A week after the filing an injunction against Warsaw Community Schools attorney David Kolbe, the parents of a local Warsaw Community High School Student and soccer player, school officials and the family met in Kosciusko Superior Court 1 today before Judge Duane Huffer.
According to Kolbe, the injunction was filed as a result of an apparent disregard by WCHS to follow its own procedural code listed in its student handbook. Kolbe claimed that, due to this, the student, known in court as G.R., and his family were unable to enact the process of an appeal in a timely, uncompressed manner. Though Judge Huffer did concede wrongdoing by the school system in not following its own procedure strictly, Huffer ultimately declined the injunction that would allow G.R. to participate in varsity soccer for half of the 2013 season.
The court hearing began with Kolbe calling both Jose Rodriguez, the student’s father, and G.R. himself to the stand. According to the testimony provided, in the fall of 2012 G.R. and his friends were involved in a traffic accident in which their vehicle struck a tree. When police arrived, G.R. and his friends were questioned about potential marijuana use due to the lingering smell permeating from the vehicle. G.R. admitted to the use of marijuana and was then placed on probation by the Kosciusko County Probation Department.
Though G.R. did complete the program and charges were dropped, following the school’s discovery of G.R.’s admitted use of the substance, he was told a suspension from sports teams would ensue. In a meeting held in December with both G.R. and his father, Anson informed G.R. that since he was complying with the school’s SAP program though his work with the probation department, he would be suspended for a total of 180 days – half of the soccer season. However, following a drug test provided by the school during random testing, G.R. was told that his urine sample had shown trace amounts of marijuana resulting in a failed drug test. Adamant that his drug use had ended after his accident, G.R. demanded a second test by the school, which produced a negative result for marijuana, which was paid for by G.R.’s father.
When asked how his testing had come back positive for marijuana use, G.R. explained that two weeks prior to the first test he had been asked by two friends to pick them up from a party they could no longer drive home from. While the friends gathered their belongings, G.R. waited inside the building where others were smoking marijuana and drinking. G.R. said he did not use drugs and simply was there to provide a safe ride for friends. In addition, G.R. said outside of that night, he has attempted to stay out of environments where he knew drug use was happening.
According to G.R., “I can proudly say I have not smoked since the wreck.”
Following the testing, G.R. and his Spanish-speaking mother, who was the only parent available at the time, met with Anson to discuss his test results. Following the meeting, in accordance to the WCHS handbook, the school was to send an official letter discussing the findings of fact from the meeting and the decided terms of discipline within five days. However, as the family never received this message, Kolbe stated they were unable to invoke the appeal process provided within the handbook.
Though the family was provided a hearing by an athletic review committee on Monday that supported the 365-day suspension of G.R. from sports teams, Kolbe argues that due to the lapses in the adherence to procedure by WCHS officials, the process was extremely compressed. Kolbe also argued that, though the school does and should expect students to follow rules, it itself has failed to follow its own procedures on at least five occasions.
In a concluding statement by Warsaw Community Schools acting attorney William Thomas Hopkins of Fort Wayne admitted that, though mistakes were made by the school system in following procedure, G.R. did receive a fair hearing in which there is no evidence of compression. Hopkins also stated that though Kolbe stated G.R.’s right to due process had been violated as a result of mistakes by the school system, due process is not fundamental for an extracurricular activity.
“We made mistakes,” said Hopkins in reference to the school system. “We should have sent the decision in the mail – we did wrong. However, there is no evidence of compression should we have done this on time. There is no fundamental due process right or right to council in sports. Shame on us for not sending the letters, I’ll be the first to say that. However, he did get a fair hearing. What we need to ask ourselves is what are we really asking for today? There is nothing we can think of more importance than our kids avoiding drugs. They are asking you to weigh our screw ups against his drug use.”
“We respect the decision of the court,” stated Kolbe following the conclusion of the hearing. “We appreciate the chance to finally have a full and fair hearing.”