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At school board meeting, supporters speak for suspended Smithville High principal

Parents and friends spoke in support of suspended Smithville High School principal Rudy Papenfuhs during a school board meeting Wednesday night.
Parents and friends spoke in support of suspended Smithville High School principal Rudy Papenfuhs during a school board meeting Wednesday night.

One after the other, parents and friends who spoke for suspended Smithville High School principal Rudy Papenfuhs on Wednesday night brought cheering students and adults to their feet.

He is “dedicated to helping lost souls,” said Janice Parmenter, telling of how he guided her family through a tragic suicide.

He goes “out of his way to help the downtrodden,” said Denise Schnell, who has known Papenfuhs since he was a Park Hill principal.

He is, said parent Lisa Taylor, “a lighthouse.”

Most of some 150 people who came to the Smithville school board meeting were there to support a principal who most agree may have overstepped district policies at times in the ways he helped students — but who they said should be exonerated for noble intentions and good deeds.

The principal’s status was not on the agenda Wednesday, and the board made no comment — but Papenfuhs’ day is coming.

Papenfuhs gets his chance to argue his case Thursday at 6 p.m. when the school board returns to the same spot for a due process hearing that will be open to the public.

Papenfuhs has been on administrative leave since Sept. 9. Papenfuhs, the district’s complaint said, has persistently and willfully violated district policy.

The complaint says he bought a car for a student, let students drive his car, took a student to a Chiefs game without a guardian present and other violations.

He is accused of sharing an inappropriate video with students and texting inappropriate messages.

A district complaint that he shared prescription medications with students is also being investigated by police.

There have been no complaints of inappropriate physical contact with students, district officials said.

District policies limit contact between educators and students to protect students from possible dangerous or abusive relationships and to protect educators from the appearance of wrong behavior or false accusations.

To reach Joe Robertson, call 816-234-4789 or send email to jrobertson@kcstar.com.

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