Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Indiana Superintendent, Facing Multiple Criminal Charges (January 2019)

Indiana Superintendent, Facing Multiple Criminal Charges (January 2019)

Case Controversy 

Elwood Community High School
      Casey Smitherman, former superintendent of Elwood Community Schools in Indiana is facing multiple criminal charges for her recent actions. On January 23rd, 2019 Smitherman was arrested and charged with insurance fraud, identity deception and official misconduct (NBC News). Smitherman is known as a very involved and caring individual within the community, but this time her actions have her facing jail time.
Elwood Superintendent, Casey Smitherman.

      Smitherman became concerned on January 9th, 2019 when she noticed one of the students had been missing school. She decided to take a ride over to his home to check on him(IndyStar).The child lives with an elderly guardian who does not have a car, Smitherman said in the past she has provided the child with clothes and food.When she arrived at the residents of the student she noticed he was coming down with symptoms of what appeared to be strep throat. Smitherman decided to get him some food and a haircut before bringing him to see a doctor. She realized the boy did not have health insurance, she had to come up with something quick. When they arrived at a local Urgent Care, they were denied because she was not his legal guardian. Smitherman then took the boy to St. Vincent's Immediate care, she lied and told the physicians he was her son (IndyStar). They took him in, checked him out and prescribed him Amoxicillin, costing two hundred and thirty three dollars (NBC News). After this, the student apparently told another teacher of the incident. News began to spread about the incident, when Smitherman realized people knew of the situation she decided to come forward and turn herself in to Elwood Police.
Board of Education President, Brent Kane 
       After turning herself in to Police, Smitherman put in a request to resign from the position of superintendent. In a unanimous vote, the school board accepted her request. The board of educations President Brent Kane put out a statement saying "she made an unfortunate mistake, but we understand that it was out of concern for the child's welfare" he also went on to say "We know she understands what she did was wrong, but she continues to have our support", "Dr. Smitherman has tirelessly worked for the best interests of all the students in Elwood Community Schools since she was hired"(Washington Post). Smitherman also said "I knew he did not have insurance, and I wanted to do all I could to help him", "As a parent I know how serious this illness can be if it is left untreated, and I took him to the emergency clinic"(Washington Post). She also said "I would love to go back to that moment and redo it" in a interview with a local television station. As a result of this, Smitherman has been put into a diversion program. If she can go one year without being arrested, all pending criminal charges against her will be dropped. The Department of Child Services has also opened up an investigation, according to case documents.

     In this case, the stakeholders are Casey Smitherman, Elwood Community Schools, Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance, Elwood Police, St. Vincent's immediate care and the fifteen year old student. Casey Smitherman and the fifteen year old boy were the main stake holders in this situation. Elwood community schools, because Smitherman was a superintendent and he was a student. Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance was Smithermans insurance provider. Elwood police are the ones who made the arrest and criminal report. Lastly, St. Vincent's immediate care was the location the student received treatment at.


   Individualism is the ethical theory that is concerned with maximizing business profits in ways that follow the law (Case Manual). In regards to this situation, Elwood Community Schools are a non profit organization. But that does not dismiss the fact that this theory also emphasizes the law. Smitherman in fact did break the law, documents show she is being charged with insurance fraud, identity deception and official misconduct. The most important thing about Individualism is that the actions you take to better yourself must be within the constraints of the law and hers were not. Many of her actions in the past, like buying clothes, food and beds for students were actions that did follow the law. These actions would be supported by individualism. She did try to correct her actions by resigning and turning herself in to police but either way she did break the law and you can't ignore that. Because she did commit insurance fraud and her actions were not in the constraints of the law, Individualism does not agree with the actions of Casey Smitherman.

