OCONTO — Suring Superintendent Kelly Casper made her first appearance Wednesday morning on six counts of false imprisonment related to the Jan. 18 strip searches of students for vaping devices or cartridges.
Casper, who was placed on paid administrative leave on March 2 after a special Suring School Board meeting, was surrounded in court by more than 40 people who attended the hearing on her behalf.
Several of the students who were searched and their parents were also present.
District Attorney Edward Burke asked Judge Michael T. Judge to establish a $5,000 signing bond for Casper, 51, of Coleman, and that she has no contact with the students or their parents. Burke added that a parent had asked that she not be allowed on school property, but said he would not ask because that limitation would be up to the school board.
Defense attorney Nicholson Ganser said a signature bond would be appropriate because Casper has strong ties to the community. He noted that she had lived with her family in the same house for 21 years and had been an educator in area schools for 27 years, including eight years as Superintendent of Suring.
Ganser also said that because Casper had been suspended, she would not be in school unless called by the board.
Victim Witness Coordinator Rachel Race read a statement from a student, who wrote that she thought Casper should be out of school because of ‘what she did to hurt me. uncomfortable” and made her PTSD worse.
“I’m scared to go to the bathroom without them thinking I’m going to do something wrong,” the student wrote.
Raelene Helminger, a parent of one of the students who was searched, told the judge that “I just hope you find the courage in your heart to do the right thing and keep it away from these children until until things are over.”
The judge, who ordered the signing bond and conditions, also set April 28 for a hearing on a motion to dismiss the charges filed by Casper’s attorney. Madison’s Corey Chirafisi argues that the criminal complaint does not provide enough facts for a judge to find probable cause for the charges.
The motion claims the students were ‘not genuinely restrained or confined’ to a bathroom adjacent to the nurse’s offices and were taken there so that the searches could be conducted in private. He also noted that the state allows students to be removed from classrooms and confined.
Burke, when announcing the charges, said Casper lacked the legal authority to confine the students. He said the children were not given the opportunity to call their parents before being confined to the toilets and were only given a choice between a search by Casper or a police officer.
In the criminal complaint, the six girls told an investigator from the Oconto County Sheriff’s Office similar stories of how they were taken to a bathroom in the nurse’s office and told to remove their clothes down to their underwear. Two of the girls were allowed to keep their leggings on because they said they weren’t wearing underwear.
Before filing the bogus jail charges on Feb. 28, District Attorney Edward Burke weighed whether charges could be brought against the searches, but ultimately determined that they did not violate state law because the private student areas were not exposed.
One student, however, claimed her breasts were exposed when she lifted her up or pulled her bra away from her body during the search.
The girls were between 14 and 17 at the time.
Searches revealed two vape cartridges. Another student confessed to spraying on her.
Separately, Madison’s attorney Jeff Olson sent a Feb. 15 “notice of occurrence giving rise to a claim” regarding the strip searches of five students to three Suring School District employees and the police chief. of Suring. Such a notice is the first step in seeking damages from a public entity.
Olson apparently only represents four of the girls who were searched — law enforcement documents identified six girls — because the notice submitted to the district only notes what happened to five students, four girls and one boy.
Seemingly in response, the school board on March 9 approved the hiring of Green Bay attorney Abby Tilkens to conduct an investigation to examine the involvement of district employees in the searches.
The district is currently led by former Shawano and Gillett superintendent Todd Carlson, who was appointed acting superintendent by the board on March 9, effective March 21.
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Contact Kent Tempus at (920) 431-8226 or [email protected]