Justice For Laethan
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On December 14th, 2016 my son Laethan, an eleven year-old sixth grader at KIPP Triumph Academy in St. Louis was unjustly suspended. at 2pm on 12.14 I received a frantic call from one of the School Leader’s (Principal) minions indicating there was an issue and that the School Leader wanted to speak with me. Naturally my mind went to the worst case scenario and I replayed a million horrifying scenarios over in mind before the principal finally picked up the line. Her first words to me were “Dude is fine but we found weed in his backpack.” My question to her was “How do you know that’s what it is and where did he get it?” Unable to provide me with a real answer she hurried the conversation along in saying “I don’t know and thats all the information I have at this time, I need you to come get him now.” Naturally when you walk into a room where there are two police officers and a school administrators your heart drops, all rationale goes out the window and panic sets in. This is exactly what happened on December 14th, 2016 at 2:30 pm when I walked in room 212 at 955 Arcade Ave.
Laethan was never truly in possession of the substance “assumed” to be marijuana, however there was some blame on his part. Earlier during the ninety-minute block a bagged up substance was found on the floor by another student. Said student informed the teacher and the substance was taken and placed in her cabinet; she continued teaching the remainder of the ninety-minute block. Admist the simple commotion caused by the discovery of the mysterious substance Dude became curious, we all know “curiosity kills the cat.” Following the end of class my son went into the teacher’s cabinet and removed the “mysterious substance” and left the room. It was then and only then did the teacher contact administration to report “her discovery”; but it wasn’t there so a search of all students who had previously left that class was conducted. After being informed that a bag search was taking place Dude realized the possible seriousness of the impulse decision he had just made. What happened next should be of no surprise. The unidentified substance was found hidden in his backpack and immediately(2.5 hours after the initial discovery) police were called.
There are many things wrong within this situation and the protocol or lack there of. Common sense would tell us that upon discovery of what was assumed to be an illegal substance; the substance should have immediately been removed from the classroom and given to the administrator; it was then that the authorities should have been called, not two and half hours later. I admit my child made a very bad and impulsive decision for going into the teacher’s desk and undoubtedly should receive a punishment. But to charge him for having a substance you assume to be marijuana is far fetched. Especially when responding officers cant and don’t verify what the substance is. [Per their police report it was never verified what the substance was. It was never sent to a lab for an analysis so who’s to say it wasn’t dirt or oregano. Just because it’s in a bag and looks like vegetation doesn’t mean its weed. There are no licensed chemists on KIPP property.]
As of today January 19th, 2017 Dude has spent nearly 18 days (30 plus calendar days) of his imposed forty-five day sentence out of school. He is missing out on valuable educational hours, time with his peers and ultimately suffering from emotional distress from a decision he didn’t even fully understand. What does forty-five days at home do for a child living in the inner city? He is being denied placement in an Alternative Learning Setting, as a child with a disability this is a violation of his rights to general education. The teacher has yet to be reprimanded for not following standard protocol for securing drugs found in the classroom. Laethan is an extremely bright, smart and amazing child. Prior to his suspension he held the school's highest reading score, reading on a twelfth grade level. Being forced to spend nearly 4 months out of school is having an adverse affect on his social skills, education and overall emotional stability. We just want KIPP to clear Laethan's name, admit fault for their teacher's lack of follow through, clear his name and remove this infraction from his permanent record and repeal the suspension so that he can be withdrawn and enrolled in a school better equipped to educate children such as Laethan.
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