An Indiana school superintendent is sparking a debate on ethics after she was arrested for using her own insurance to help a sick student.
Casey Smitherman, the superintendent of Elwood Community Schools, first noticed the 15-year-old was absent from school on Jan. 9. When the 48-year-old when to his home to check on him, she found out he had a sore throat, The Indy Star reported.
“I went to his home to check on him, and he told me that he had not felt well enough to come to school,” Smitherman said in a written statement provided to The Indy Star by her attorney, Bryan Williams. “After making sure he had eaten, I could tell he had some of the symptoms of strep throat. As a parent, I know how serious this illness can be if left untreated, and I took him to an emergency clinic.”
When Smitherman learned the boy could not be seen by the clinic because he was under 18 without a guardian, the superintendent took him to St. Vincent Immediate Care, where she signed him in under her son’s name because she “knew he did not have insurance,” The Herald Bulletin reported.
After the boy was seen using her insurance, he was prescribed Amoxicillin and Smitherman footed the bill, which came out to a total of $233.
According to the affidavit, the student knew they did something illegal and immediately tore her son’s name off of the pill bottle label.
“He knew it was wrong, and to have a prescription in his possession with a different name is bad,” the affadavit read.
Once the student began telling his peers about the experience, Smitherman went to the police on Jan. 17 and turn herself in.
“The child was very sick and she was just trying to get him medicine,” Williams told The Indy Star. “She knew it was probably a mistake. But at the same time she really didn’t know what else to do.”
Smitherman was charged with three felonies of insurance fraud, identity deception and official misconduct, as well as a misdemeanor for insurance fraud. She was booked and released that same day on a $5,000 bond, according to records from the Madison County Sheriff’s Department.
In the written statement, Smitherman apologized and said she only wanted to help the boy, who lives with an elderly relative who does not own a car.
“I wanted to do all I could to help him get well,” she said. “I know this action was wrong. In the moment, my only concern was for this child’s health.”
Williams also said his client donated clothes, food and Christmas gifts to the boy and his family. Smitherman abstained from alerting the Department of Child Services because she did not want the boy to be placed in foster care. An investigation by DCS is currently underway, The Indy Star said.
“I have cooperated with authorities every step of the way,” Smitherman added after being charged. “The Elwood community has been welcoming since I started this position, and I am so grateful for your support. I am committed to this community and our students, and I regret if this action has undermined your trust in me. From the beginning, my ultimate goal has been to provide the best environment for Elwood students’ growth physically, mentally and academically, and I remain focused on that purpose.”
In the wake of Smitherman’s charges, school board President Brent Kane said she would be placed in a diversion program.
“Dr. Smitherman has tirelessly worked for the best interests of all students in Elwood Community Schools since she was hired,” he wrote in a statement. “She made an unfortunate mistake, but we understand that it was out of concern for this child’s welfare.”
(Photo: Madison County Sheriff's Office)