Students suspended for biking to school

60 seniors at Kenowa Hills High School in Walker, MI were suspended from the last day of school because they rode their bicycles to school the day before.

The students had a police escort, and Mayor Robe Verheulen (a Republican running for the state House) even joined along and handed donuts out to the students.

Some school staff and other commuters in this suburb of Grand Rapids, though, apparently took issue with sharing the road with these cyclists, and had the seniors suspended on the final day of classes today.

The school principal really went off on the seniors about causing a huge backup and a safety problem, while the police officer providing the escort said there was no safety issue, and traffic was able to get past with no problem. Much of the community is in a complete uproar about the suspension, which apparently was administered by the high school principle principal Katharine Pennington.

While early reports of this bike ride to Kenowa was described as a “Senior Prank,” the Senior who organized this ride with the support of his parents, Zac Totten, said he planned this ride as a fun, senior send-off. School principal Pennington sent a letter to parents explaining the suspension, claiming the event was “extremely disruptive to traffic” and was “dangerous due to the traffic.”

More –>

Update: Furious parents (including the school board president) respond to Principal Pennington’s suspension and reverse her decision.

WOOD TV: Bike ride caused traffic jam. The video story at that link has more of the story than the text.

FOX 17: More than 60 Kenowa Hills Seniors Suspended for Bike Prank.

H/T to Eric.

40 Comments

  • ScaredAmoeba
    May 22, 2012 - 11:47 am | Permalink

    Perhaps the Principal should listen to
    what the National Academies are saying about obesity and the importance of encouraging active transport:

    ‘Two-thirds of adults and almost
    one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese.
    This epidemic of excess weight is associated with major causes of
    chronic disease, disability, and death. Obesity-related illness is
    estimated to carry an annual cost of $190.2 billion.’

    Instead of discouraging physical exercise and active transport, the Principal should be working to campaign for better cycling facilities.

    I cite
    http://click.newsletters.nas.edu/?qs=72f34173e53f5ae7c1de35218b894ed2f1b8602cd47e0d311eb4af11e6ac05949ed34b47de276c1b

  • krdunnam
    May 22, 2012 - 1:25 pm | Permalink

    The Rapid Wheelmen’s regularly-scheduled Tuesday night ride convenes at KHS 6pm, rolls 6:30. Watch for more coverage, and commentary from experienced cyclists.

  • donnisl
    May 22, 2012 - 1:28 pm | Permalink

    The principal needs to be suspended.

  • May 22, 2012 - 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Some facts are wrong, I am from Kenowa and graduated today, we rode the bikes to school then were suspended for the rest of the day which was our last day (day we rode bikes)… I was sneaky and got away to class so I didn’t get suspended, but it is ridiculous with the amount of precautions we took, yet were still punished.

  • AndyKewell
    May 22, 2012 - 1:53 pm | Permalink

    When I see stories like this it clearly demonstrates why the US is the obesity capital of the world.

  • Andy
    May 22, 2012 - 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Yet again I have no idea how this works. How do school admins have any say in how people get to school? It seems on par with suspending someone for liking the color blue.

  • MikeOnBike
    May 22, 2012 - 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Can you explain what you were punished for?  The news articles don’t really say what was wrong with what you did.  Why would a bike ride with a police and mayoral escort be a “prank”?

  • Principle -- get over yourself
    May 22, 2012 - 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Some educators are so clueless. Seems like a principle who has known these students for all their high schools years would have reacted more like…Damn I’m pretty upset you didn’t invite me. But maybe that was the problem, she was upset because the Police and Mayor knew and she was left out.Poor thing. 

  • May 22, 2012 - 3:44 pm | Permalink

    ZachE, thank you for dropping by and I say well done to you and your cohort.

  • Siggy
    May 22, 2012 - 4:02 pm | Permalink

    What?! Isn’t it illegal or something to suspend students for no good reason/for events occurring outside of school???

