School board considers new weapons policy

June 14, 2011 4:13:34 AM PDT
If a student brings a weapon on campus, should he or she be punished?

The Cumberland County Board of Education will consider a new school discipline policy Tuesday evening. Members may consider not punishing students if they have a good excuse for having a weapon.

Tyler Blue says taking a gun onto his school's campus led to his suspension for the remainder of the year. That was ten years ago, when he learned firsthand about zero tolerance.

"It was a long process going through that stuff, courts and lawyers, all that stuff to get it wiped off my record," Blue said.

In 2001, the then Terry Sanford High School student was arrested and expelled after school officials found two unloaded shotguns in his father's pick-up truck. Blue's father told authorities the guns were for deer hunting, and his son had no idea the weapons were underneath the seat. The D.A. later dropped all charges but Blue was forced to finish the school year at an alternative school.

"It was just a big mess, and it took a long time to get straightened out," Blue added.

Zero tolerance policies were put into place following shootings at Columbine and other schools.

Cumberland school officials are now looking at a new discipline policy that would do away with zero tolerance.

"It allows principals flexibility in what the discipline is going to be," said Theresa Perry, Cumberland County Schools. "The student's intent -- that is one factor they can consider."

The revised policy would mirror new proposed state legislation regarding student discipline. One section says board policies may not prohibit superintendents and principals from considering a student's intent, disciplinary and academic history, when deciding whether to recommend long term suspension.

School board members will discuss the revisions at their meeting Tuesday. Under the new policy, principals and other school officials would have more discretion in deciding a student's punishment. A key issue is making sure that punishment or discipline is handed out fairly at different schools.

School board member Michael Boose thinks there should be guidelines for punishment.

"There should be a range of what a principal can do and be able to justify that," Boose said. "You should not be maxed out and you should not be let go completely."

However the new rules read, Blue hopes it prevents any other students from the humiliation and embarrassment he's had to live through.

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