The Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed a school board's decision to expel a southern Minnesota high school student for having a pocket knife in her purse.
Alyssa Drescher, an honor student, athlete and peer mentor at United South Central High School, was expelled for six weeks last year when a pocket knife that she used for farm chores was found in her purse. Drescher, of Wells, Minn., threw the small folding blade in her purse during the weekend and forgot that it was there when she went to school, her father, Rick Drescher, said after the ruling on Monday.
The decision not only clears his daughter's record but could make a difference for other kids who are wrongfully punished, he said. "The school system needs to look at each case individually," Drescher said.
Alyssa Drescher routinely helped her boyfriend, who lives on a farm, with chores, and used a pocket knife that her father gave her to cut the twine on bales of hay. She forgot that it was in the bottom of her purse when she returned to school, her father said.
Authorities discovered it during a random search of the school for drugs. The school liaison officer said the drug-sniffing dog likely was alerted to Alyssa Drescher's locker by a strong odor of perfume.
School policy forbids weapons on school property, and the principal said she was obligated to suspend the teen for up to five days. The principal recommended a three-day suspension because the teen was cooperative and appeared to be telling the truth.
But the school board expelled her through the end of her junior year. The expulsion was upheld by the commissioner of education, and the family appealed to the state court.
The family knew that Alyssa likely would be graduated by the time the lengthy appeals process was resolved, but they pursued it as a matter of principle, her father said. "In our eyes, it still made Alyssa look like the guilty party," Rick Drescher said. "Now we're going to fight for the rest of the kids in the state of Minnesota."
The court ruled the expulsion wasn't proper because Alyssa Drescher didn't willfully violate the school policy when she carried a knife to school and didn't engage in conduct that endangered herself or others.
Alyssa Drescher, who received her high school diploma in June and will attend Minnesota State University, Mankato, in the fall, said she was excited when she learned about the ruling on Monday morning. "I hope no one else has to go through what I went through," she said.