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  • May 22, 2012 - 5:10 pm | Permalink
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  • May 22, 2012 - 6:10 pm | Permalink

    As I understand it, that WOOD reporter is standing in the middle of the street on the very street where the bicycles were alleged to have caused so much trouble. Nobody died as a result of that either.

  • Donna
    May 22, 2012 - 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Unbelievable. Of all the truly wholesome and harmless “Senior Pranks”, they suspend students over this???  The next time a “Senior Prank” is organized, perhaps it should be TPing the principal’s house. 

  • Chris Van Ihinger
    May 22, 2012 - 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Hopefully Ms. Pennington will move quickly to correct this error before it becomes a permanent blot on her otherwise exemplary career as an educator. 

    Now would be a perfect opportunity for her to make the most of her influential position as Principal and join Mayor Verheulen and the Kenowa Police to work towards implementing the necessary changes to the roadways in and around Kenowa High School to remove all impediments to student cyclists throughout the district roadways.

  • Love2Chase72
    May 23, 2012 - 2:36 am | Permalink

    Their not on school property. None of their business.

  • MtotheI
    May 23, 2012 - 6:07 am | Permalink

    Bicycles don’t block traffic. Bicycles are traffic.

  • May 23, 2012 - 7:33 am | Permalink

    The stories indicate your graduation ceremony is on the 30th. Is the principal still considering witholding the diplomas? 

  • Bulkbobby
    May 23, 2012 - 7:43 am | Permalink

    I hope you and the rest of the students sue. You can not just accept an apology and move on. This woman needs to be suspended and the school district needs to make a large donation to a local cycling group or build a greeway near the school as recompense. These egregious violations of cyclists rights can not be ignored.

  • Daniel Kim
    May 23, 2012 - 8:07 am | Permalink

    My class had an annual, and informal, event called the “King of Hearts Ride”, in which we wore costumes and rode bicycles. It was held early in the morning, and we convened at a local Denny’s for breakfast, and then proceeded to school. The name is from a scene in the French movie “The King of Hearts”, in which patients at a mental hospital get out and ride bicycles through a town.

  • Daniel Kim
    May 23, 2012 - 8:18 am | Permalink

    I posted a comment to this story on Treehugger . Basically saying that a more constructive and restrained response would be better than bringing out the torches and pitchforks.

  • Knight
    May 23, 2012 - 8:32 am | Permalink

    There is some misinformation out there. The bicycles were blocking traffic, they were not following guidelines to stay safely to the side but rather they, and the golf cart with them (not a street legal vehicle, btw), were spread across the road. Traffic was backed up for 2 miles. Staff, students and commuters were all caught in the traffic jam. Yes, it was off school property, etc but the students were parading with a large school banner  which made it appear to people that it was a school-sponsored event. The principal and administration building were fielding angry calls from people caught in the traffic jam and were in the awkward position of having no idea what they were talking about. The mayor was called the night before, the police the morning of so it wasn’t a huge pre-planned “safety” net. Both were operating under the assumption that the school was involved and supportive. The students had been warned that there would be zero tolerance for pranks and consequences would be handed out for anyone participating in pranks. i realize that the intent was not malicious or destructive and for that the students should be applauded. The issue was not the bike ride itself but the way it was handled. The principal reacted based on the information she had at the time. Unfortunately a couple of angry parents alerted the media before anyone had a chance to get all of the facts and details figured out and turned it into a media circus/lynch mob situation. Students are still graduating as planned, still taking exams, etc. They got out a day early and missed the final walk through the school where students can pass out carnations they’ve bought through a junior class fundraiser. The story has gotten way out of control thanks to media sensationalism and misinformation. Even students at the school are saying that and the student who organized the ride has issued an apology to the principal about the situation.

  • Ron Georg
    May 23, 2012 - 8:37 am | Permalink

    That’s “principal”. “Principle” is a description of what she lacks.

  • May 23, 2012 - 8:58 am | Permalink

    I, ah, meant that to see if anyone was paying attention. Yeah, that’ s the ticket.

