An Indiana school superintendent is accused of pretending a sick student was her son so she could get him treatment. She’s been arrested and charged with fraud, but the school board says it stands behind her.
According to court documents that detail the charges made Wednesday, Casey Smitherman, the superintendent of the Elwood School District, relied on her son’s insurance when she was unable to get a sick 15-year-old treatment because she wasn’t his guardian.
She noticed the student was missing from school on January 9 and checked on him at his house, where she decided he needed to see a doctor because of a sore throat.
“After making sure he had eaten, I could tell he had some of the symptoms of strep throat,” Smitherman said in a statement obtained by CNN affiliate WXIN. “As a parent, I know how serious this illness can be if left untreated, and I took him to an emergency clinic.”
Smitherman was denied service because the child was a minor and she wasn’t his guardian. She decided to take him to another clinic, where she checked the student in under her son’s name and insurance. The student was prescribed amoxicillin and Smitherman picked up the medicine for him at CVS pharmacy before dropping him off at home.
The student’s guardian contacted the Elwood Police Department on January 16 about the student receiving the medical treatment. According to police documents, the student tore the label off the medicine bottle because “he knew it was wrong.”
Smitherman voluntarily went to the police station the next day to give her statement. She told police that in the past she and her husband have bought clothes for the student and helped clean his house. She said she didn’t want to contact the Department of Child Services for fear he would be placed in foster care.
“I understand it was her desire to help a young man that was in bad shape, but probably not the best example to set for young people to assume other identities and make false statements,” Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings told WXIN.
On Wednesday, Smitherman was charged with official misconduct, insurance fraud, insurance application fraud and identity deception.
“I have been charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor, and I have cooperated with authorities every step of the way,” Smitherman said in a statement obtained by WXIN. “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.”
The school board stands behind Smitherman and issued this statement:
“Dr. Smitherman has tirelessly worked for the best interests of all students in Elwood Community Schools since she was hired. 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.”
Smitherman’s attorney, Bryan Williams, said she is keeping her job and has entered in a diversion program that will dismiss her charges if she doesn’t get arrested in a year.
By Amanda Jackson and Janet DiGiacomo, CNN