SURING (NBC 26) — The Superintendent of the Suring School District has been charged with six counts of false imprisonment in connection to an incident where students were searched.
The students' parents said their children were strip-searched. The Oconto County District Attorney, Edward D. Burke, Jr., initially declined to file charges in the case, saying the searching of students didn't meet the state law's standards for strip-searching.
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According to a statement released Monday from Burke's office, the State then conducted a thorough review of the relevant State Statutes and Administrative Code provisions relating to the ability of a school employee to confine a student.
The statement says that Superintendent Kelly Casper lacked legal authority to confine the students in a small restroom located off the nurse's office located in the Suring School Public School complex.
"The facts and surrounding circumstances leads the State to conclude that the children involved did not consent to being confined," according to the statement.
Burke's office says false imprisonment, a Class H Felony, is the appropriate charge for this case. The maximum potential penalties for a Class H Felony are 6 years confinement a $10,000.00 fine, or both, according to the state.
The State has filed one count for each child involved in the incident for a total of six counts.
Oconto County District Attorney Edward Burke announced a correction. He says the charges are actually Class H felonies.— Ben Bokun (@ben_bokun) February 28, 2022
"There is no dispute from any party that the children involved were directed to enter the small room at the direction of Casper. Casper also directed the school nurse to accompany them to the room," the statement said. "Casper then directed the children to remove their clothing once in the room. Casper stood in the doorway while the children were in the room. Once the children removed their clothing, any opportunity they had to escape would have subjected them to further shame and embarrassment."
The statement from Burke's office continues: "None of the children involved were given the opportunity to leave. The only choice they were given was to have the search conducted by a police officer or Casper. None of the children were given the opportunity to contact their parents prior to being confined in the bathroom."
Whether Casper knew that the students did not consent and knew she did not have the lawful authority to detain the six children are questions that are best left for a jury to answer based upon the evidence presented at trial, according to the statement.
Burke's office didn't provide further comment, saying it's now a pending criminal matter.
According to the criminal complaint released by the Oconto Co. Sheriff's Office, "further as the Administrator for the Suring School District, [Casper] knew she did not have the authority to confine the victims."
This development comes over a month after Raelene Helminger's daughter was searched down to her undergarments for vaping materials.
"I think it's great," the mother said. "We're ecstatic that something finally happened. It wasn't necessarily what we were hoping for, but it's a step in the right direction."
NBC 26 reached out to the superintendent and school board president, but did not receive comment.
"I think that she caused a lot of damage by doing what she has done," concerned parent Leslie Fisher said.
A school board meeting is scheduled for March 2.