Smitherman's makes statement about her concerns at the time
   Utilitarianism expresses that all of our actions aim at something that is good and that happiness is a natural end to human life. Utilitarianism maximizes happiness in not only ourselves but in others too in the long run(Case Manual).Utilitarianism would only support the actions of Smitherman in the short term picture. Smitherman was able to create a sense of happiness in herself because she knew she helped out a student who really needed it. She was able to create happiness in him because now he would feel better once the strep throat began to go away. In the long run, these actions would not be supported. They would not be supported because she did not create long term happiness for either of them. Smitherman ended up losing her job and is now fighting criminal charges. Also the student's family is being investigated by the Department of Child Services. Now the student must feel a large amount of guilt for telling others about the situation because that is what led Smitherman to turning herself in. Therefore, because Utilitarianism focuses on long term happiness and Smitherman failed to create long term happiness, her actions are not supported by Utilitarianism.

   The basic principles of Kantianism are that our actions should be rational, we should allow and help people to make rational decisions, respect people and their individual needs and differences, be motivated by goodwill and seek to do what is right because it is right and lastly obey the law of the land(Business Ethics). Our actions should be abstained from impermissible actions and we should have done what is morally permissible or morally required. We must have the right motivations for our actions and we must also take the time to search for alternatives. Smitherman did not act rationally, she did not help anyone make rational decisions, she did not obey the laws of the land, she had the right motivation but did not act rationally. An important part of Kantianism is the categorical procedure which looks at the Universal law, the Formula of Humanity and the Formula of Autonomy.  The Universal law refers to actions of legal legitimacy, Smitherman did not follow the universal law because her maxims led her to break the law.The Formula of Humanity states that we should treat everyone as an end instead of treating them as a means to an end (Business Ethics). Smitherman took advantage of the insurance company and the physicians at the immediate care. She treated them as a means to an end, in this situation the end was getting the child medicine. The formula of Autonomy states that human actions are bound to the moral law by their own will. Actions we do are decided upon by ourselves and nobody else. Smitherman knew the student needed help, she was a caring person who always helped students in need and that's what drove her to go through with this action. In the end, Kantianism does not agree with the actions of Smitherman because she was deceitful and because she did not take the proper time to consider her alternative choices.

Virtue Theory
   Virtue theory is based upon Aristotle. He created five guidelines for us to follow. First, whether "x" is good depends on what "x" is. Second, rationality is the distinguishing characteristics of a person. Third, people must practice rationality in order to function properly and live a good life. Fourth, a thing is happy if it fulfills it's function. Fifth, people who live a good life by functioning properly will also live a happy life. There are also four important human virtues, that must be justified. Courage, honesty, self control and fairness. Courage is the ability to do something even though it frightens you. Smitherman took the responsibility to turn herself in, even though i'm sure she was scared of the criminal charges to come. She also had the courage to resign, no human wants to lose their job but she realized she made a mistake and that this was the proper initiative to take. Honesty was not at first justified, because she had lied to the physicians and taken advantage of her insurance. In the end it ends up becoming justified because she came forward and told the truth to the school system and to police. Self control was not justified either at first, because she did not take them time to consider her alternative options. She did not have enough control to stop herself from lying to the medical workers. It becomes justified because she took the responsibility to turn herself in and to resign. The last one is fairness. fairness is justified because Smitherman is a very hard worker who always had good intentions. She cared about the kids and the community, all she wanted to do was make Elwood a better place, she never meant any harm. Because all four of the virtues are justified, the virtue theory does agree with the actions of Smitherman.

Justified Ethics Evaluation 
Casey Smitherman, public statement.
   I support the choices of Casey Smitherman. Yes she did break the law, but we need to look deeper into it. On numerous occasions she has bought clothes, food and even beds for students in Elwood. Elwood is a poor community, many people face the harsh reality of a low income lifestyle and poverty. Smitherman devoted her time to helping these families. The child in this situation was in need of proper care. He lived with an elderly family member who had no car or health insurance. Ask yourself, who is suppose to bring him to get clothes? Who is suppose to go buy groceries? Who is suppose to bring him to the doctors? Who is suppose to pay the medical bill? For many this is a harsh reality, in this case it happened to be one of the students. Smitherman just wanted to help, that's all she ever wanted to do. She cared about the kids in the community, she never meant any harm. As a mother herself she knew what it is like to look after children. Smitherman just wanted to make an impact on this boy's life. She wanted to get him the proper medicine he needed before things got worse. If Smitherman did not step up, who would have? I believe Smitherman was looking out for the best interests of the child, the same way she looked out for others when she bought clothes, food and beds. Because of this, I strongly support Casey Smitherman. She never meant harm, she just wanted to make Elwood a better place.

