Johnston teen expelled for gun gets scholarship offer

David "Cole" Withrow
May 2, 2013 8:13:02 PM PDT
The Johnston County Eagle Scout who was expelled from Princeton High School for accidentally bringing a shotgun on campus was offered an opportunity to attend an alternative school so he can graduate Thursday.

David "Cole" Withrow - an honors student - was arrested Monday and charged with a felony for having the gun in his locked truck in the school parking lot. Sources told ABC11 he forgot it was still in the truck after going skeet shooting over the weekend.

Once he remembered the weapon, he used the phone in the school office to call his mom. Administrators overheard him, and he was arrested and expelled.

In a news release sent to ABC11 Thursday, an attorney for the district denied Withrow was actually expelled or suspended for 365 days as previously reported and as officials told ABC11 Wednesday.

Johnston County Board of Education Attorney Jimmy Lawrence also said that at the discretion of the Superintendent, provisions have been made to allow Withrow to "continue receiving educational benefits and will be allowed to graduate if he completes the requirements for graduation under Johnston County Board Policy and State law."

Lawrence pointed out that North Carolina law and the Federal Gun Free Schools Act mandates a 365-day suspension of any student who violates policies regarding weapons, but he said the matter has not come up yet before the Johnston County School Board.

Critics of Withrow's situation have pointed out that two school officials both brought guns onto Johnston County school property in recent years, but were never charged with felonies like Cole.

An assistant principal at Cole's school was suspended for three days, but never criminally charged. She still works in the same position at the school.

A teacher at another high school in the school district was cited and resigned.

Whatever happens with Johnston County schools, Withrow's future education appears to be taken care of. Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. has offered the teen a full scholarship to the university. He's even offered to let him finish his high school work through their online academy.

Falwell happened to be in town and saw Cole's story on the news, and the student's clothes caught his eye.

"I noticed he was wearing a Liberty University t-shirt," said Falwell.

He called the honor student himself, and offered him the scholarship.

"He was ecstatic," said Falwell.

Meanwhile, those close to Cole's family say graduating from an alternative school is not an option. They are still fighting for him to be able to graduate with his class.

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