Lorain stu­dent nearly ex­pelled for bring­ing candy to school

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - FRONT PAGE - By Keith Reynolds kreynolds@morn­ingjour­nal.com @MJ_kreynolds on Twit­ter

Au­tumn Ciotti was en­joy­ing lunch Sep. 20 at Southview Mid­dle School in Lorain, when she opened a box of Milk Duds.

Au­tumn, 14, along with her mother, Shan­non Ciotti, pur­chased the box of candy the night be­fore at a Wal-Mart in Avon.

“I ate a cou­ple and they made my stom­ach hurt, and I just don’t like them any­more,” Au­tumn said.

She said she set the box down, and a girl who was sit­ting two seats away, asked if she had any candy.

Au­tumn said she handed over the Milk Duds.

“Then she ate one or two, and said they smell like weed, then she gave some other girls them,” Au­tumn said. “They didn’t like them; they spit them out.”

Au­tumn said she told the girl to throw the box away, but she shared them with a group of boys nearby who had sim­i­lar re­ac­tions which caught the at­ten­tion of school se­cu­rity guard Michael A. John­son.

A dis­ci­pline alert filed Sept. 24, which was pro­vided to The Morn­ing Jour­nal by Shan­non Ciotti, in­di­cated John­son said he con­fis­cated the box and no­ticed the smell of mar­i­juana and that one of the ju­ve­nile males “was walk­ing and talk­ing as if he was un­der the in­flu­ence.”

Two other boys also com­plained of head and stom­ach pain af­ter eat­ing the candy, John­son wrote.

Au­tumn was taken to in­school sus­pen­sion be­fore

she was re­trieved by Melissa Cheers, dean of aca­demics.

The teen was sus­pended from school for 10 days with an ex­pul­sion hear­ing sched­uled for later and a re­fer­ral to The LCADA Way.

Ciotti was called to pick up her daugh­ter from the premises.

Ad­min­is­tra­tors then con­tacted Lorain po­lice.

Of­fi­cer Reuben Figueroa wrote a re­port on the in­ci­dent that he too no­ticed the candy had a “very strong odor of raw mar­i­juana com­ing from it.”

Figueroa placed the candy into ev­i­dence to be sent to the Lorain County Crime Lab for test­ing.

He sug­gested in the re­port that the case be for­warded to the Lorain County Ju­ve­nile Court pend­ing the re­sults of the test.

Ciotti ended up tak­ing her daugh­ter to the doc­tor for drug test­ing.

On Sept. 27, she re­ceived the re­sults which showed no mar­i­juana me­tab­o­lites in her daugh­ter’s sys­tem.

At this point, Ciotti said she was try­ing to learn the

sta­tus of the test­ing on the candy, but was told af­ter sev­eral weeks, that they had not been sent to the lab­o­ra­tory.

Lorain po­lice Lt. Ed Su­per said the Depart­ment doesn’t take items to the lab as soon as they get them, de­pend­ing on the sever­ity of the case.

“If there was a se­ri­ous case or a homi­cide, or some­thing like that, we’d make a spe­cial trip out there,” Su­per said. “It’s not un­usual for a case to be gone for one, or two or three months, de­pend­ing on how backed up the lab is and how long it takes us to get it there to be­gin with.”

Ciotti said she also reached out to The Her­shey Co., which man­u­fac­tures Milk Duds.

In an email from Her­shey’s to Ciotti that she shared with The Morn­ing Jour­nal, the com­pany in­di­cated it or­dered Wal-Mart to pull the re­main­der of the candy from its shelves and tested each box, find­ing no sign of il­licit sub­stances.

Her­shey’s ver­i­fied this com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Ciotti.

In a let­ter dated Oct.

9, Ciotti was in­formed a hear­ing would start at 8:30 a.m. the next day to de­cide whether Au­tumn would be ex­pelled from school for “pos­ses­sion of mar­i­juana; shared with stu­dents,” sent from Arliss Prass, chief of scholar and fam­ily en­gage­ment of­fi­cer for Lorain City Schools.

Prass de­clined to com­ment.

The let­ter ad­vised her that she and Au­tumn had the “op­por­tu­nity” to at­tend the hear­ing and if they are un­able to do so, they must in­form the schools “at least 24 hours prior” to the hear­ing.

At this meet­ing, ad­min­is­tra­tors chose not to ex­pel Au­tumn and she was in­formed she could re­turn to school Oct. 11.

This was 21 days af­ter she was sus­pended, but ac­cord­ing to Ciotti, Au­tumn al­ready had failed the se­mes­ter due to the ab­sences.

On Oct. 25, Ciotti re­ceived the crime lab re­port which found no ev­i­dence of any il­licit sub­stances in the candy.

Now, Ciotti said her daugh­ter is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing bul­ly­ing and she is look­ing for an­swers.

“I would hope that no other par­ent would have to go through this,” Ciotti said.

Lorain City Schools CEO David Hardy Jr. de­clined to com­ment on spe­cific de­tails of Ciotti’s case.

“I’m glad that it was re­solved,” Hardy said. “I’m glad that Au­tumn is back in school and re­ceiv­ing a good ed­u­ca­tion.”

To Ciotti, a “sorry” is not enough.

“The dam­age is done,” she said. “They failed my daugh­ter.”

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