A Seaholm student, reported to have been caught on tape breaking into a locker, was suspended late last month, ordered to pay approximately $50 in restitution and has since returned to school, but will likely not face criminal charges.
Seaholm Principal Terry Piper would not name the student saying he could not “positively identify” the person.
“But I made some assumptions, I dealt with it,” Piper said. “Beyond that it is a private matter.”
Piper declined to elaborate on the specifics, citing privacy concerns related to the accused thief.
“I mean, when someone is involved in a disciplinary situation, then it really would be violating their privacy to discuss it at all,” Piper said. “Because they have been disciplined, they have a right to have that not made public around the school.”
Federal guidelines under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prevent administrators from commenting on disciplinary measures.
However, the secret is out.
Word of the suspension and the video tape quickly spread throughout the Seaholm hallways since the incident was captured on tape April 21.
The student, according to sources, was suspended April 26.
However, the former guardian of the captured-on-camera student claims the district knew about the incident April 23, but did not move to punish until after the weekend.
“They said that they had a tape of [him] stealing, he had already admitted to stealing, he had come into the locker room, broke in, taken $50 part cash, part gift card,” his former legal guardian said. “[Administrators] made the decision to allow [him] to go to Prom and to allow him to finish the day.”
The administration refused to comment of specific details, citing privacy concerns.
The Highlander was anonymously given a copy of the video Friday, April 30, but chose not to post the video to its website, due to potential legal restrictions.
The placement of recording devices in private areas, including locker rooms, is a felony in Michigan.
However, some Highlander reporters, and the editorial board scrutinized the tape, viewing it more than 20 times.
The video, produced by a student, was created by placing a video recording device inside his locker, and aiming the lens at the men’s track locker room doorway, exiting to the hall.
Much of the 44 minute video shows a still shot of the doorway.
That changes at the 28 minute mark, when a
tall, African American male, with short black hair enters the room. The male, seen clearly wearing black shoes and a black sweat suit, walks through the doorway and into the room in less than three seconds.
Off camera, what sound like locker doors are opened and closed, multiple times.
Less than half a minute later, at the 28:29 mark, the male is seen looking into the locker containing the recording device, and then immediately attempts to gain entry.
The male then shakes the locker 10 times – each time moving the camera – until he rips open the door, spilling the camera and the locker contents onto the floor.
The male then whispers something under his breath, before picking up the camera and placing it back in the locker. The camera is then covered at the 28:54, but not turned off, and the audio continues to record.
The video does not capture on tape the male taking any items out of the locker, however the Highlander has learned $15 cash and a $35 Master Card gift card were taken from that locker in the theft.
The screen, still black, does not capture any additional video, but minutes later, the clashing and banging of more lockers can be heard throughout the men’s locker room.
Upon learning of the acquisition of the tape, Highlander Adviser Ben Harwood and two staff members attempted to hand deliver the video to Birmingham Police Department Detective Corporal Ron Halcrow, immediately after school that same day.
Halcrow would not comment on the tape but he confirmed he had already seen it.
Halcrow then declined the Highlander’s offer to keep the tape as evidence but indicated he would contact Harwood if he needed it.
One legal expert advised showing or transmitting the contents of a recording known to be made illegally could open staff members to potential criminal charges. As a result, the Highlander, at the direction of Harwood, destroyed their copy of the tape, after writing the initial May 4 story.
In a subsequent telephone interview, Halcrow confirmed that BPD is not currently investigating the videotaped break- in criminally.
Halcrow said it is up to the victim to press charges, and they can follow up on any schooldecided matter if it is not handled to their satisfaction.
“They always have a right,” Halcrow said, “[to] have it pursued by a police department, no matter where at, if they choose to do that.”
The videotaped break-in occurred April 21. From April 21 through May 4, Seaholm Assistant Principal Deb Boyer confirmed, no other locker break-ins took place.
“We haven’t had any more since then,” Boyer said, in a May 4 interview. “I wouldn’t tell you that the student alone was responsible for all of them, however.”
Boyer still believes more than one student involved in the 12 reported break-ins since March.
“I think there were probably more than one person involved in that because this has been occurring not just this year, but over a long period of time,” Boyer said.
In two interviews regarding the video tape incident, Piper refused to confirm the identity of the student. As of Tuesday, no additional disciplinary action had been taken.
As for the suspended student, as of yet, he has not faced any other penalties beyond the suspension from school and restitution.
Highlander reporters asked Piper if additional penalties could be added – including the prohibition of participation of extra-curricular activities or sports. Piper refused to comment on this specific case, but said historically, in dealing with matters of theft; students have not been removed from a team.
“In most cases to this point, we haven’t taken it beyond suspension and restitution,” Piper said. “But there have been exceptions to that.”
Editors Note: Due to potential legal restrictions, The Highlander has been advised not to name the student or his family.