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AUSTINTOWN Suit seeks to return student



Published: Tue, May 7, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The teen was back in class at the Adams Alternative School, pending an appeal.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A 16-year-old boy accused of talking about an armed takeover of his school is suing to be permanently reinstated as a student.

Michael Bentley, of North Navarre Avenue, Austintown, and his mother, Laura Bentley, have filed a lawsuit in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court seeking reinstatement by the Austintown school board. The lawsuit also states that Bentley would accept tutoring paid by the school board if he is not re-instated.

The board pays to send Bentley to Adams Alternative School, a facility on Youngstown's South Side that serves students with behavioral problems.

The school board expelled Bentley on April 18. On Monday, he was allowed back at the school to attend classes, at least until his appeal to the school board May 22. The appeal is set to be heard in executive session after a regular school board meeting.

Austintown Superintendent Richard Denamen said he decided to allow Bentley back at the school after talking with Adams officials and reviewing Bentley's records. He said that Adams officials were confident that Bentley would not pose a threat.

Officials at Adams school and Laura Bentley could not be reached for comment.

Denamen stressed that the school administration takes threats seriously.

What was reported

Sheriff's reports state that on March 28, an Adams student told a school official that he, Bentley, and another student, 16, of Chestnut Street, Struthers, had discussed overpowering an off-duty deputy sheriff who worked as school security. The three thought they could steal the deputy's gun and force all adults in the school into one room, taking them hostage, said the student, 17, of Forrest Hill Drive, Austintown.

He added that Bentley discussed throwing another student out a window, according to the sheriff's reports.

Bentley denied talking about throwing the student out the window or helping to plan a takeover. He also told school officials, however, that he agreed with the other students that they could easily take the adults hostage.

The three students were charged in juvenile court with conspiracy to commit violent acts, inducing panic and disorderly conduct. Bentley's lawsuit states that on April 20, he pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to probation and 20 hours of community service. The charges of inducing panic and conspiracy to commit violent acts were dismissed, the lawsuit states.

Juvenile court officials would not discuss the status of the cases against the other two students.

Differing accounts

Jeffrey Limbian, Bentley's attorney, said Bentley's account of what he had discussed differed with the account in the sheriff's report. He said he would not talk about Bentley's account before the appeals hearing.

The lawsuit contends that the school board's approval of the expulsion and decision to wait until May 22 for an appeals hearing resulted in "an economic loss, a loss of standing in the community, and, most importantly, a timely educational loss," for Bentley. It adds that Bentley's mother is indigent and cannot afford tutoring.

Denamen said students often are sent to Adams after having repeated behavioral and disciplinary problems. He would not say why Bentley was sent to Adams, which is run by the Mahoning County Educational Service Center.

hill@vindy.com




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