Hartford School Board hosts multiple discipline hearings, suspends 6 students for roles in marijuana brownies incident
By Jon Bisnett
At a special meeting held Tuesday, October 9, the Hartford School Board held a 4-hour marathon session of seven back-to-back expulsion hearings stemming from an incident involving alleged marijuana-laced brownies distributed by and among high school students. Acting on an anonymous tip relayed to school officials via the Michigan OK2SAY tip hotline during the prior week of Homecoming, school administrators followed policy to begin an internal investigation that ultimately led to eight students receiving 10-day suspensions with recommendation for expulsion pending a hearing before the board. Local police were called in to further investigate the matter since a controlled substance was allegedly involved.
A social media firestorm followed the news story from CBS local affiliate WWMT, Kalamazoo, who initially broke the story. Their video interview with Hartford Police Officer Mike Prince added fuel to the fire as Prince stated elements of his investigation led him to believe a cheerleader brought the brownies to trade for homecoming queen votes. Social media feeds for hundreds of national news services lit up like wildfire from coast to coast, including tongue in cheek stories that flooded the following day on such notable sources as CNN, People, USA Today, Washington Post, High Times Magazine and literally hundreds of wire services extending as far as both the UK and Canada; not to mention a dubious spot in CBS late night host James Corden’s opening monologue had big fun with the tale of “Michigan cheerleader”.
After all the chuckles over “pot” jokes and a load of bad puns played out nationally, for the students involved it all came down to a much less humorous appearance before untypically somber school board members that could have a profound effect on the remainder of their high school career.
What follows are the anonymous student discipline decisions handed down by the board:
(Issues of privacy of student records are protected under Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, FERPA. Under FERPA the TCR cannot and will not report any names, only the final discipline determinations designated as Student #1, #2 and so on.)
Student # 1 Possessed a controlled substance – Suspended for the balance of 1st Semester (Jan)
Student # 2 Possessed a controlled substance – Suspended for the balance of 1st Semester (Jan)
Student # 3 Possessed a controlled substance – Suspended for the balance of 1st Semester (Jan)
Student # 4 Possessed a controlled substance – Suspended for the balance of 1st Marking Period (Nov)
Student # 5 Possessed a controlled substance – Suspended for the balance of 1st Marking Period (Nov)
Student # 6 Possessed a controlled substance – Suspended for 10 days (including time served)
Student # 7 No Violation of Code of Conduct found – May return to school immediately; permanent student record shall be cleared
Information gathered from the online Hartford High School Student Handbook clearly states that “look-a-like” drugs are treated the same as an actual illegal substance. As a result, the board’s findings placed no emphasis on the results from samples currently in the hands of the Michigan State Police Crime Lab. Those test results may be another matter altogether if the Hartford Police should recommend any criminal charges to the Van Buren County Prosecutors Office. Then the Drug Free School Zone also comes into play which can effective triple the penalty. HPD says their investigation is not complete at this time.
Michigan’s Drug-Free Zone Laws
Under Michigan’s Public Health Code 333.7410(2), anyone 18 years or older who delivers a Schedule I or II controlled substance or other narcotic drug to another person on or within 1,000 feet of school property or a library shall be punished by a term of prison for at least two years or up to three times the original prison sentence under the law as well as a fine of not more than three times the original fine.
Under Section 7410(3), any person 18 years or older who possesses a Schedule I or II drug or other narcotics with the intent to deliver to another person on or within 1,000 feet of school property or library will be imprisoned between two years or two times the original sentence and fined up to three times the original fine for the offense.
Student options after expulsion/suspension
Hartford Public Schools policy bans the student from any school property for 180 days following an expulsion. Since Adult/Alternative Education classes are held on campus they are NOT an option. They may seek online services to complete their diploma or seek out one of the few Michigan schools that have a specific program designed to accept expelled students. Most all public and private schools will not accept an expelled student into their mainstream student body classes.
Long term suspensions have a different set of rules. School officials will work with the student to remain current on their studies during the suspension, still banned from the property, with the hope to return to regular classes at the end of the time period allocated in the board decision.
Upon adjournment Board President Chambers made no formal comment other than to thank administrators and board trustees for putting in the extended hours, while Superintendent Hubbard maintains his original statement made days ago saying, “All individuals are being dealt with according to our district policies and student handbooks.”
The eighth and final student hearing will take place next week as one student’s family requested and received an extension for cause until Wednesday, October 17.
