Originally created 09/27/03

School system enforces zero tolerance rule



A school police officer escorted Terrance Mahoney from class at Butler High School when another student claimed he had drugs in his car.

The officer never found drugs, but that didn't matter once the officer discovered five shotgun shells in the glove box.

"He said it posed a threat to everyone at the school. I don't see how when I don't have a gun," Terrance said. "I go hunting, and they were left in there."

The Richmond County Board of Education is proving it means business this school year when it says zero tolerance for weapons.

"Whether it's a gun, knife, bullets or shotgun shells, we simply cannot have anything on school grounds or at a school activity, function or event that may pose a danger to our students or staff," said Mechelle Jordan, the board's public information director.

It wasn't a criminal offense, but Terrance was suspended for five days and given in-school suspension when he returned Thursday. He also faces a tribunal hearing, where he could be expelled.

School officials weren't picking on Terrance.

A pupil at Spirit Creek Middle School found a steak knife in his book bag Aug. 26 and immediately turned it over to a teacher. He said a classmate told him someone else dropped it in his bag during breakfast.

Still, the principal suspended the pupil. Three weeks later, a tribunal panel found him not guilty and restored his days of suspension. By then, the boy had missed several days of classroom instruction.

The same month, a Butler freshman was found with a gun in his pants. It turned out to be a harmless starter pistol, but an officer thought it was a .38-caliber pistol. The freshman was suspended and eventually expelled for the school year.

Although Richmond County's policies might seem strict, the federal government allows no wiggle room in serious cases.

As part of the Improving America's Schools Act of 1994, states which accept federal funds are required to enforce laws regarding firearms. The Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 (GFSA) mandates the expulsion, for at least a year, of pupils who take a firearm to school.

State officials and individual school districts can add to the rules and prohibit other weapons.

THE RULES

Bringing these items to school in Richmond County can get a pupil suspended and possibly expelled:

  • Razor blade
  • Ice pick
  • Sword cane
  • Knife
  • Gun
  • Pellet gun
  • Bullets
  • Laser devices
  • Source: Code of Student Conduct and Discipline

    Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.



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