Calling him a "fine young man," a number of parents, including a longtime Eden teacher, asked the Eden School Board on Thursday to return to class an Eden High School student cleared of charges that he plotted an attack on his school.
Jake Crabtree, 16, was cleared by an Erie County grand jury in June of criminal responsibility in the case.
He has been suspended since March from attending class.
Two other Eden sophomores, Travis G. Schmitt and Randy J. Williams, were indicted by the same jury and face felony charges.
Stacy Callinan, who presented the petition to the School Board, said she has known and worked with Jake through her church and the senior high youth group. The petition bears 274 signatures, including those of teachers, students, clergy and town officials.
"These signatures represent a notable faction of students, parents, concerned citizens, educators and administrators," she said. "Please find it in your wisdom to show our community, students and one fine young man, Jake Crabtree, democracy in action. Return Jake Crabtree to his school."
"From the beginning of Jake's dilemma, I have not experienced a moment of doubt about Jake's innocence," she said. "If you allow Jake to slip through your hands, you will lose a valuable human being. You will not regret a decision to return Jake to his school."
School Superintendent Bob Zimmerman said the board could not comment on the case because it is a student discipline issue.
"The School Board cannot respond," he said. "It's in the middle of the process."
Sheila Harris, a popular Eden elementary teacher, said she has known and taught many fine students and "Jake is one of the finest. "He is too fine a young man to throw away."
Terri Bradt, who said she is a neighbor of the Crabtree family, said Jake has "no hidden agenda, no ax to grind."
"Jake is a mature, responsible role model," she said. "The Erie County grand jury dropped criminal charges. Why is this school district still treating him like a criminal?"
Callinan said the disciplinary process should have been taken care of over the summer.
"There's a large group of us that aren't going to let this rest if Jake isn't back in school," she said.
In other business, the board:
Increased the 2001-02 budget by $1,500, to $18,272,403, to account for increased revenue.
Awarded a $20,201 contract for a new truck to Emmerling Ford.
Created a part-time laborer position.
Announced the Eden All Sports Booster Club will hold a candlelight vigil in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on New York City and Washington, D.C., beginning at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Junior-Senior High School football field.