Teacher Put Value of Sunglasses Before Child, Mother Says

Olivia Raymond was accused of felony theft before she could get to lost-and-found

By Anthony Ponce and BJ Lutz
|  Friday, May 14, 2010  |  Updated 4:32 PM CDT
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The distraught mother of a teen girl accused of stealing a pair of sunglasses from a teacher says her daughter was just trying to do the right thing and says the whole situation is all a misunderstanding. 

Rochell Raymond's daughter, 13-year-old Olivia, last week found a teacher's pair of expensive sunglasses lying around unprotected.  Not wanting to be late for her next class by taking the time to stop at lost-and-found immediately, she said she put them in her purse with the intention of turning them in later. 

But before she could do so, she was confronted in class by the teacher who "yelled at her [and] embarrassed her in front of the class," Rochell Raymond recounted. 

The girl was later arrested, accused of felony theft and suspended from school.

"I'm angry because children have rights, and hers were violated in so many different ways.  To have your assistant principal and a police officer sit you down in a room and tell you that you are guilty of theft, you're going to believe the authorities," the tearful mother said.  "Where are the adults in this situation and why weren't they thinking?  In her 13-year-old mind, yes she will be in trouble for being late to class."

Ellis Middle School later rescinded the disciplinary action and the teacher, Linda Szybeko, dropped the charges when Rochelle Raymond extended an offer to replace the glasses that at some point became scratched.

"I don't know that Olivia scratched them, but at that point, it doesn't matter." Raymond said.

Upset with the media attention, however, Szybeko apparently changed her mind and moved forward to press charges. 

That, the family fears, could have big ramifications on the teen's future.

"Even if the criminal charges are dropped, to my understanding of the law, she will still have a record of arrest that we cannot do anything about until her 17th birthday," Rochelle Raymond said.

Olivia Raymond, an honors student,  plans to join the armed services and worries the felony record will hurt her career prospects.

Raymond's lawyer, Steve Fagan, said the case now lies in the hands of the police department, which is reviewing the case and whether charges are necessary.

As for the teacher, Rochelle Raymond says she feels sorry for her.

"In my opinion, as an educator, she didn't make wise decisions and she placed a value of sunglasses over the value of a child."

Szybeko has not returned a call requesting comment.
 

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