Graduation Held Without Suspended Honors Student

There's good news and bad news for the Estero, Fla., honor student who was barred from her own graduation for having a kitchen knife in her car.

Lindsay Brown will get her diploma in the mail and won't miss college. But graduation was held without her, and she still faces felony weapons charges.

"I'm a little disappointed, but this is the way it has to be," Brown said. "I won't have any graduation memories, but I'll have to live with it."

Estero High School's matriculation ceremony was held Tuesday evening without Brown after U.S. District Judge John Steele refused to order her to be allowed in. Steele was asked to overturn an order by the school's principal, Fred Bode, who last week prohibited Brown from participating in the graduation ceremony.

Brown's classmates filed into the TECO Arena for the graduation ceremony, and several said they did not understand why she had been banned. Some had threatened to boycott the ceremony, but there was no protest.

Brown will still be able to attend Florida Gulf Coast University. FGCU President William Merwin has already said the university will raise money for her tuition if the 18-year-old National Merit Scholar doesn't receive her state-sponsored scholarship because of her arrest.

Steele said Brown's attorney, Jerry Lovelace, failed to show that Bode had violated Brown's rights to a fair hearing. Without that, Steele said, he had no reason to intercede, adding that the decision was up to the Lee County School Board.

Lovelace, who represents the Rutherford Institute, a conservative civil liberties group, said that because the decision came two hours before the graduation, there was no time to appeal it.

A Lee County sheriff's deputy last week spotted a 5-inch serrated kitchen knife on the floor of Brown's car when it was parked in the school lot. Bode said district regulations mandated his actions.

Brown, who had never been in serious trouble at school, says the knife must have fallen out of a box when she recently moved and she didn't know it was there.

The Associated Press contributed to this report