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Students organize protest after discipline for football game runner


By Matt Flener

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    KEARNEY, Missouri (KMBC) — Ethan Byrne on Friday tied his shirt to his head after a dare Friday night. He jumped the fence to leave the student section and made a dash across the middle of the football field as the Kearney football team trailed the Smithville Warriors in the third quarter.

Byrne left the field and ran across the fence perimeter as other students caught the entire run on video.

“I’ve never done anything like that before,” Byrne said.

He went home for the weekend, then came back to school Monday morning to face discipline from a school principal.

Byrne and his mother told KMBC Tuesday he is suspended 10 days away from school, can no longer participate in extracurricular activities for the semester, and is in jeopardy of not walking across the stage at graduation after his actions at the game.

“I told them immediately I was going to appeal this decision,” said Byrne’s mother, Jill Webb.

Webb on Monday posted on Facebook saying “not being allowed to do any senior year activities including walking for graduation is insane.”

Over 270 people commented on her post until a moderator turned the comments off.

“I think consequences are necessary, but they should meet the crime,” she said.

There is now a T-shirt fundraiser to support Byrne’s family. More than 4,600 people as of Tuesday afternoon had signed a petition to help reduce his punishment.

Students have organized a peaceful protest Thursday morning at the school after what happened.

“Everybody was really unhappy about it, especially on Facebook and Snapchat, Instagram, it was a big deal,” said Camden Collier, a Kearney senior and protest organizer.

Meanwhile, district spokesman Ray Weikal released the following statement about Friday’s incident:

“In regards to your inquiry regarding a recent incident, please understand that we cannot comment on nor provide details about student discipline. However, it is important to clarify that the contents of many public posts are inconsistent with the facts of this matter. In addition, the parent/guardian has filed an appeal in this case and it is being reviewed. The 2021-2022 Kearney School District Handbook includes clear expectations for students and detailed explanations about what might happen when students break the rules. As dictated by our Board Policy, we apply those rules uniformly and without bias.”

Weikal later said:

“In follow up to our conversation, I want you to be aware that we have attempted to contact Ms. Webb several times and she has yet to respond. We are prepared to move forward with the review and appeal process, but she needs to communicate with us directly.”

Byrne says he’s learned his lesson.

“Yes, I’m not doing that again,” he said.

Now he waits for his appeal.

“I think me and a lot of other people agree that is overkill,” he said.

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