The superintendent of a Wisconsin school district has been placed on paid administrative leave after she was accused of illegally confining six students in a bathroom to search them for vaping devices.
Suring Public Schools superintendent Kelly Casper was charged with false imprisonment after the students said she asked them to take off some of their clothes in a high school bathroom in searches for vaping devices on Jan. 17 and 18.
District Attorney Edward Burke Jr. said Superintendent Kelly Casper directed the children into a small bathroom off the nurse’s office. Burke said Casper told the children to remove their clothing, and she stood in the doorway.
“Once the children removed their clothing, any opportunity they had to escape would have subjected them to further shame and embarrassment,” Burke wrote in a news release announcing the charges Monday.
Burke previously declined to press charges, claiming that because the students were in their underwear, the search did not fit the legal definition of a “strip search.” He stated that the sheriff’s office inquiry focused on the students’ search rather than their incarceration.
Burke said the false imprisonment charges came after researching state statutes and administrative codes regarding how school employees can confine students.
At a school board meeting Wednesday night in Suring that was attended by dozens of parents, students, and others, many spoke in favor of removing Casper from her job as the district’s top administrator.
Jamie Barke, of Hobart, told the board that more students will be left unprotected if it didn’t take any action. Her comments were met with a standing ovation from several in the bleachers.
“You all have allowed a predator in your school system and now we say enough is enough,” Barke said. “I say predator because she has done this before.”
Casper, 51, claimed the searches were her first at Suring, but she had previously searched pupils around 20 times at her previous workplace, the Coleman School District.
According to the criminal complaint, false imprisonment is a felony. The superintendent faces up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine on each count if convicted.
“I feel a lot of relief that something is being done, so we’re not setting an example in our little village of Suring for schools across the state of Wisconsin to be able to allow these type of things to happen to our students,” said Nicole, who declined to give her last name since her daughter is a victim.
Jeff Olson, a Madison-based civil rights lawyer hired by some of the parents, claimed the students’ Fourth Amendment rights were violated.
“One of these students had given them their e-cigarette. They still went through with strip searches down to their underwear and bra,” Olson said. “I think that’s bound to be a highly traumatic experience for young teenage girls.”
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