Reiters file complaint against school district

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 04/01/97.

Charles Reiter, Paynesville, filed a civil complaint on behalf of his son, Jeremy, on March 5 in Stearns County District Court. The complaint was against the Paynesville Area School District, William Virant, athletic director, and John Janotta, high school principal. Jeremy was declared ineligible from athletic competition for a two-week period starting Feb. 14 for underage consumption of alcohol.

After school on Feb. 13, several incriminating pictures from a New Yearís Eve party were given to the school administration. On Feb. 14 at the start of the school day, the Paynesville school administration started questioning 28 students about a New Yearís Eve party. Eighteen students were declared ineligible for participation in high school league activities following the questioning.

Charles Reiter claims his son had not consumed alcohol and his suspension from the wrestling team was contrary to Paynesville Area High School and Minnesota State High School League rules.

The civil court complaint states Jeremy faced irreparable injury because of the suspension as he was ineligible to wrestle in region team competition and individual competition at the state high school wrestling tournament.

The complaint goes on to say Jeremy is seeking various athletic scholarships and feels he is unlikely to be considered for a valuable scholarship because he wasnít able to wrestle in the state tourney.

The complaint alleges Janotta and Virant deprived him of his rights and privileges, and abused him in mind and body. Jeremy was being questioned about a New Yearís Eve party he attended. Following the questioning, he was kept in the wrestling room.

In a Feb. 26 Paynesville Press article, Janotta stated ďto make sure the stories from the first student to the last didnít change, the students were not allowed to return to their classrooms or talk to each other.Ē

The Reiters and many other parents involved felt they should have been called when their students were questioned. In an earlier article, Janotta stated the administration started calling parents when they were through questioning the students. They did not want to notify them until they knew themselves (the administration) the entire story. All the parents were called at one point or another during the weekend of Feb. 14-16.

Charles Reiter says he never received a phone call from the school. The only phone call he received was from his son telling of his questioning and suspension.

ďThey keep telling parents to be involved in their childrenís lives. But then they donít call us when they do have a problem,Ē Charles Reiter said. ďThe administration should have called the parents Thursday night (Feb. 13) as soon as they found out about the incident.

ďThe incident came up so conveniently,Ē he added. Activities taking place during the period of the students ineligibility were: Sweet Fest coronation, wrestling tournament, basketball playoffs, danceline contest and for some, baseball.

The complaint states the school district has negligently trained, supervised and instructed school officials in legal and humane treatment of students; it failed to discipline, reassign or terminate known abusers of students despite evidence of a pattern of abuse of such students and it has encouraged, by action and inaction, an atmosphere of lawlessness among certain of the school officials.

The Reiters are seeking in excess of $50,000 together with costs, disburse-ments, and attorneyís fees. They are also asking that a program be established to re-educate, discipline and, if necessary, terminate officials who harass the students.

The school districtís attorney Kevin Rupp of Ratwik, Roszak and Maloney, Minneapolis, feels there is no basis to the complaint and are exploring a motion to have the charges dismissed.

Charles Reiter had filed for a temporary restraining order on Feb. 19 prior to the state wrestling tournament. That restraining order asked that Jeremy be eligible to wrestle as an individual at the region and state tournament. The order was denied by a Stearns County District Court judge on Feb. 20.

Charles Reiter and his attorney John Mack, New London, have been circulating a petition around Paynesville asking for the removal of Janotta and Virant from their positions at school. ďWeíll circulate the petition until we get enough names,Ē Reiter added.

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