LOCAL VETERAN TREATED WITH HONOR… Don Hafer, formerly of Coloma, is pictured here with daughter Diane Schaus and Congressman Fred Upton. On Friday, Sept. 14 Hafer and his daughter started on a Flight of Honor put on by Talons Out Michigan. Their evening began with a meal enjoyed by over 80 veterans and their guardians at the Kalamazoo Air Museum. At 5 a.m. the next morning they flew out of Kalamazoo bound for Washington, D.C. and a bus tour of all the War Memorials. There was a medical team accompanying the group who took great care of all the veterans from WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam. Their flight home landed at 8:30 Saturday night and they were told there was one more surprise… families and friends were waiting at the Air Zoo to welcome them back with signs, handshakes, and hugs. They were so surprised! One of the groups waiting for them was the Benton Harbor Boys and Girls Club who had made pages for the veteran’s memory books, and lots of signs. The veterans and their families appreciated the time and trouble the children took to bring such joys to them. Please go to: Talons Out Flight of Honor website/ Facebook page for more pictures and info about signing up yourself or a veteran.
Expensive drain work approved in Bainbridge
By Angela Stair The Bainbridge Township Board of Trustees held their monthly meeting on Monday, October 8 at the Township Hall. The Board had held a workshop meeting earlier at 1:30 p.m. to discuss the Dakin & Peters Drain District and the work to be done with the Drain Commissioner and residents of the drain district. The Bainbridge Board has been wrestling with signing the petition to go ahead with the work for several months. At last month’s meeting they decided to table the petition until they could get some answers to questions they and the property owners have been trying to get from the Drain Commissioner. At the earlier meeting, the Drain Commissioner gave a review and scope of the Dakin & Peters Drain District project, cost estimation for the work, information on the number of residents on the assessment roll and legal updates related to the project. The biggest problem the Township Board had with the project was the expense and did not want to saddle the residents with paying so much for a long period of time to get it paid off. Supervisor Bill Hodge stated that the project will be $430,000 and may go as high as $600,000. The Commissioner answered questions asked by the residents and after much discussion five residents stepped forward and signed the petition to do the project, relieving the Township Board of having to make the commitment for them. At the regular Board meeting, Supervisor Hodge stated that now the petition goes to the Board of Determination to look over the details of the project and make sure everything listed has to be done. Then the project will get under-way. Improvements for lighting Supervisor Hodge brought before the Board a suggestion to improve the lighting in the Township Hall, and extend the lighting for the sidewalk and handicap access. The cost would be approximately $2,980 to upgrade the old section’s meeting hall and the back meeting room and $3,500 to upgrade the new section and add the three fixtures outside that would turn on dusk to dawn for the sidewalk and handicap access. The Michigan Township Participating Plan Risk Reduction Grant Program that was used for the installation of cameras, burglar alarms, etc. earlier this year would probably help with the additional lighting for the sidewalk and handicap access Supervisor Hodge said. After some discussion the Board approved the Supervisor applying for the grant and they would proceed from there, because the outside lighting will have to be done regardless whether they get the grant or not.
Other business In other business, the Board approved the payment of bills in the amount of $11,310.33, payroll in the amount of $8,210.61 and payroll taxes in the amount of $2,630.20 for a total of $22,151.14. A resident spoke with the Board about logging that was going on in his neighborhood on Miller Road. It was out-of-state loggers and he said they were making a mess of the road and had driven over and crushed the culvert the county had just put in. Supervisor Hodge assured the man they had not known about it and he would be out first thing on Tuesday morning to check out the situation and make sure any damage the loggers have done will be corrected.
Watervliet City working toward Redevelopment Ready Certification
By Annette Christie
At the Watervliet City Commission meeting held on October 9, 2018, they were provided an update on the efforts being made for the city to receive its Redevelopment Ready Community (RRC) certification. Project leader and volunteer Mallory Brown provided the update of her work along with City Manager R. Tyler Dotson.
The Redevelopment Ready Communities program is available to communities across the state. It’s a voluntary, no-cost certification program designed to promote effective redevelopment strategies through a set of best practices.
The program measures and then certifies communities that integrate transparency, predictability and efficiency into their daily development practices. The RRC certification is a formal recognition that says the community has a vision for the future—and the fundamental practices in place to get there.
Brown told the Commission that her work on this project was a lot of what she did before she retired. She provided a summary of what is needed for the certification, including some specifics that will need to be tracked to provide the data needed. She said that some ordinance revisions will need to be made noting that the keys of the program were on landscaping non-motorized transportation, efforts to increase citizens who work and live downtown, and the expectations for Commission members, Planning Commission, and Parks Commission.
