Ronan students avoid expulsion

The Ronan School Board went against the recommendations of administrators March 9 and voted to allow five students involved with drug-related activities back into school. Three of the students were allowed to return to class on March 10, while another will return March 17, and the last will return March 30.

Some of the students will be barred from participating in extracurricular activities in the current and upcoming school year. The punishments were handed down by the board almost a month after Lake County authorities arrested senior Cole Snyder on the school bus that returned home from a wrestling match in February where he took home a state championship title. Snyder was the only student who is a legal adult in the drug case, which involved approximately 10 students, according to Lake County Sheriff Don Bell. The other students were underage and were not identified.

Snyder pleaded not guilty in Lake County Justice Court to charges of felony distribution of dangerous drugs and sexual abuse of children. Authorities have not yet filed an affidavit explaining the ground for the case in district court.

“The investigation is ongoing through the county attorney’s office,” Superintendent Andy Holmlund said. “The school has done our work unless we uncover new information.”

Holmlund said the five students referred to the board were the only ones disciplined that required board-level action. Another undisclosed number of students were disciplined by administration, per school policy.

Parents and community members grumbled about the eight-hour long school board meeting in which the decisions were made. The meeting began at 6 p.m. and didn’t end until well past midnight. One parent pondered how equal justice could be served for the students, when some got to encounter the board at the beginning of the meeting, while others got to plead their case before a panel that was likely exhausted and worn out. Throughout the evening, the more than 100 community members stationed in the hallway had conversations about how best to handle teen drug use and sexting.

Attendees of the meeting were told that they could not comment during the public comment section of the gathering because the expulsions were on the agenda; however, the expulsion hearings were heard in closed session, to protect the identities of the students.

Administrators pulled several character witnesses into the hearings from the hallway throughout the night before the board made their decisions.\