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SUPPORTERS APPEAL BOY'S SUSPENSION

Jake Crabtree should be attending homecoming, having his school picture taken and picking out his class ring, supporters of the 16-year-old Eden High School student told the School Board on Thursday night.

Instead, they said, four months after being cleared by a grand jury of charges he plotted an attack on his school, and seven months after his suspension, Crabtree is still not allowed to return to class.

School Superintendent Bob Zimmerman refused to discuss the case, even in the most general terms, citing student confidentiality.

"The board is not going to comment on student discipline issues," he said.

More than 75 people, including dozens of Eden High School students, were at Thursday's board meeting to show support for Crabtree.

Philip Muck of Eden wanted to know why Crabtree was still not in school.

"Since only two students were indicted by a grand jury and Jake was not one of them, how can the school continue to punish to this degree for an alleged offense?" he asked.

"Is the school conduct code above the law? How many more students are going to be denied their rights due to a possible poor hearing procedure?"

Terri J. Bradt asked the School Board why it wasn't aware of the case.

"It has been seven months since the awful incident at our high school," she said. "We are here again tonight to ask you, our elected officials, why we as a community know more about this case than you do.

"Why are your voices silent?"

Bradt said while she understands that a process needs to be followed, she felt it was seriously flawed if the School Board didn't know what was going on.

"Have you ever said something that you wish you had not said?" she asked. "Was your future destroyed because of it? In Jake's case, his valedictorian prospects may now be traded for a GED."

"This young man was charged with a hometown version of terrorism," said Stacey J. Callinan, who presented a petition to the board for Jake's reinstatement at the last board meeting.

"He has been released because another group of citizens, the grand jury, found he was not a threat and sent the issue to rest. Whatever the facts in this case, it is over. Our justice system says so. So should our school.

"Be reassured anything less than Jake being back in school will prove to those in this room and those who are listening and questioning that the system doesn't always work, authority sometimes can't be trusted, and the only truth is God's truth."

Michael Drumm, an attorney, said because a grand jury hears only one side of a case, "the (district attorney) can indict a ham sandwich."

"For a grand jury not to indict someone, there's not even enough probable cause that they even committed an offense," he said.

Though the board would not comment on the status of the case, parents close to the Crabtrees said a superintendent's meeting to determine punishment has been postponed.

Crabtree's parents can appeal to the School Board eventually, but it hasn't reached the board yet, they said.

Two other Eden students were indicted by the grand jury and face felony charges in the incident.

e-mail: hjones@buffnews.com

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