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Ex-cheerleader leaves school after threats

The teen's mother says she took him out of Pasco High School because he was being threatened, harassed and had his pickup vandalized.

Published February 26, 2004

DADE CITY - The former Pasco High School cheerleader who sued the School Board last year after he was accused of bringing alcohol to a cheering camp has left the school, his mother said Wednesday.

Diana Madison said she took her son out of school last week after he was the victim of threats and verbal harassment from other students and had his pickup truck vandalized in the school parking lot. He is three months from graduating.

"After winning that court case, the retaliation heightened," she said. "He just can't take any more."

Johnathan Madison, 17, a Darby senior at Pasco High this fall, was accused of bringing vodka to a July cheering camp. The only boy on the cheering squad with at least 15 girls, he was removed from the squad when school began in August because of the allegations.

But he denies bringing the vodka, and none was found during a search of his room at the camp, held at the University of South Florida. He later passed two polygraph tests his parents arranged with polygraph experts.

After three school hearings, he was issued an in-school suspension and ordered to attend counseling.

In December, he and his parents sued the district and won a preliminary court battle. The judge who heard the case reprimanded school officials for conducting what she called "a witch hunt."

Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper temporarily blocked school officials from forcing Johnathan to attend counseling or marking his permanent school record.

The judge said the school's investigation relied on anonymous accusers, unsworn testimony, improper questioning and an appeals system that promised a fair procedure but did not provide it.

The School Board has requested a hearing on a motion to dismiss the case, alleging the court system has no jurisdiction in the matter.

Pasco High School principal Patrick Reedy said he was limited in what he could say about the case, because of school privacy rules, but he said the school did look into some complaints, although the results of those investigations would not be public.

Diana Madison said Wednesday her family is working on a homeschooling plan, hoping the school district will cooperate, to help Johnathan complete his high school education and earn his diploma. He is preparing to enter Hillsborough Community College in the summer term.

She said she and her husband will continue their fight.

"We're not going away because it's not only for Johnathan's reputation, it's so they can't do this to other kids," Diana Madison said. "The School Board gets very upset when somebody stands up to them."

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