More than two dozen protesters peacefully marched outside Culpeper County Public School’s Central Office Wednesday afternoon. They sported signs that read “Educate Don’t Eliminate” and “Students Have Rights Too.” They gathered in support of 12 Culpeper County High School students allegedly suspended for 364 days for misconduct.
According to group spokesperson Traci Johnson, the 12 students – three members of the varsity baseball team and nine members of varsity football – were suspended for “alleged horseplay and inappropriateness in the locker room.”
“It’s been admitted by the administration that it’s a cultural issue for the past several years,” Johnson said. “Accusations against these kids were from two seasons ago and they have just been brought to light this year.”
According to Johnson, the student-athletes received a 10-day suspension from CCHS and then were suspended for 364 days by the administration.
“We feel this is unacceptable and they should be educated rather than be sent out of school for 364 days,” Johnson said.
In a press release issued by the school district earlier this month, the school division said that CCHS administration was made “aware of allegations of misconduct involving some of its student-athletes. Thereafter, school administration initiated an investigation, which continues, into the alleged conduct and that investigation has resulted in the initiation of disciplinary action against 12 student-athletes.
“Because student disciplinary proceedings are pending, and to safeguard student privacy, the division cannot and will not comment more specifically about those disciplinary actions or the nature of the alleged conduct,” the release said. “As is its practice, Administration is in the process of reviewing its existing policies and procedures to determine if any changes should be considered regarding the administration of school athletic programs.”
The school division had no comment on Wednesday’s protest.
Reportedly the misconduct included roughhousing in the locker room.
Johnson, whose sons are friends with students who were suspended, said that her sons have been upset and affected by what has happened.
Johnson admitted that the group doesn’t know all the facts, so she admitted there may be instances where the 364 day suspension was warranted, but she “just doesn’t see that.”
“You can’t just throw the book at them,” she said. “If there was inappropriateness there needs to be counseling.”
Johnson also pointed out that to her knowledge, no criminal charges were filed.
According to the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office there was no formal investigation and no charges were filed. The CCSO reached out to all families involved and none elected to press charges.
Johnson admitted the situation was difficult as the group didn’t want to cause the students involved more harm, but felt it was important to the do the right thing and bring awareness to the situation.
In the end, the group would like to see the school division reverse its decision.
“I don’t think these boys did anything that warranted the punishment they are getting,” Johnson said.
Johnson confirmed that one student athlete in particular lost a scholarship to Cornell University and others were unable to graduate because of the suspension.
Others that were suspended are looking to move out of state to continue their education because of the incident.
Johnson said the families that are able to have retained an attorney but said she was unaware of what legal action may be taken.
“I know they want to meet with the school board and the administration, with their attorneys and have an open dialog,” Johnson said.
Those meetings have not been held yet and Johnson was unaware if and when they would take place.
Nonetheless, the punishment handed down is too severe the group believes.
“They should be punished for what they did commit, but children make mistakes and they should be given an opportunity to learn from that mistake,” Johnson said.