The teenage suspect in a Westlake school fight that left another student in "very serious" condition earlier this week has an outstanding criminal case in Cuyahoga County.
DeAndrew Smith has at least one unresolved case, according to court documents.
newsnet5.com found that on Feb. 5, Westlake police filed a felony charge against Smith for rape, kidnapping and forcing his victim to engage in sexual acts.
He pleaded not guilty to those charges and is expected to return to court next week.
Smith was a juvenile at the time; he turned 18 the following month.
Smith turned himself in Wednesday in connection with the fight at Westlake High School Tuesday. He was charged with felonious assault and his bond was set at $5,000. He posted bond the same day and was released. His next hearing is April 19 in the Rocky River Municipal Court.
Smith's attorney said in a statement to newsnet5.com that he's confident "DeAndrew will be cleared of any wrongdoing" in connection to the school fight.
Westlake City Schools Superintendent Geoff Palmer told newsnet5.com that the district was unaware of the juvenile court rape charges. A spokesperson for the district confirmed that high school administrators were also unaware.
Legal expert Tim Dimoff explained that's because information sharing is extremely difficult in juvenile cases. He said a school resource officer could have stepped in if he felt the suspect was a danger in school.
Superintendent Palmer said that even if the district had been notified, there would have been little legal recourse to remove him from school. Palmer said the February incident was not tied to the school and Smith is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
"In general, the superintendent and school officials their hands are tied," Dimoff explained.
School policy allows for the permanent removal of a student based on a conviction.
"The exception to that rule is if law enforcement feels that this is a dangerous situation," Dimoff said.
Superintendent Palmer told newsnet5.com that a school resource officer was on hand to interact with students and staff daily.
Westlake Schools provided the following statement to parents this afternoon:
Based on news reports related to the individuals involved in an altercation at Westlake High School on Tuesday, there is misinformation the school district would like to clear up for our parents.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) does not permit the district to discuss individual students. That said, we would like to address general issues related to the education and safety of our students.
State law indicates that public school districts must provide a free and appropriate education to all students who live within its district. Westlake Board of Education policy states that in accordance with certain procedures, the district can permanently remove a student who has been convicted of certain serious offenses. In addition, the district’s ability to apply discipline, such as suspension or expulsion, is not unrestricted and, among other situations, may be applied when an offense is committed against a Westlake Schools’ student or occurs on district property.
As a result of the altercation at the high school, Westlake Schools will take appropriate disciplinary action.
A Westlake Police Officer serves as a School Resource Officer at our high school and interacts with students and staff daily. The Westlake Schools take student safety very seriously and make it a priority in our district. We will continue to work with the Westlake Police Department and provide updates to our parents as appropriate.