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Ferguson will be stripped of his title

PHOENIX - With graduation just a week away, Phoenix High School administrators plan to oust the student body president within the next few days.

Keanon Ferguson, who was caught with marijuana on campus last summer, likely will receive the bad news officially on Monday or Tuesday, school administrators have decided. He will still participate in normal graduation activities on June 9.

The Oregon Supreme Court has sent a formal notice to the Phoenix-Talent School District and its attorney, Tim Gerking, that effectively upholds an Oregon Court of Appeals ruling that gave the district the power to remove Ferguson.

"We will probably do it pretty quickly," said Superintendent Dave Willard. "The point was made and the board has given us the direction we can take."

The 18-year-old student body president was found last June with a quarter-ounce of marijuana and a glass pipe by a Phoenix police officer. More drug paraphernalia was found in his car.

At the time of the incident, Ferguson was student body president-elect.

After the school stripped him of his title, Ferguson and his father, William Ferguson, challenged the action in Jackson County Circuit Court, which overturned the district's decision.

The district retaliated and eventually got the Oregon Court of Appeals to overturn the circuit court ruling.

The Fergusons then attempted to get the Supreme Court to review the case, but that request was denied, essentially letting stand the appellate decision.

Willard said there wouldn't be any formal ceremony to remove Ferguson from office. "We will probably just hold a private conversation," he said.

The district will not celebrate its hard-won legal battle. "There is no high note in this," he said. "It is not a positive thing for anybody."

Ferguson said he was somewhat sad at the prospect of losing his title, but added, "I was president for almost the whole year. I had a pretty good year as president."

Ferguson even survived a recall effort when the student body voted to keep him in office.

He said he would have liked to have spoken at the graduation ceremony.

"I wanted to, but they (school officials) decided not to let me. They said it was kind of controversial."

If given the chance to speak, Ferguson said, "I would have wished all my friends a really good life. I would have wished them good luck in the future."

The ordeal of getting caught with marijuana and the legal struggle with the school district have been a learning experience. Ferguson said he hasn't smoked pot since he was caught with it last year. "I went to a few parties where they were doing it and it brought back bad memories," he said.

But he doesn't condemn pot use among others, though he urges everyone to consider the potential consequences. "I think it's their decision if they want to."

Ferguson will be going to the University of Oregon, where he plans to play football and major in biology.

Senior Tysan McClusky disagrees with the decision to remove his friend. "I think it's kind of childish. It sets a bad example for the kids. And it's not going to change anything by kicking him out now. They're kind of like holding a grudge."

McClusky thinks even more students support keeping Ferguson in office now. "Even the people who don't like Keanon now realize he's changed for the better," he said.

Gerking, attorney for the district, said the court system expedited the case, which could have taken more than a year to bring to a conclusion. If the court had waited any longer, the legal battle would have become a moot question once school lets out and Ferguson graduates.

The Ferguson request for an Oregon Supreme Court review was seen as the last legal move that could have been made.

"It's a done deal," said Gerking. "It's not something the parties could contest."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com