A southern Minnesota community is putting it support behind a 17-year-old high school student who is facing expulsion for having a pocketknife in her locker.
Alyssa Drescher is a junior at United South Central, a school district in the town of Wells, Minnesota, population 2,300.
On Tuesday, Drescher's locker was searched during a random schoolwide police drug search, the Albert Lea Tribune reports. No drugs were found, but a small pocketknife at the bottom of her purse was. Drescher had forgotten it there, her father Rick Drescher tells the paper, after having used it to cut hay bales at her boyfriend's a few days earlier; she simply forgot to take it out before heading to school.
Her locker was searched because a K-9 dog reacted to perfume coming from within, a Facebook page in support of Drescher says. Rick Drescher tells the Tribune that's what he was told by a police officer there.
The Facebook page describes Alyssa as an honor roll student, who has never even had a detention.
First she was suspended, the paper says. Within days it had escalated to a possible 12-month expulsion.
Now the family is pushing back against the district's zero tolerance policy.
“This is wrong,” Rick tells the Tribune. “It’s an excessive punishment ... Last week at this time, we were making a plan of which colleges we were going to visit, and now we’re sitting here thinking she may not even be able to go to college."
The Facebook page, We Support Alyssa Dee, was created on Thursday. It now has 728 likes, and a peaceful protest is scheduled to be held Monday before school starts.
The Wells Police Chief only told the Albert Lea Tribune the K-9 dogs indeed did not find any drugs. And the paper was unable to reach Wells Superintendent Jerry Jensen for comment.
Drescher's case does not appear to be unique.
Just in Minnesota, a 16-year-old in Willmar, Minnesota was caught at school with a pocketknife after school officials were told he had brought drugs to school, the Star Tribune reported. He willingly turned it over and was expelled for a year, the paper said, plus was charged for felony possession of a dangerous weapon on school grounds. The Minnesota Court of Appeals weighed in, the Star Tribune reported, saying pocketknife possession is not a felony – but upholding it as a reason for expulsion.
In 2013, an eighth-grader at Pequot Lakes Middle School took out a pocketknife to show classmates before school one day, the Brainerd Dispatch reported. The school's weapon policy, the paper said, includes an initial five-day suspension with a possible recommendation to expel the offender for 12 months. The school did not divulge what disciplinary actions were taken, however.
And a 15-year-old student in Winona faced a dangerous weapon charge after police say he had a pocketknife in his pocket on school grounds.
A case in Michigan (an 11-year-old who claimed he accidentally left the knife in his pants after using it with his father the night prior, FOXUP reported) resulted in a year-long expulsion; and in Georgia (a K-9 dog smelled fireworks in a 17-year-old's car on school grounds, and police then found knives he said were used on a fishing trip, FOX 9 reported) felony charges against the student were dropped.
As for Alyssa Drescher, her family-run Facebook page says it was all an honest mistake.
"Everyone makes mistakes and schools such as USC need to care about the actual children and deal with each student individually and not treat all students the same," it says. Schools have somehow forgotten that children of all ages make mistakes and are not perfect."
An expulsion hearing is set for Thursday.