  • May 23, 2012 - 9:03 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the other perspective, Knight.

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  • Knight
    May 23, 2012 - 12:51 pm | Permalink

    No problem. I just find all of the media misinformation to be frustrating and don’t like that a good person who truly was concerned for the students’ safety is being condemned by people operating without all of the facts. I think the kids had a great idea and that this is something that should be encouraged for future classes. The situation was just mishandled on both sides and the media twisted it into something more than it was. 

  • MikeOnBike
    May 23, 2012 - 1:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m confused.  Now you’re talking about safety, but first you were talking about a traffic jam.  And unless the kids were late to school, everybody behind them should have arrived on time.

    The roads leading to the school are rural: one narrow lane each direction.  In that case the far-to-the-right rule wouldn’t apply.  When you said the students were spread “across the road” did you mean both lanes?  Or did you mean they were using the single lane in their direction?

  • sassyspoke
    May 23, 2012 - 1:58 pm | Permalink

    If the principal was truly concerned for the students’ safety, she would be campaigning for safer routes to school and not wasting her time suspending students on the last day of school.  As a courtesy, however, the organizing student should have informed administration.  Then it would not have been misinterpreted as a prank.  It would have been great PR for the community if she had joined them.

  • MikeOnBike
    May 23, 2012 - 2:01 pm | Permalink

    I still don’t understand why a large group of cyclists is a “prank”.

  • Daniel Kim
    May 23, 2012 - 3:56 pm | Permalink

     Very detailed report with many facts that are missing from the news. Thank you. The misunderstanding on the part of the mayor and police, assuming that this was a school-supported or sanctioned event, seems very understandable. Even on an ordinary day, a school’s administration and staff may have to field angry calls because of one thing or another, and it must have been overwhelming to be greeted by a flood of calls first thing in the morning. Perhaps next year’s Senior Bike to School Day can be planned more carefully.

  • Knight
    May 23, 2012 - 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Partially because the students and their parents were referring to it as a prank. :) 

  • Knight
    May 23, 2012 - 4:29 pm | Permalink

    From what I know of the woman, had she known about the activity she would have been fully supportive and possibly participated herself.

  • Knight
    May 23, 2012 - 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Sorry about the confusion. There has been a lot of bad press about the principal being on a power trip, trying to get her 15 minutes of fame, etc. Part of her ‘extreme’ reaction was out of genuine concern for their safety – keep in mind that at the time she reacted all she knew was that students from the school were riding bikes and creating traffic disruptions. I’m not saying it wasn’t an overreaction or that she shouldn’t have gotten more information but I don’t like someone being crucified by the media based on misinformation.

    While the school is in a more rural area, the route that the students took is not. It is one of the main routes in the area and involves crossing over a highway. Teachers, students and busses were late to school and I’m assuming, based on the calls she was receiving, that others in the community were late to their jobs. 

    By “across the road” I meant their lane. With oncoming traffic there was not an opportunity for anyone to pass, causing the backup. The police chief has since come out and said that she was not notified (there’s an investigation into the actions of the officer involved as they did not follow protocol in notifying superiors) and that she would have suggested students take a safer, less populated route.

  • TAPman
    May 23, 2012 - 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Read up on the road laws of Michigan, Knight.  Bicycles are also vehicles  have the right to use the entire lane and they are themselves traffic.   Cars can pass when it is safe to do so.  If there is too much oncoming traffic to permit overtaking, then the road authority needs to look at widening the road.  There is no exclusive user of the public roads.

  • Wordy1
    May 23, 2012 - 7:28 pm | Permalink

    Bicycles are legal vehicles
    Therefore students were suspended for participating in a legal activity
    Therefore the students were suspended unjustly
    Sue the idiot.

  • Knight
    May 24, 2012 - 9:06 am | Permalink

    It would be a wonderful tradition to start for sure! I think the kids had a great idea and should be commended for coming up with something positive instead of destructive. It’s a good learning experience for all involved, I think.

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