"As a parent, I know how serious this illness can be if left untreated, and I took him to an emergency clinic.”

By Joelle Goldstein
January 25, 2019
Madison County Sheriff's Department

A possible act of kindness by an Indiana school superintendent turned out to come with a very high cost, as she is now facing multiple charges for allegedly using her insurance to help a sick student.

Casey Smitherman, the superintendent of Elwood Community Schools, turned herself in to police on Jan. 19 after she allegedly lied about the student’s identity to get him treatment and medicine, The Indy Star .

The ordeal began on Jan. 9, when Smitherman, 48, noticed that the 15-year-old boy did not come to school, according to an affidavit obtained by the newspaper. The superintendent reportedly reached out to the boy, who told her he was sick with a sore throat.

“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.”

Because the boy was younger than 18 and Smitherman was not his guardian, the clinic would not see him, The Herald Bulletin .

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She then allegedly took the student to St. Vincent Immediate Care, where she signed him in under her son’s name because she “knew he did not have insurance,” Smitherman explained in her statement.

After allegedly using her health insurance, the boy was seen by doctors and prescribed Amoxicillin, which she purchased for him  — a bill that came out to a total of $233  — at an Elwood CVS, the affidavit read.

But the student reportedly knew her actions were illegal, and tore her son’s name off of the pill bottle label, according to the affidavit obtained by The Herald Bulletin. “He knew it was wrong, and to have a prescription in his possession with a different name is bad,” it read.

The boy eventually began telling other students about the experience with Smitherman, which prompted her to go to the police on Jan. 17 and turn herself in, The Herald Bulletin reported.

“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.”

On Wednesday, she 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, explaining that her concern for the boy’s health took precedence in the situation.

“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.”

In court documents obtained by The Indy Star, Williams said that his client intervened because the boy allegedly lives with an elderly family member who does not own a car.

He also shared that Smitherman has previously donated clothes, food, and Christmas gifts to the boy and his family, but refrained from calling the Department of Child Services in fear of him being 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.”

Smitherman and Williams did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

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In the wake of Smitherman’s charges, school board president Brent Kane also issued a statement and revealed that 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. “She made an unfortunate mistake, but we understand that it was out of concern for this child’s welfare.”

“We know she understands how what she did was wrong, and she continues to have our full support in continuing in her position,” he added.

Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings Cummings explained to The Indy Star that the agreement would allow Smitherman to admit to the crime and avoid a criminal conviction. As long as a judge agrees and Smitherman doesn’t get arrested again in a year, the charges will likely be dropped.

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