The court hasn’t ruled whether a student who was expelled in October 2012 will be permanently allowed to return to Butte High, but a hearing Thursday afternoon uncovered arguments from both the district and the student.
At a hearing in Judge Brad Newman’s district court, lawyers for the district and for Kaedon Caprara presented their cases regarding a court-issued writ demanding that Caprara be able to return to the district. The writ of mandamus was issued on Feb. 5 by Newman after Caprara was turned away from Butte High despite an order by county Superintendent Cathy Maloney allowing him back into school.
Caprara was initially expelled after Butte High administrators and police officers discovered marijuana in his car within sight of school, which is a violation of school policy.
Marie Kagie-Shutey, the lawyer for Caprara, argued that the writ of mandamus should be permanently upheld so Caprara could finish his senior year at Butte High.
She told Newman that the district didn’t follow an order to reinstate Caprara as a Butte High student. Instead, the district enrolled him at the Butte High School Career Center, otherwise known as the alternative school.
The district’s lawyer Pat Fleming argued that the hearing on Thursday was strictly meant to address the writ of mandamus, and he pointed out that Kagie-Shutey didn’t file any applications to find the district in contempt of court or to specifically ask for the student to be placed at Butte High School’s main building.
Fleming said that Maloney’s ruling was non-binding because orders regarding people’s constitutional rights can only be given by those with judicial experience, and that the issue shouldn’t be addressed in district court anyway, at least until the appeals process is exhausted. He said the district will appeal Maloney’s order to the state Superintendent of Schools Denise Juneau.
Kagie-Shutey replied that if no action could be taken until the entire appeals process is exhausted, then Caprara’s expulsion shouldn’t have been implemented.
Kriss Caprara took the stand and explained what happened when he attempted to enroll his son at Butte High School after Maloney issued her order. He said the school’s Principal John Metz told him that he had been told the expulsion stood, regardless of Maloney’s order.
That prompted Caprara and his wife to ask the district court to issue the writ of mandate that allowed the student to return to school.
As it is, Kaedon Caprara is eligible to graduate without needing any additional credits. The district gave him the opportunity to take off-campus credits when he was expelled. However, his lawyer said he needs to take an additional language class for college requirements. He could not enroll in a foreign language class at the Butte High Career Center.
Kagie-Shutey has until Tuesday afternoon to rebut Fleming’s argument, and Fleming has until Wednesday afternoon to respond to her rebuttal. After that, Newman will rule as quickly as possible. He acknowledged that time is of the essence, since school days are ticking.
— Reporter Piper Haugan: 496-5572, firstname.lastname@example.org