Student supported at BOE meeting

Published 9:00 pm Monday, March 30, 2009

By By MaryClaire Foster
Despite prosecutors having charged Flomaton High School football star Tony Ellis with sexual abuse of a 12-year-old girl, many community members showed their support for him Thursday afternoon at the Escambia County Board of Education meeting.
With most wearing shirts bearing their school name, student after student filed into Flomaton High School library to support Ellis at the monthly board meeting and 500 more supporters have signed a petition in support of him.
Ellis, 18, is a well-known senior athlete at the school, who has been charged with enticing a minor for immoral purposes, sodomy and sexual abuse. He has sought youthful offender status in the case. Ellis’ case has been delayed until a court decides whether he will be tried as an adult.
As punishment for the offense, by order of the school’s code of conduct, Ellis has been sent to the Escambia County Alternative School.
Keegan Lambeth, one of Ellis’ fellow classmates, said he and other friends of Ellis decided during school that day to attend the meeting in show of support for Ellis to be allowed back in school.
Several community members had submitted written requests to address the board concerning Ellis’ removal from school and to petition his reinstatement at Flomaton High School.
In response to the requests, board Chairman Mike Goolsby read a statement addressing why the board could not allow community members to address it.
The statement also spoke about the procedures included in the code of conduct, specifically involving a grievance procedure that is to be followed when a student and their guardians do not agree with a determined disciplinary action.
At the end of the statement, however, the board said the parent who had requested to speak could do so during executive session.
In a letter written on behalf of Ellis, a family friend said, “Thankfully we do live in a country where someone is innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around. However, we feel in Tony’s case, the school board has chosen to punish Tony for something that he has vehemently denied doing and has not been found guilty of.”
After returning from executive session, where a representative of Ellis was allowed to speak, the board said at the time no action was necessary.
See Wednesday’s Atmore Advance for approved items from the board’s agenda along with personnel changes.

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