Parents have different version on suspensions

April 13, 2017

By Pat Maurer

At least two from Harrison have sent emails to the Review since last Friday, upset over the suspension on Thursday of two students for what they claim was “bringing a Confederate flag” to school, and taking issue with the article in the Review containing a statement about the matter issued by Superintendent Rick Foote.

Last week Superintendent Rick Foote issued a statement saying in part, “People do not have the facts.” He said the students were sent home for “disruption and insubordination in a classroom.”

Alexix Orris, who said she is James Belkofer’s sister and a friend of Andrew Sigafoose (the students who reportedly were sent home), said she was “extremely disappointed with the information given and used in the article.”

She continued, “There was no foul language used at all and James had not been told previously to remove any flags. He wasn’t given a warning…instead Principal Biller said ‘no, all flags were to be removed’.” She said Mr. Biller “went straight to a displinary action with him and threatened suspension.” She said that Sigafoose has flown [or displayed] flags [a U.S. Flag, Confererate flag and ‘Don’t Tread on Me flag’) on the back of his truck “since October.”

In his statement Superintendent Foote said, “No student was suspended for displaying an American flag,” adding, “The school discipline that was given fell in line with the school’s code of conduct, which is approved by our school board. The school bears the right to deter behavior that is lewd, indecent, or contains objectionally offensive speech by students.”

In her email, Jes Lynk, who is the mother of James, disagreed with what Foote had written. She said, “My son James was not in fact suspended on Wednesday for using foul language. He was suspended for refusal to remove BOTH the US flag and Confederate flag displayed on his vehicle. I spoke with the school principal prior to the suspension being issued. I directly asked the school principal ‘If my son removed the confederate flag from his vehicle would he be allowed to continue to display the US flag?’ The response I received was ‘No all flags must be removed, including the US flag’.” She added that neither of the students had received any discliplinary action before this event.

Lynk concluded, “I feel these boys deserve the right to explain their version of what took place. As it stands these boys are being wrongly accused of things that did not take place by your [the April 7th) article [in the Review]and by Mr. Foote.”

In his statement Foote concluded, “School Board Policy is very specific to protecting the rights of all Harrison Community Schools students. We take each incident very seriously and investigate thoroughly before any action is taken against a student for discipline.”

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