It’s not unusual for Nathan Eddleman to work with his father, Paul, a maintenance supervisor for an Akron-based rental company.
It is, however, unusual for Nathan, a 15-year-old Ellet High School student, to be working on a school day.
That’s where Nathan has been since Thursday, when school administrators suspended him and four other students who they say drank rum from a 1-liter bottle of Dr Pepper during lunch.
Paul Eddleman is furious — and not at his son for the 10-day punishment. He says school officials lack proof, are using hearsay evidence and are ignoring a blood-alcohol test that might exonerate Nathan.
“So you’re going to suspend my son on what someone said and what you smelled?” Paul Eddleman said Monday, after missing about a day and half of work to “prove [Nathan’s] innocence.”
“They coerced these kids into a myth because one person said there was alcohol,” he said.
Ellet administrators have refused to comment. Principal Michelle Marquess-Kearns said she would return a phone call Monday afternoon, but did not. Her secretary referred all questions Tuesday to district spokesman Mark Williamson, who acknowledged that Dan Rambler, director of Student Services, would field questions.
Rambler said Monday, prior to Nathan’s appeal hearing at 9 a.m. Tuesday, that he would “encourage people to appeal” any disciplinary action that they feel is inappropriate, though he added that most parents do not appeal. And though he could not talk about the events that led to Nathan’s suspension or the appeal hearing that followed, he suggested that if the evidence was limited to one student accusing another, then the father should appeal.
“I would want more evidence than that,” Rambler said. He added that the largest evidence in a case like this would be the suspected bottle of alcohol.
Rambler said the “question goes back to what is in it.”
Reviewing the evidence
The appeal process, he said, looks at due process, possible code violations and determines if there is a “preponderance of evidence” against the student. Rambler said the district’s hearing officers are objective.
Paul Eddleman, however, contends that his son’s hearing officer did not acknowledge the blood test and refused to test the Dr Pepper bottle.
The Eddlemans expect a final determination in one or two days. By then, five students will have missed a combined 25 days of instruction and suffered blemishes on their permanent records.
“The whole school already knows exactly what happened,” Nathan Eddleman said of the situation, which he called “embarrassing.”
When Jeannie Yost, an assistant principal at Ellet, told Nathan that another student had witnessed him and four friends drinking rum, he said his thoughts jumped to the juvenile justice center. Embarrassment swirled through his head, and all the good things he had done began to fade away.
“Nothing else mattered,” he recalled thinking at the time.
Nathan said he had prided himself on good attendance.
“I wanted to have a record of that ... so that I would get a better job,” he said.
After failing several classes on his last report card, he also was proud of making gains in his grades, a requirement his father made for his son to attend his first school dance.
“I’ve already missed it,” said Nathan, who had planned to take his girlfriend to last Saturday’s event.
He had worked with his father over the past few weeks to raise $135 for two tickets, dinner and some nice clothes. His father was ready to take him to buy those clothes when Yost called with the news.
“I was flabbergasted,” said Paul Eddleman, who says he firmly believes his son does not drink.
Eddleman works about 50 to 60 hours a week and is on call 365 days a year. His older son, who graduated from Ellet last year, also works with him at Merryweather Real Estate, which manages rental properties in the area.
Since he received the school’s phone call Thursday, Paul Eddleman has missed about two days of work, including Tuesday morning, when he took his son to appeal the suspension. He also said he faces a bill of hundreds of dollars for the blood test, which he said the district ignored during the appeal.
Eddleman said he picked up his son Thursday at Ellet at 1:50 p.m. and had the blood test administered at Akron Children’s Hospital by about 3 p.m. The hospital printed, time stamped and shipped those results to the Eddlemans’ pediatrician at 4:31 p.m.
The results, which stated should be used for medical and not legal purposes, reads “None Detected” next to “Alcohol.” Nathan says he drank three foam cups of Dr Pepper from the one-liter bottle that he and his friends shared. He is adamant there was no alcohol present.
Eddleman said he was told that he was not allowed to videotape the appeal, which was closed to the public. And much of the information surrounding the hearing and the Thursday incident is not being divulged because of student privacy laws, although the father had planned to share a recording with the Beacon Journal.
Rambler on Tuesday said he will talk to the hearing officer and Paul Eddleman and review what happened at the meeting. He said the district tapes such proceedings.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or email@example.com.