So just how far will some educators go to help their students? And just how broke-ass is our country’s health care system? Well, this heartbreaking story answers both of those questions. The answers are: far enough that they could get charged with a crime, and regarding health care? Really, really shitty.
Casey Smitherman is the superintendent of a small school district in Elwood, IN. And, like pretty much every public school educator everywhere, she’s seen a few things. She’s seen kids who are abused and neglected. Kids who are homeless. Kids who are hungry. And kids who are sick.
One such student in her district, a 15-year old boy, caught her attention, and she knew she had to do something. Even if it meant breaking the law.
According to the Washington Post, Smitherman had helped this child before by buying clothes for him and helping clean his house. When he didn’t show up for school, she was alarmed, but afraid of reporting the absence to child services, fearing he’d be put into foster care.
Instead, she tried to help him herself.
The superintendent, who’s also a mom, took the boy to the doctor to have him treated and to have an antibiotic filled, only she used her own son’s name and insurance to do so.
“I just was really worried,” Smitherman told a local news station. “I knew he had strep, I’m a mom, and I knew how dangerous that was for him. And I was worried and I wanted to get him treatment.”
Because that’s what educators do. Especially educators who are moms and know what a suffering child looks like. Who know what could happen if a child with an infection doesn’t get treatment. Even if it puts everything else on the line.
The good news is that although Smitherman was arrested and charged with felony insurance fraud, identity deception, and official misconduct, she was released on $500 bail and has been placed on a “pretrial diversion program.” This basically means if she stays under the radar and causes no other issues, the charges will be dropped and her record cleared.
But more importantly, this woman who clearly loves the students in her district and has their best interests at heart didn’t lose her job. In fact, she has the school board’s full backing. “Dr. Smitherman has tirelessly worked for the best interests of all students in Elwood Community Schools since she was hired,” the board’s statement read. “She made an unfortunate mistake, but we understand that it was out of concern for this child’s welfare. We know she understands what she did was wrong, but she continues to have our support.”
As she should.
Lord knows there are enough stories out there of people stealing from one another, taking advantage of one another, or even leaving each other to perish in times of great need. But here’s a woman, a mom, who runs a district full of kids from all types of socioeconomic backgrounds. And if she’s the kind of person this story portrays her as, this probably isn’t the first child she’s helped, in one way or another. And he won’t be the last.
She clearly loves those kids, wants to see them healthy, warm, fed, and at school. And when they can’t get there, she’s going to step in and help however she can.
Thankfully, for her sake, and for the sake of the district that so greatly needs her leadership and caring heart as an example, the courts and attorneys and school board all came to the decisions they did. Minimal bail and no jail time (she’s not a violent threat), likely no trial (so she can get back to work), and the complete support of her school board, which also seems to put kids first.
If you’ve ever been in a classroom as a teacher or administrator, you probably know why Casey Smitherman did what she did. You may have been in positions like this yourself, wanting to help your kids who were in desperate need and didn’t have food, clothing, heat, or access to medical aid at home.
This is education in America. And this is our health care system. And until either or both are fixed, we’ll fortunately (and unfortunately) hear more stories like this one—stories of kindness and generosity and sacrifice, so that all of our kids can get the education and medical treatment they deserve.