On Wednesday, David Kolbe, acting attorney for the parents of a local Warsaw Community High School student, filed an injunction against Warsaw Community School Corporation. The injunction was filed due the alleged disregard for the student’s right to due process following a drug-related suspension from the WCHS varsity soccer team.
The student, whose name will not be released as he is a minor, was involved in a car accident in the fall of 2012 where he admitted to the use of marijuana. As a result, he was placed on probation by the Kosciusko County Probation Department where, according to Kolbe, he performed successfully with his probation officer.
According to a letter sent from Kolbe to WCHS Principal Troy Akers, after WCHS became aware of the circumstances and the student’s admission to smoking marijuana, he was asked to attend a meeting with his father and WCHS Athletic Director Dave Anson. In that meeting, the student and his father were informed the student would be suspended from playing soccer for half of the season. The family claimed that at no time following the meeting did they ever receive a written statement of findings or penalty imposed.
According to the petition for preliminary injunction, on April 17, officials from WCHS reportedly requested a random drug test by urine sample. After the test was administered, the student was informed that he had failed the drug screen test and that the test came back as positive for marijuana. The student was then advised by his coach that he was suspended from soccer for the entire season.
Though the school claims the testing results came back as positive for marijuana use, some questions have arisen as to the validity of the testing procedure. According Kolbe, not only did the test not appear to follow the random testing procedure promised by the school, two tests must be performed with both positive results in order for a failed test to be determined. In addition, the student, who adamantly stated he had not been under the influence of marijuana since his accident, was tested again that day after insisting he was innocent of further marijuana use. The student’s father obtained a test at his own expense that day. Both of those tests came back negative.
Though the student possessed two test results that demonstrated he had not been using marijuana, due to what Kolbe describes as apparent lapses in the due process procedure offered by the school, the student and his parents have been unable to appeal the suspension. According to the WCHS handbook, a letter stating the findings of fact by the athletic director is to be sent five days following an informal meeting to discuss the situation. After receiving the school’s judgement, parents are allowed 5 days to appeal the decision after the receipt of the certified letter.
However, according to Kolbe, the family said they never received a letter and thus could not appeal the decision. After involving Kolbe in the case, the family received a letter at least 100 days after the meeting date.
The handbook also states that after receiving the letter from Anson, families are able to arrange an informal meeting to petition for preliminary injunction. Though the family and Kolbe met with the school on Aug. 8, Kolbe said they have yet to receive the certified letter from Akers as to his decision – a letter necessary for the family to request their child’s case be examined by an Academic Review Committee.
“In multiple respects, officials of Warsaw Community High School and the Warsaw Community High School Athletic Department have failed to follow the policies and procedures as required in the WCHS handbook with regard to their findings and determinations respecting (the student),” stated Kolbe in the petition. “As a consequence of no less than five instances in which officials of WCHS failed to follow their policies and procedures, (the student) has been subjected to fundamental, substantive and procedural due process violations which have wholly jeopardized his ability to participate in the WCHS varsity soccer team.”
As fall sports begin to get underway, the implications of not allowing the student to perform on the varsity soccer team are becoming more and more apparent to Kolbe and the family. According to Kolbe, unless the court enters an immediate injunction directing that any penalties imposed by WCHS be stayed and suspended, the student will suffer irreparable harm and will be deprived of his full high school soccer career and potential for future college scholarships.
“Quite rightly, WCHS places upon its student athletes an expectation of ‘high standards of conduct’,” added Kolbe. “Conversely, it is legitimate to expect administrative officials to exemplify high standards of conduct in carrying out their administrative responsibilities, especially when a student faces the possibility of complete suspension from participation in IHSAA sanctioned sports. The consequences are far-reaching upon the student athlete and his or her team. Beyond the immediate suspension, the student’s ability to receive scholarships for participation at the collegiate level in his or her chosen sport may be affected.”