LHS Football Player, Friends File Lawsuit Over Vape Pen Suspension

Attorneys for the suspended player argue that the school corporation is violating due process by making him miss five games this season.

Neary Memorial Field at Dick Meador Stadium at Lawrenceburg High School. File photo.

(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) - A lawsuit has been filed against Lawrenceburg Community School Corporation by a high school football player who was suspended from playing in more than half the team’s regular season games after being caught with a vape pen at school.

The 17-year-old senior student was caught with the e-cigarette last May, when he was a junior student.

Administrators suspended him from playing in five of the school’s varsity football games this 2019 season. The Tigers are already three games into the nine game season, but the student could not play until the team's sixth game on September 27.

“The School Corp. is violating their written discipline rules by prohibiting (student) from participating in regular season football games,” states the complaint filed Tuesday, September 3 in Dearborn County Superior Court I by the player’s friends. “In addition, the School Corp. is further violating their written discipline rules by prohibiting (the student) from participating in more games than the rules would require if the rules prohibited (the student) from participating in regular season football games.”

Jeff Stratman and Richard Butler are serving as attorneys for the suspended student, who they say is seeing his right to due process violated.

Whether the student did wrong by bringing a vape pen to school isn’t debated by the attorneys. The disagreement lies in how the school is applying its discipline policy.

The complaint alleges that the school corporation’s policy allows for only 365 days probation in situations where a student is in possession of alcohol, tobacco or drugs. Electronic cigarettes and vapor pens are included under the tobacco item.

Yet, students can only be suspended from playing in games if they test positive for use of alcohol, tobacco or drugs, according to the complaint. The school corporation's own written summary of the student's violation notes that the student did not test positive for any substances in a drug test taken in June.

Another point argues a technicality of the game suspension. The school's discipline rules state a student who fails a drug test can be suspended for 50 percent of games. However, sitting out five games would mean the student misses 55 percent of the regular season.

The complaint adds that the student never had a documented violation of the school rules prior to the vape pen incident last May.

The student and friends are asking the judge for an injunction to prevent the school corporation from causing the student to miss any more games.

The case could be decided by Dearborn Superior Court I Judge Jonathan Cleary. The parties met during a court hearing on Friday, September 6 and discussed a possible settlement, but an agreement could not be reached.

“Based upon the importance of preventing the possession and use of vapor pens at school, and the firm belief that LCSC indeed complied fully with all statutory and Constitutional due process requirements, settlement could not be reached,” school corporation attorney Del Weldon wrote in a court filing Monday.

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