Action Plan
   To solve the current issue, the school needs to follow a specific step by step procedure. Elwood needs to let Smitherman go, which they did by accepting her request to resign. The Board of Ed should then begin to consult with the family of the student. They should provide the student with a counselor, this way they are able to make sure everything is okay at home for him. He also may be dealing with a large amount of guilt after everyone found out what she did because he told a teacher, talking to a counselor would help him deal with the guilt. Elwood should then hold a meeting to reinforce the behavior they expect from workers. In this meeting they should also go over the guidelines of teacher-student interactions, so that all teachers are clear of the expectations going forward. Having guidelines for all employees will help to prevent any future issues, this will also help them follow the proper steps to helping any children in the future. The school system should also begin to schedule weekly meetings with teachers, in these meetings teachers can discuss any signs they have seen that may lead them to thinking a student is in need of help. Right now they should focus on providing proper support for this child and his family, until DCF figures it out. Next Elwood needs to hire a new superintendent. The next superintendent should match the effort of Smitherman, Smitherman was very involved with the community. The new superintendent should have the highest level of professionalism and respect, not only at work but also within the community of Elwood.

    It's important that Elwood begins to reshape themselves. They can begin to do this by creating a new mission statement, "Elwood School System, through a strong bond with the community ensures that students will be put into an environment that will not only challenge them academically but will also build character allowing them to be properly prepared for the future. We promote respect, hard work and being a responsible member of the community". Elwood should also redefine their three core values. Proper and professional core values for this school system are trust, integrity and respect. In order to begin to ensure ethical productivity within the school, members on the board need to sit down with school employees and go over the policy of the school, consequences of breaking the law and proper steps to take to handle situations with students. After letting go of Smitherman, the need to reinforce the hiring/firing process to current employees. It's important to realize that you don't have full job security, especially if you have broken the law. To make sure Elwood continues to be a good functioning school, the board of ed should input programs that offer help to students and their families. Whether it's food, clothing or school supplies donations. After school activities should also be offered, this would allow teachers to watch over the kids while family members are at work. It could also. be used as an extra line of support for any students struggling, in order to have this program the students legal guardians must give consent.

- Gian Costantiello

Ryckaert, Vic, and Crystal Hill. "What We Know: Indiana Superintendent Charged with Fraud after Helping Sick Student." Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Star, 25 Jan. 2019.

"Superintendent Faces Fraud Charges after Claiming Student as Son at Doctors Office". ABC News, ABC News Network, 24 Jan. 2019.

Cbs/ap. "Indiana School Chief Who Used Her Insurance to Help Sick Student Quits, Cites 'Lapse in Judgement.'"CBS News, CBS Interactive, 4 Feb. 2019.

Wang, Amy B, et al. "A Superintendent Used Her Son's Insurance to Help a Sick Student. She Just Resigned." The Washington Post, WP Company, 4 Feb. 2019.

"Indiana School Superintendent Resigns after Insurance Fraud Charges." NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 3 Feb. 2019.

McCarty, Richard. "The Formula of Humanity." The Formula of Humanity, 30 Aug. 2014.

Salazar, Heather. "The Business Ethics Case Manual: The Authoritative Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding and Improving the Ethics of Any Business." Date Accessed March 28th, 2019.

Salazar, Heather. "Kantian Business Ethics". Date Accessed March 28th, 2019. 

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