Last month, Indiana school Superintendent Casey Smitherman was arrested, charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor for insurance fraud. After having taken a 15-year-old student suspected of having strep throat to an urgent care clinic where he was refused treatment, she brought him to another one and used her son’s name and health insurance to get medical attention. Later, Smitherman again used her son’s name and insurance to fill a prescription for him. She resigned from her position as superintendent of Elwood Community Schools after the arrest. Initially, the school board appeared to support her, but ultimately they voted to accept her resignation swiftly and unanimously.
Smitherman knew the student and had helped him and his family previously, and has since stated that committing fraud was a lapse in judgment. She was concerned for the student and his health, but did not want to alert child services as she was afraid he would be put into the foster care system. Smitherman has now been put on a pretrial diversion system, which means that if she is not charged with anything else for a year, the charges will be dropped.
She obviously had good intentions, but the way she carried them out was extreme and against the law. I admire and understand her desire to help her students in any way that she can, but using these means she ultimately did more harm than good for herself, the student and the school district as a whole. I am not trying to make a statement on the national healthcare system in general, as some have used this as an example of why universal healthcare is necessary, only that in her position of power and respect she could have handled the situation differently. Smitherman may have even undermined her attempt to shield the student from child services as the scandal might bring him to their attention. On top of that, since she has resigned, it will be difficult for her to find work in this district or in any other one. People, and the media especially, can be cutthroat, and may not remember or report on all the good she has done for this school system, but what they will remember is that she committed a felony.
It is clear that Smitherman feels remorse for her decision, as she has stated that she was frightened in the moment and would re-do it if she had the chance. Oftentimes, lies have a tendency to pile up on each other, but it seems that there would have been plenty of time to correct her decision and greatly minimize the consequences. It could not have been a snap decision and action with all the steps involved, and she would have had time to think of a better and legal solution.
At the same time, I feel bad for her because she only wanted to help the student. She just did so very improperly, especially for someone in a position of power, and all of her future actions in this regard will be under scrutiny. While some may claim she got off easy, as health insurance fraud similar to this is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, the scandal may take a long time to die down, and her name is probably tarnished for years to come, especially in the immediate area.