Ninth-grader wants to escape controversy

October 22, 1998|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

The Southwestern High School ninth-grader who was sent home for allegedly casting a spell on a classmate asked to be transferred yesterday so she might escape a controversy that has enveloped the school.

No spells were cast, and no one was threatened, according to school officials who suspended Jamie Schoonover on Tuesday when another student became hysterical after she believed that Schoonover had cast a spell on her.

School spokeswoman Vanessa Pyatt said Schoonover, 15, a practicing witch, will be transferred to another school, the name of which was not disclosed. "It was a short-term suspension based on a misunderstanding about what took place between the students," Pyatt said.

The other ninth-grader, Jennifer Rassen, left school yesterday after a meeting with school administrators, Jamie Schoonover and the girls' parents. "I am still scared," Rassen said. "I can't get her voice out of my head."

A silver crucifix, given to Rassen by her grandfather yesterday, hung around her neck, and she said she was going home to try to calm down.

Her mother and grandmother said that they did not believe in witchcraft, but that they felt uncomfortable after meeting with Schoonover and her parent, who is also a witch.

"She really acted like It scares me to talk about it," said Beverly Rassen, Jennifer's mother, as they stood outside the school after the meeting.

According to all accounts, a group of girls was gathered around a tree ringed by stones before school Tuesday morning. The girls had been writing their names in white ink on the stones, like graffiti scrawled across a wall. Jamie or a friend crossed out Jennifer's name with a black marker and wrote the apparently nonsensical phrase, "Is life a virtue of death?"

Schoonover said Tuesday that she never would cast a spell because the principles of Wicca, a form of neo-paganism that she and a parent practice, dictate that whatever you do, good or evil, returns to you threefold.

But a girl in Schoonover's group approached Jennifer Rassen and said something would happen to her because a spell had been cast on her. "I just spazzed out," Rassen said.

She was taken to the principal's office, but she was so upset that it was difficult for school officials to determine what had happened. Her mother was called to get her.

"She was very hysterical. I have never seen my child act like this," Beverly Rassen said.

Schoonover's biological father, Colleen Harper, who is a transsexual, supported school administrators' handling of the controversy. Harper, also a practicing witch, believes that the school was right to question whether a girl might have been threatened and does not hold it against them for suspending Jamie. Harper said both girls were upset and should get counseling.

"Jamie just wants to be left alone," Harper said. "My daughter was so upset, she left the meeting as distraught as the other young lady. She wished she could go somewhere to another place and never mention anything about witchcraft or transgender."

Harper answered questions from print and television reporters yesterday, detailing the family's history and Jamie's school career. Harper offered to provide pictures of herself when she was a man.

Pub Date: 10/22/98

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