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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pony Prank Teen Pleads No Contest to Disturbance Charge

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By Dave Matlow

Staples pony prank teen Sarah Friedson pleaded no contest in a Norwalk juvenile court today to a reduced charge of creating a disturbance, her father said.WestportNow.com Image
The Friedsons and pony Cocoa outside Staples on Friday in a picture made available today.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

The 17-year-old, who with her father, Ronald, 50, had been issued a misdemeanor summons for disturbing the peace for taking her pony Cocoa to the Westport school on Friday, paid a $90 fine and $46 in court costs for the infraction, he said.

Friedson, who has a court date of June 16 on his arrest, said Judge Burton A. Kaplan told Sarah during the three-minute hearing that “he liked her spirit.”

Meanwhile, the Friedsons said they received formal notification of Sarah’s 10-day suspension from school for “insubordination, truancy, and creating an unsafe educational environment by attempting to incite students for a possible riot.”

The suspension notice received Tuesday from Assistant Principal Karyn J. Morgan added: “This may result in further disciplinary action.”
WestportNow.com Image
Karyn J. Morgan: Issues suspension for “attempting to incite students for a possible riot.” Dave Matlow/WN file photo

Friedson said Sarah was also told in a separate letter from Morgan that she cannot attend Saturday’s senior prom in Greenwich, Wednesday’s graduation, or any other “school-sponsored and/or extra curricular events” while under suspension.

He said she intended to appeal the decision on the basis that this was not a school event but was run by the PTA.

Friedson said before today’s court appearance, he and Sarah met with Assistant State Attorney Tiffany M. Lockshier who informed them that breach of peace is a criminal offense.

She told them that the reduced charge of creating a public disturbance was an infraction, much like a parking violation, he said.

As a result, Friedson said, they decided to accept a plea of “no contest, no guilt.”

Sarah said she went with her classmates to Six Flags Amusement Park in Massachusetts on Monday.

At the end of the day, she said Morgan confronted her and asked why she was there when she had been suspended. She said she told the
assistant principal that she had not received formal notice of a suspension.

The formal notice was received the following day.

Posted 06/12/08 at 01:02 AM

Comments

Comment Policy

“Attempting to incite students for a possible riot”??? With a 20-year old pony that looks like might keel over dead any minute???  You’ve got to be kidding.

Sounds to me like the Staples principals have a bad case of self-righteous indignation, meting out such harsh punishment for a silly and harmless act.  Clearly, they’ve never witnessed a riot if they think walking an old pony onto school grounds is likely to incite one.

At least Judge Kaplan, who gave the matter all of three minutes, has demonstrated good sense and rational thinking.  The school administration could take a lesson.

Posted by amy ancel on June 12, 2008 at 03:57 AM | #
 

If the Friedsons aim was to make the Staples administration look silly—mission accomplished!!

Posted by Wally Meyer on June 12, 2008 at 11:21 AM | #
 

No, I’d say the Staples principals did that all by themselves.  And it goes beyond just silly at this point.

The school adminstration completely over reacted, were too full of themselves to admit it and apologize for a stupid mistake, and then completely over reacted again by suspending this Sarah for 10 days on trumped up charges of attempting to incite a riot. 

Silly?  How about contemptuous and smug?

Posted by amy ancel on June 12, 2008 at 12:14 PM | #
 

RIOT?????  Ok, the more the administration tries to justify their complete overreaction, the worse the situation gets.  I have gone from amused to outraged.  Perhaps the better question is what we in the community are going to do about this travesty.  They are public officials, our tax dollars pay their salaries, and ultimately they answer to us as parents and taxpayers.  Furthermore, we will pay for this mistake when the town gets justifiably sued.  This whole thing should have been dropped with an appology.  Part of gaining respect is deserving respect.

Posted by Juris Zauls on June 12, 2008 at 06:23 PM | #
 

Maybe if Sarah Friedson focused more on her studies than wasting her time pulling such a ridiculous prank she would actually be receiving her diploma.  She was wrong.  She made a decision and now she must face the consequences. To everyone who disagrees with the punishment - walk one day in any Principal’s or teacher’s shoes and then ask yourself if you would have not issued the same punishment.  She set out to make an example of herself and that she did!  Sarah has had her 15 minutes of fame and now she will have 10 days to think about the fact that she will not be able to tell her own children one day about her graduation or her prom.

