Farwell BOE upholds athlete’s suspension

April 25, 2014

Deanna Cotton emplores the board to reconsider her daughter’s athletic suspension at the April7 BOE meeting. File photo

Deanna Cotton emplores the board to reconsider her daughter’s athletic suspension at the April7 BOE meeting.
File photo

By Pat Maurer

The 180 school calendar day athletic suspension against Farwell senior Kayla Cotton was upheld at the Farwell Board of Education meeting Monday evening, Superintendent Carl Seiter said.
Deanna and Keith Cotton the parents of Kayla Cotton, a senior at Farwell High School, were on the board agenda asking that the athletic suspension against their daughter be lifted and that she be able to play softball this spring.

The teenager was suspended from participating in sports last fall after school officials learned of an altercation that resulted in charges against her, family members and a classmate for assault.
According to information from the Clare County Sheriff’s Department, the incident on September 1 led to the October 1 arrest of Kayla, 17, Keith Cotton, 47, Ryan Simmons, 18, Derrik Cotton, 21, Nicholas Simmons, 19, and Cody Bauer, 20 on charges of felonious assault, assault and battery and enticement to riot.
The complaint was filed by Joseph Megan and Daniel Carman, warrants were issued and the six suspects charged were arraigned the week of October 7.

Because of the information, a decision was made by the school administration in October to suspend Kayla from two seasons of sports or 180 school calendar days.

When they attended the first monthly meeting two weeks earlier, Kayla and her parents claimed that she had been repeatedly and continuously harassed by the two men, and they said are “cage fighters.” They also indicated at the April 7 board meeting that the charges against their daughter had been dropped.
Her parents also charged that the on-line version of the student handbook says the suspension was for “180 calendar days,” which meant the suspension would be lifted March 1, but in the printed version, signed last fall, it said “180 school calendar days.” The on-line handbook, which Seiter said was wrong, has since been corrected.
They also charged that school staff, including Superintendent Seiter had violated the handbook’s confidentiality requirement, releasing information about the incident and causing what they called “bullying,” calling it verbal and psychological and intimidation.
Concerning the suspension, Seiter said, “The board had sufficient evidence to determine that a violation of the athletic code had occurred and they upheld the suspension.”
He continued, “The athletic code sets the standard for behavior for athletes…This code is similar to a code of ethics/conduct for National Honor Society for example. As stated in our handbook, the district does not necessarily need to rely on or base any decisions on violations of the code on the outcomes of any legal proceedings.”

He continued, “In this case, the district feels we have evidence supported by both our interpretation of what occurred and the outcome of legal proceedings. The violation of the athletic code of conduct was determined after proper legal authorities informed the district of the incident and possible charges. To reiterate, the fact that one of our students was even present during an incident like this was construed as a violation of the athletic code of conduct.”

Seiter also said the case against the senior is “still pending.”

He continued, “This incident involved several individuals that had traveled to another individual’s home and got into a physical altercation involving weapons. The involvement of our student was such that she was charged by the Clare County Prosecutor’s office with ‘assault with a dangerous weapon.’ This is a four-year felony. The charge was more severe than other individuals involved in the same incident.”

He said the record of the legal proceedings is being held private pending successful completion of an alternate resolution. “They [the charges] are not dropped as the parents have suggested previously. Generally,” he said, “an alternate resolution means a payment of some type such as fines, court costs, medical bills, etc. It also generally contains a period of probation. If the individuals do not successfully complete these terms, the record will become public.”

He added, “The prosecutor’s office shared that individuals in this case, which includes the student and the parent, are scheduled for Show Cause Motions in District Court on June 2nd. This means that these individuals are under court supervision and they are not complying with the terms of the alternate resolution.”
“Based on the facts of the case,” he said, “the school board upheld the athletic suspension.”

In other business at the BOE meeting Monday the board:
*granted tenure to three teachers – Ana Allingham, Meaghan Scott and April Dice; and granted additional years of probationary status to Michelle Edwards, Duncan Gervin, Charles Ferrell, JoLynn Spencer, Emily Jarema, Ben Bryant, Ty Lentovitch, Carrie Forfinski, Matthew Horodyski and Alisa Joseph.

*approved the retirement of 3rd grade teacher Cheryl Cook; and the resignation of High School Special Education teacher Kim Iverson and High School Choice Room Supervisor Andrea Beldega.

*approved a donation from the Michigan Baseball Foundation for $2,300 for field tarps and protective mats.
*heard that April 25, 5:30 p.m. Will be the kickoff of Fine Arts Week in the Jaime Performing Arts Center’s foyer and that April 25 and 26 the Farwell Drama students will present “Hit the Road Jack,” with the pay beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Jaime Performing Arts Center each night.

*named students of the month including Freshman Elizabeth Farrow, Sophomore Reagan Douglas, Junior Travis Smith and Senior Chantal Smith.

*approved monthly invoices totaling $501,802.00.

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