Alyssa Drescher said it was an honest mistake, the pocketknife in her locker. She'd been using it to cut hay bales at her boyfriend's a few days earlier, she said, and just forgot to take it out of her purse before heading to class at United South Central.
At a hearing Thursday evening, the school board decided to expel the 17-year-old junior from the southern Minnesota school.
The Austin Daily Herald reports Drescher's punishment lasts through the end of the school year; she had been facing an expulsion of 12 months. The decision was unanimous, the Daily Herald says, and came after a 3 1/2-hour hearing without any additional insight into their verdict.
Superintendent Jerry Jensen testified at the meeting, the paper reports, saying he believed Drescher willfully violated the zero tolerance weapons policy the school has, and the safety of every student at the Wells, Minnesota school was compromised.
Some of the junior's teachers were brought in to testify, describing the young Drescher as a model student, KAAL TV reports.
Drescher also spoke herself, KEYC reports.
"Everyone says that your senior year is the best and now I'm terrified I'm going to miss out on mine," she said, according to the station. "And especially being able to get into a good college and have a bright future ahead of me."
Drescher was in tears outside the classroom after the decision was announced, the Daily Herald says, and her father, Rick Drescher, declined comment.
The Drescher family plans to fight the ruling, KAAL reports. The family's lawyer tells the station "the punishment does not fit the alleged crime."
On Tuesday, April 15, Drescher’s locker was searched during a random schoolwide police drug search, the Albert Lea Tribune reported. No drugs were found, but a small pocketknife at the bottom of her purse was. Drescher had forgotten it there, her father Rick Drescher told the paper, after having used it to cut hay bales.
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 Wells Police Chief told the Albert Lea Tribune the K-9 dogs indeed did not find any drugs.
First she was suspended. Within days it had escalated to a possible 12-month expulsion.
“This is wrong,” Rick told the Tribune at the time. “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 family sought to rally the community in support of Alyssa, and created the Facebook page We Support Alyssa Dee. It was made on Thursday, April 24 – by the time of the hearing it had about 1,300 likes. That's more than half the population of the town of Wells (about 2,300 residents).
They also organized a protest Monday morning before school. The Albert Lea Tribune said about 50 people showed up.