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Student Wins Right to Stay in School

December 18, 1987

NORWOOD, Ohio (AP) _ A straight-A student likely to be class valedictorian can stay in Norwood High School through graduation even though the school district expelled him over a residency dispute, a judge has ruled.

″The other students at school all think this is ridiculous,″ said the student, John Fenton, 17. ″A couple of kids behind me in the class standings have offered to come in and testify that they know I live in Norwood.″

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Richard Niehaus on Thursday ordered the Norwood school district to return Fenton to class until the appeals process is completed, which Niehaus said could take the rest of the school year.

The judge said his ruling, which said Fention had been denied due process by the expulsion, effectively will keep Fenton in Norwood High through graduation.

School district officials had contended Fenton lives in Delhi Township, not Norwood. Fenton sued the district and Superintendent David Query.

Paul Berninger, lawyer for the school district, said administrators do not want to lose Fenton. Berninger said pressure from unidentified residents had forced the administration to notify the Fentons the teen-ager would not be permitted to attend classes in Norwood after Friday.

″If he meets the requirements of residency, we’d be pleased to have him, and he will be the valedictorian,″ Berninger told the judge.

His family lived in Norwood until last summer when the father, the Rev. Thomas Fenton, became pastor of a Baptist church in Delhi Township. On advice from the district, the family rented an apartment in Norwood so their son could remain in Norwood High School. The family wanted to avoid a transfer they thought might hurt John Fenton’s academic standing.

He lived alone in the apartment from Aug. 30 until October, when school officials said the law required the teen-ager to live with a parent. The boy’s mother, Janice, moved into the apartment five nights a week.

On Oct. 18, Fenton fell asleep at the wheel after returning from Norwood High’s homecoming dance and his car hit a utility pole. A newspaper account that reported he was driving to his home in Delhi Township prompted a complaint to the superintendent, the elder Fenton said.

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