School district officials taken to task

Local News

The aftermath of four Blue Earth Area football players charged in the alleged assault of a teammate at a house party last October in Winnebago continues.

At Monday’s meeting, School Board members sat and listened as some residents accused district officials of being unfair and too tough for taking disciplinary action for an incident that didn’t occur at school.

Others spoke of how the spirit of Buc Pride has been broken and its impact on the communities within the district.

In November, Wyatt Tungland, Blake Barnett and Caden Ochsendorf appeared in Faribault County District Court to face third-degree assault and aiding and abetting charges. Dalton Nagel was charged with aiding and abetting.

School officials later imposed a 10-day suspension for each boy, made them ineligible to play or practice in sports or be involved in leadership roles at school.

Naomi Ochsendorf sobbed as she addressed board members and spoke on the impact the incident has had on their family.

Ochsendorf says her son was given certain expectations he would have to meet if he wanted to return to school.

The district’s conditions for re-admission, says Ochsendorf, “would put a target on his back.”

So, she and her husband decided to transfer him and his younger brother to the Maple River School District.

“All it would take is a teacher or student to make an allegation that he participated in any of the outlined expectations,” she says. “We felt the risk of being expelled was too great for him to continue in the school system.”

Ochsendorf’s son was to not be involved in any kind of violence, retaliation or conduct that would endanger students or the rights of others.

Renee Nagel says district officials have acted as judge and jury for an incident not related to school.

She says her son was a member of the student council, president of FAA and a captain of the wrestling team before becoming ineligible.

“These boys have not been proven guilty of anything in a court of law,” she says. “Why are they being proved guilty at school?”

Shawn Ehrich, a 1991 BEA grad, says penalties imposed by the district are excessive and not based on facts, only allegations.

Ehrich says the four teens have paid the price by spending three days in jail, being suspended from school for 10 days and having their names and faces all over the media.

“We are here to support one another, so lets make a change now and bring back our boys. They’ve served more than enough time, let’s make this right and fair at once,” he says.

Former school principal and Blue Earth City Council member John Huisman says two weeks after speaking at a previous board meeting about bullying, a board member confronted him.

Huisman says he has heard of two other instances in which community members have been discouraged not to speak at board meetings.

“I just think that as board members and administration you need to be encouraging citizens to come forward and speak, not discouraging them,” he says.

John Schavey called on school administrators to rescind any punishment being taken against the four teens.

“How do I support a district who has already made these boys guilty before a court decision is made?” he asked the board. “The administration needs to think about defending the innocent and clearing their name.”

Board members went into separate closed-sessions with the Nagel family and Naomi Ochsendorf that last more than one hour with the districts attorney Michelle Kenney.

Kenney says because the issue pertains to “private educational data,” what was discussed cannot be made public.

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