Mixed Messages Dept: Lakeside Tells Expelled Pot-Smoker He's "a Good Person" and Refunds His Tuition

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Kyle T. Webster
Lakeside School has agreed to refund half of the annual tuition paid by one of four pot-smoking students who were recently expelled after being subject to hours-long questioning without parental notification. The expulsions, which bypassed the private school's student and staff Judiciary Committee, generated controversy at Bill Gates' alma mater, especially after an SW story. (See the extensive reader comments by students and parents.)

A letter from Head of School Bernie Noe to parent Todd Karr makes a point of noting that Karr was "bound by contract" to pay a full year's worth of tuition, even though his son had attended school for only a month. Nevertheless, Noe writes without explanation, the school has decided to return roughly $4,500 to Karr's family. (Annual tuition amounts to $24,000, but the family received financial aid.) The school has not yet responded to an inquiry about whether it is returning tuition to other expelled students as well.

In a separate letter, Noe and Upper School Director Nathaniel Healy offer to help Karr's son "transition" to another school by sending letters of recommendation and transcripts, saying the latter will note that the jazz-playing junior was expelled without saying why. The letter also calls the boy "a good person with tremendous potential" and expresses "great admiration" for his honesty and handling of himself during the affair. Nevertheless, Noe and Healy maintain that the expulsion was "the right decision."

Karr calls the dual messages in the letter "surreal." "Now a very deserving kid will have a harder time getting into college, all because Lakeside didn't follow the [discipline policy] rules for a pretty minor violation."

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