, Gloucester, MA

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November 1, 2010

No horsing around at this school

HAMILTON — In a town known for its horse culture, two Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School students were suspended last week for riding a horse to school, dressed as a knight and his squire, in the name of school spirit.

Senior Dan DePaolis of Essex wore a helmet from a suit of armor and rode a horse through the parking lot, accompanied by his "squire" — sophomore Keegan Blute — as students walked into school Thursday for a medieval day during School Spirit Week.

DePaolis received a two-day suspension, while Blute was dealt a one-day suspension and community service.

Principal Matthew Fox said Monday that he "can't confirm, deny or discuss anything dealing with student discipline."

Fox would not answer further questions, including whether animals are allowed on school grounds.

But DePaolis' parents, Ron and Julie, said Dan served his two days of suspension and returned to school yesterday.

The family's horse was on school property for five minutes, Ron DePaolis said, while Dan made a slow loop around the parking lot. The animal was brought to Hamilton in a trailer and parked across the street, at a friend's house.

Both parents supervised as their son rode the horse across the street and onto school property. Dan was soon confronted by an assistant principal who demanded he get off the horse and told him he was suspended on the spot, according to Ron DePaolis.

"I was taken aback," he said. "The process wasn't handled properly. They could have been much more professional. ... We would never have put our kid in this kind of position if we knew this was what the outcome would be."

Throughout last week, students were encouraged to dress up — from wearing togas to dressing as nerds or superheroes — to show school spirit.

More than 2,600 people have viewed a video of the horse incident that Dan DePaolis posted on YouTube. Students can be seen walking into school, within inches of the horse, as Blute, dressed in a medieval tunic, leads the horse with DePaolis in the saddle.

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