Was justice served by suspension

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On Thursday, Sept. 8, an “emergency” school board meeting took place at the Ramsey School District. The subject of that “emergency” was my daughter, Faith Luster. Faith was an honor roll student in eighth grade at Ramsey Junior High School.
Faith was expelled for the rest of the semester by the Ramsey School Board for having a weapon at a school function. She is allowed to come back to school on Jan. 4.
At face value, having a weapon at a school function seems bad, but let me please tell you the true and full story that the Ramsey Superintendent, Mrs. Melissa Ritter, and the rest of the school board did not care to listen to,  and instead chose to permanently tarnish my daughter's school record!
On Thursday, Sept. 1, my 8-month-old yellow lab pup was doing what yellow lab pups do best. She was tearing things up! This particular day, she had ahold of Faith’s school bag, dragging it through the living room, shaking the dickens out of it.
Papers, books, etc. were strung all over the living room when my wife caught the pup in the act. My wife then grabbed the bag from the dog and started picking up the mess. At the same time, my son and one of the school board member's sons were trying to walk out the front door with a small hunting knife. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a hunting show on the Outdoor Channel, and I had just packed up and left on a hunting trip to Washington State the day before. I had decided to leave that particular knife at home.
My wife told the kids to drop the knife, and they did, right on the same living room floor as the rest of the mess. With all the kids, dog, mess, etc., my wife picked up the knife and threw it in Faith’s bag.
That set into motion the most ridiculous chain of events I have ever had the misfortune of dealing with!
Fast forward to the next day, Friday, Sept. 2, school went normally. At the end of school, Faith had an away softball game. With all her gear, she rode the bus to the game. At the game, she was getting ready to bat when she was pulled from the game by assistant coach Pat Click, who then started an interrogation of Faith about the knife that had fallen out of her bag when it fell off the bench in the dugout. Faith told Mr. Click she had no idea how it got there, yet Mr. Click refused to believe her.
This is where common sense should have prevailed, and a call to a parent should have happened. If that would have happened, things might have gone differently. After the game, Faith was denied to be able to ride the bus home with her teammates,  and had to get a ride with another player's parent. Once my wife was told the story, she called Mrs. Ritter and told her how the knife had gotten into the bag,  and that Faith was telling the truth. Mrs. Ritter also acted as if she did not believe my wife.
The next day, we were contacted by Mrs. Ritter and notified us that Faith was suspended from school, effective immediately, pending an expulsion hearing by the school board. At this point, my wife and I felt that Faith’s school career was on the line. We talked it over and decided to withdraw Faith from Ramsey school, and home school her in an effort to protect her school record. After all, the truth is she had done NOTHING wrong, at least to her knowledge.
My mother-in-law is a certified teacher and owned a private school in Bakersfield, Calif. With that in place, we, as parents, felt good about Faith’s continued education. So before the board meeting took place, we completed all the paperwork and started home schooling Faith, thinking a disaster was avoided because you cannot expel someone that does not go to the school, right? That would be like an employer firing you after you already quit, right? WRONG! We were again notified by Mrs. Ritter that she and the Ramsey School Board were going to proceed with the hearing. Which they did, and expelled her! Faith is no longer allowed at the school or any school function until Jan. 4.
Now, I pose this question to you all: Was justice served? Are the students of Ramsey Junior High safer now? Now that they have rid the school of the “threat” that is my daughter? Whether or not there are rules in black and white, common sense has to prevail. It has to be taken in a case-by-case basis. In this case, a little girl is left crushed, torn from her school, kicked off her softball team and told that she is no longer allowed to step foot on school grounds until after Jan. 4.
It is not like she was a perennial trouble student. Quite the contrary, actually. She was one of the best in her class! Yet, all this meant nothing to Superintendent Ritter or board members Jim Masset, Pat Reiss, Pat Click, Jeremy Kelly, Shane Hadley, Brent Moreland and Jim Thomas.
I write this for only one reason – to tell Faith’s story to someone who will actually listen to the truth.
A travesty was done to my daughter by Mrs. Ritter and the rest of the ELECTED board members of Ramsey School District. A father never forgets!
Mark Luster

School District's Response

In response to Mr. Luster's letter to the editor, the Ramsey School District #204 did have a discipline meeting on Sept. 8, 2011.
At a disciplinary meeting, the board of education reviews all testimonies and evidence before a final decision is made. Students who require a disciplinary hearing may have their parents and legal counsel represent them.
All parties involved were following the Ramsey School District #204 policy and the Illinois School Code.
The Ramsey School District #204 policy regarding the issue addressed by Mr. Luster is very clear and applies to all students in the district.
The Ramsey School Board acted consistently in accordance to the district policy and procedures, and Illinois School Code.
The entire situation is unfortunate. However, the education and safety of all students in our district is first priority.
Melissa Ritter,
Superintendent &
Ramsey Community School District School Board