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Federal judges hear 4-H spat

Banning Bayley Kroupa, 17, from 4-H livestock competitions does not harm her agricultural education, a lawyer told judges Thursday in St. Paul, Minn.

Gary Thimsen, a lawyer representing 4-H officials, participated in oral arguments to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Thimsen is representing Rod Geppert, a Brule County Extension 4-H representative, and Peter Nielsen, an assistant director of 4-H Youth Development.

John Pekas is representing Greg Kroupa, Bayley's father, of White Lake, who is suing the state 4-H office and several 4-H officials after Bayley was banned from 4-H competitions for allegedly cheating at the 2011 South Dakota State Fair.

The Kroupa family has asked for $500,000 in punitive damages, plus $300,000 for alleged humiliation and at least $50,000 in civil rights violations.

Thimsen and Pekas argued in front of judges about the injunction preventing Bayley from competing in 4-H livestock exhibitions through the duration of the lawsuit. In July, U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier ruled that 4-H officials could not ban Bayley from participating in 4-H competitions while the lawsuit proceeds. 4-H officials appealed that decision.

Bayley allegedly showed a swine, Moe, at the South Dakota State Fair that she did not raise herself during the project season. The swine had allegedly been previously entered in the Missouri State Fair. Thimsen said Greg Kroupa bought the Missouri State Fair pig from an animal dealer in Iowa following the hog's success in Missouri.

Thimsen said although Bayley is banned from livestock competitions, she is still able to participate in other 4-H activities, and her education has not been harmed.

"4-H is a lot broader than livestock exhibitions," Thimsen said. "She is still entitled to go to their meetings and participate in other activities."

Thimsen said she can still compete in other livestock competitions outside of 4-H.

"You can have farming education ... without competitive exhibition," Thimsen said. "She has a lot of other venues open to compete."

Pekas said the only evidence the South Dakota State Fair pig and the one shown in Missouri are the same animal are grainy photographs, and no DNA was ever taken (DNA sampling at competitions has since been instituted by South Dakota 4-H officials). He said by barring Bayley from competition, she would lose the opportunity to win cash prizes, which she has earned in the past.

Pekas said Bayley was denied her right to due process.

"When you are kicked out of school, medical school, athletic competition, there is a right to be heard," Pekas said. "My client has not had that opportunity."

Greg Kroupa spoke to 4-H officials over the phone and at the fairgrounds about the swine dispute, but now denies the conversations, Thimsen said.

Pekas said Bayley received derogatory statements from her peers through email and Facebook.

Thimsen said 4-H officials are not to blame for Bayley's peers learning of the cheating allegations.

"There was as much publication from the plaintiff and her father as there were by the state actors," Thimsen said.

A ruling on the injunction will occur at a future date.