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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Suring School Superintendent On Paid Administrative Leave

Issue Date: March 11, 2022

At a special meeting held in a packed high school gymnasium on Wednesday, March 2, Suring School Board voted unanimously to place Superintendent Kelly Casper on indefinite paid administrative leave, effective Thursday, March 3.

In the absence of a superintendent, daily superintendent duties have been assigned to Curriculum Coordinator/Special Education Director Michelle Pendl. Pendl does not hold a superintendent's license, so decisions which require that authority will be handled by the school board or board president Wayne Sleeter.

Earlier in the week, Casper, 51, had been charged by Oconto County District Attorney Ed Burke with six counts of false imprisonment for allegedly improper searches of six girls on January 18. The girls had been confined in a small bathroom and ordered to strip down to their undergarments while they were being searched for concealed vaping devices.

Burke had previously ruled that the searches conducted by Casper and a school nurse were not technically illegal "strip searches," as defined by Wisconsin law. Casper is to appear in Oconto County Circuit Court on Wednesday, March 23 to answer on the six counts of false imprisonment that Burke did file, accusing her of intentionally confining each student without their consent and with the knowledge that she did not have lawful authority to do so. If convicted, each of the six counts could bring a maximum sentence of six years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

Casper did not attend the special board meeting. She reportedly had been working from home since the charges were filed on Monday, Feb. 28.

The March 2 School Board meeting was held in a packed high school gymnasium, and people had started arriving half an hour prior to the 5 p.m. meeting. At the meeting parents were allowed time for public comment, and many of them did address the board with reminders from School Board President Wayne Sleeter to keep remarks respectful.

Despite admonitions from Sleeter to stay respectful, there were calls from the bleachers for the entire school board to resign, and that Casper needed to go. Several speakers charged the searches had removed their child's dignity, and one Mom said once Casper was placed on leave she would feel safe sending her daughter to school again.

After hearing from the public the board went into closed executive session and emerged to announce their unanimous decision to place Casper on administrative leave, effective Thursday, March 3.

Following the meeting, Sleeter read a statement that had been put together by the board. It thanked people for attending, and said, in part, "....I believe we can all agree that the situation that likely brought most of you here this evening is one that we all wish could have been avoided. But that you are here to voice your opinion I hope means that you believe that your voice matters and is important to this board.

"I believe I can speak on behalf of the board that your voice is important and while I know we all wish that what brought you here to the board meeting would have been something more positive, I am glad you have enough confidence in the board and our processes to show up tonight.

"I believe I also speak for the board when I say this is easily the most difficult situation I have ever been involved with as a board member""

Sleeter acknowledged that it may appear that the board was being tight-lipped on the entire issue, and explained that came from "...our need to conduct ourselves in the right way so we do not create a situation where we create new legal problems for this district"" Several parents have filed a civil rights violation lawsuit against the district related to the searches. The girls involved were 14 to 17 years old.

Sleeter said when this became a criminal matter, the board had placed Casper on administrative leave, and added that they will continue to investigate to determine further action.


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