Posted by Marianne Ieuter on June 12, 2008 at 06:53 PM | #
 

Ms. Leuter -

Many of us have learned that what you write here cannot be edited later on (perhaps upon reflection, or when noticing a glaring spelling error), and what you wrote about Sarah regarding graduation is pretty nasty. You don’t know the particular circumstances of Sarah’s life any more than I do - who knows why she has to attend to some summer school before receiving her diploma - and frankly, that is not a relevant fact.

Posted by Jack Whittle on June 12, 2008 at 07:26 PM | #
 

Jack - Guess you noticed all of my typos and glaring spelling errors!  ;  )  You’re right… no editing after the fact. That’s the problem when you’re in a hurry.

I, too, am concerned about this overblown incident falling into the laps of the taxpayers to clean up.  We’re already paying for the Friedson’s court hearings - which surely doesn’t amount to much.  But a lawsuit against the school and town is another story - and I’ll bet there’s one coming around the bend.

Posted by amy ancel on June 12, 2008 at 09:57 PM | #
 

Mr. Whittle -

You are absolutely right - I do not know the particular circumstances behind her not graduating.  I apologize.

Posted by Marianne Ieuter on June 13, 2008 at 04:03 AM | #
 

While I also doubt the likelihood of a riot, I don’t know whether this is a catch-all legal or administrative phrase that most closely matches the infraction.  I do know that those of you who are outraged, and those who say that the circumstances preventing the girl from graduating are unknown, might benefit from more background information which was readily available on the web long before you chose to chide the administration.

I’ve never heard of a high school prank that involved a parent, and had a feeling there must be more to the story so I spent a minute with Google on this one.  According to the Connecticut Post, this isn’t the first lawsuit against the school administration threatened by the father. In fact: “He said he suspects administrators are holding a grudge against him because he’s criticized them and threatened lawsuits in the past. According to Friedson, the district refused his request to let Sarah make up for being late by staying late after school. He said his daughter needs to improve her time management skills, but it is really a family issue. “

This article apparently came out well before the letter from Mr Dodig, so there was no issue of him giving out private information about the girl’s school record - that was already available online from her father.  The article also noted that she arrived after school started because she overslept again, kids were already waiting outside for her so it was disruptive, and that her mother notified the media right after they were issued citations.  You can draw your own conclusions.

I just hope that we don’t spend too much time or money as a town defending our administrators against a lawsuit.  Did they over-react?  Perhaps.  But was this a prank or a publicity stunt?  And do you think Sarah would have listened to the security guard if she was alone when told to leave, or was she emboldened by the presence of her father, who apparently tried to make it a first amendment case? 

I know none of the parties involved in this case, so any speculation on their motives would be just that.  However, for people who have noted in related threads that this is an embarrassment to our town, I disagree.  Frankly, I don’t care what the newspapers in Arizona or anywhere else say about us based on this episode.  I do care about how quick some are to make strong and harsh statements about our town employees.  The fact that so many are ready to blast Mr Dodig and the administration based solely on incomplete reporting on this site is the real embarrassment.

Posted by Adrian Bowles on June 13, 2008 at 03:08 PM | #
 

Mr. Bowles:

Since I noted that this story was running in a newspaper in Arizona, and since I have been among the many who have criticized (“blasted”, in your characterization) the Staples administration for arresting a student for a senior prank, I guess it is appropriate that I respond to your diatribe.

You said: “The fact that so many are ready to blast Mr Dodig and the administration based solely on incomplete reporting on this site is the real embarrassment.”

I am sorry you are embarrassed when residents of Westport, many of whom went to Staples themselves (I did, did you?) and have children in the Westport school system (I do, do you?) provide their view on this matter, in a public forum such as this one. Frankly, I am more embarrassed when Westporters fail to speak up.