“There are a number of processes and procedures that must be in place, some we have done parts of, some you are doing but not officially,” Brown said.
Brown spoke of capital improvement planning, annual reporting, public participation, and the city’s website. She estimated that they are 80% of the way towards the certification. Dotson added that it was more than just the certification, “It’s the processes, the ordinances, all to help with development to assure that we are planning the community in the 21st century where people want to work, play and live.”
Shared service and ordinance enforcement agreements
The City Commission re-affirmed the shared service and ordinance enforcement agreements with Watervliet Charter Township. The previous agreements were practical and sufficient to both entities with the exception of a few minor items. The re-affirmed agreements saw no changes in the scope of service or cost, were updated to reflect current dates, payment/fee structures, and had a few areas where the verbiage needed to be updated. The city pays the township $2,000 a month for the shared service agreement and ordinance enforcement services to include: Electrical, plumbing, mechanical, building and rental inspection and permit services; administration of building inspections, rental inspections, zoning administration and ordinance enforcement.
PARK GRAND OPENING… A collection of some of the key movers and shakers to get the Paw Paw River County Park created and opened were on hand for the ribbon cutting held on Thursday, October 4, 2018 at the new site across the river from Hays Park in Watervliet. From the left: Berrien County Parks Director Brian Bailey, Erin Campbell with the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, Board Vice-Chairperson and District 4 Commissioner Mamie Yarbrough, Parks and Recreation Commission Chairperson Richard Schinkel, and Board of Commissioners Chairperson Jon Hinkelman. Berrien County received a $296,000 Trust Fund Grant as well as local donated funds of $25,000 to get the project up and running. The park includes a bridge to the island, a couple island lookouts with benches, and an ADA kayak launch. (Photo by Jill Adams, Berrien County Parks)
Police Chief Tim Sutherland submitted a request to purchase two portable radios and one mobile radio. The two portable radios will replace broken and outdated equipment. The mobile radio will be used in the new vehicle. The City Commission approved the request in the amount of $5,297.25.
With the city being required to carry Worker’s Compensation and Employee’s Liability Insurance, the City Commission approved that coverage from Accident Fund. The payments are submitted quarterly for a total of $19,095. The vendor, Accident Fund, has been providing the service to the city for a very long time.
The City Commission approved asking for a Declaratory Ruling on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) lead and copper rules.
On June 14, 2018, the MDEQ filed the MDEQ Lead and Copper Rules with the Secretary of State. On August 13, 2018, the Great Lakes Water Authority, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and the Oakland County Water Resource Commission (“petitioner’s”) timely filed their Request for Declaratory Ruling and challenged the Lead and Copper Rules, asserting that the rules exceed the scope of the MDEQ’s authority. By also asking for the Declaratory Ruling, the City of Watervliet concurs with the petitioner’s request.
Dotson explained that it was wise to get ahead of it and find out where the MDEQ’s strength is. While the city is considering a lead line change out of 5% of the lead lines over the next 20 years, if that plan is going to need to be changed due to the MDEQ rules, it is better to know now. Mayor Dave Brinker stated he thinks this will mostly be in the older infrastructure in the city. “Fifty percent is what may need to be addressed overall,” Brinker said.
Upcoming important dates
This Friday, October 12, 2018 at 3:00 p.m., the new clock will be dedicated in Library Park.
The Committee of the Whole meeting will be held on Tuesday, October 23 at 6:30 p.m. Currently the Stormwater, Asset Management, and Wastewater (SAW) Asset Plan is on the agenda in addition to redevelopment properties located in the city.
Trick-or-Treating will occur on October 31, in the downtown from 3-5 p.m. and from 5:00 – 7:30 p.m. in the neighborhoods located in the city.
The City will run a non-toxic smoke test on its lines on October 18 and 19. The non-toxic smoke test will help locate and correct leaks, capacity of the water treatment facility.
By resolution the City declared that November is Hospice and Palliative Care Month. Terri Dotson of Hospice at Home said that the organization has been serving our area for over 30 years. She said they are with the family until the loss of their loved one and then provide grief support following the death of their loved ones. Commissioner Rick Kinzler said personally went through their services with Hospice at Home and they were wonderful with his father a few years ago.
The Clerk reminded those in attendance that the election will be held Tuesday, November 6, 2018. Two candidates for City Commission announced their candidacy: Jennifer Helms and Michael Bumstead are both running for City Commission. They will face Rick Kinzler, Deah Muth, or Larry Hehl. There are only three positions open.
The Hometown Christmas event will be held Saturday, December 1 and Sunday, December 2. Event details will come out as made available.