If there is “incomplete reporting” on this site (I assume you are referring to WestportNow) I am unaware of it, it looks to my eyes like there are at least three articles that set forth the pertinent facts. The additional facts you raise, being that the Friedsons have been at odds with the school administration in the past, can be interpreted BOTH ways. I’d wager it actually supports my belief that there was more going on here behind Dodig’s decision to have Sarah arrested, vs. any other student for which he did not already bear some sort of grudge (justified or otherwise). And that information was known to me and many others in this Town, perhaps even some of the others who have posted their views. I could have used it in support of why Sarah was singled out for special treatment by Dodig; I simply chose not to go there.

If interested, the Friedson family has also been involved in “skirmishes” with the Town over property on Bayberry Lane. Is that relevant too? I doubt it.

Really, this is a simple matter of a harmless prank, and an overreaction by the Staples administrators, made worse by an attempt to justify that overreaction in a letter sent out to the parents of Staples students. The time for owning up to the mistake has came and gone with no admission or apology from the Staples administration side. Things have moved on to the next stage, court proceedings. Even the judge has praised up Sarah for her spunk. I think I know how this will turn out.

I hope I have not caused you further embarassment with this post.

Posted by Jack Whittle on June 13, 2008 at 03:58 PM | #
 

The Staples administration has done a fine job of “putting itself in a place where it would be embarrased” like they said sarah intended to do, they definately do not need her help.  This is such a stupid thing for them to arrest her for, she brought a sweet 2o year old pony to school with signs on it, when she was told to go home she did, but was called back saying that she wasw needed to stay because of the police.  She was perfectly compliant with the administration.  They owe her a public front-page apology (and one to her pony too!).  I mean helooooooo, she is not even allowed to graduate for bringing a pony into a parking lot, what about the people who put the port-a-potty on the roof? The principl just laughed and got the custodian to leave it up for a couple more hours!  He is such an idiotic beuracrat.  GOO SARAH!  I think that the senior class should boycott graduation!

Posted by Kristin Manley on June 13, 2008 at 05:33 PM | #
 

PLEASE HELP ME GO TO MY SENIOR PROM TOMORROW NIGHT!!!

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/poniesforprom/

Thank you,

Sarah

P.S. A big thank you to everyone who is behind me!  To Ms. Bowles - don’t EVER try to become a detective.  You could NOT be further from the truth!

Posted by Sarah Friedson on June 13, 2008 at 06:12 PM | #
 

Sarah -
Maybe you should go to prom escorted by your attorney?

Posted by amy ancel on June 13, 2008 at 06:34 PM | #
 

A question that I have not seen raised is what are the implications of the 10 day “out of school suspension” assigned Sarah Friedson?” As a result of the suspension Sarah missed the day assigned for Final Exams, last Tuesday,  AND the day set aside for Makeup of Final Exams, yesterday (Thurday). The school term ends the day before the 10 day suspension ends (June 18th) so Sarah will have one day remaining in any future session. The question is, does she lose the work of the “entire” semester because she isn’t able to take the final exams? If that is the case, the punishment is even more punitive than the 10 day suspension actually asssigned. The Superindent or the School Board needs to step in and pull Mr. Dodig and Ms. Morgan’s chestnuts out of the fire on this one.

Posted by stan colenso on June 14, 2008 at 01:51 AM | #
 

As a 1983 graduate of Staples High School, a horsewoman, and a former resident of Bayberry Lane, I was amused to hear of this story on my local North Carolina tv news station. I, too, had horses as a kid - they lived on our Bayberry Lane farm with me and my family knew the Friedson’s quite well. Ron and his father have always been real Westport characters. I am not surprised that Ron and his daughter committed the prank, but I am surprised at the extraordinarily punitive actions of the Staples administration towards Sarah. When I was a kid in Westport, people could still tell the difference between really bad behavior and teenagers just having fun. As to the litigious nature of Mr. Friedson, I have no idea, but I do think that all of this hubbub could have been avoided with some common sense and some administrators maintaining their senses of humor. Thank goodness the judge saw through all this for Sarah.

Posted by Shannon Woolfe on June 14, 2008 at 08:43 PM | #
 

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