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When straws are outlawed…

Posted by Richard on June 27, 2012

Every time I think I’ve encountered the ultimate example of  “zero tolerance” policies run amok, it later turns out I was mistaken. It’s happened again.

The Supreme Court has refused to hear Mikel v. School Board. That means Andrew Mikel II will continue to have on his record a full year school suspension and a juvenile court sentence to a diversion program for anger management and substance abuse counseling. For shooting spitwads at classmates during lunch period.

Mikel was 14 and an honor student active in Junior ROTC when he committed this heinous act in December, 2010. Spotsylvania High School in Spotsylvania, PA, called it “criminal assault and possession of a weapon,” and referred it to local law enforcement, which initiated juvenile criminal proceedings.

Mikel has been homeschooled since.

The Rutherford Institute fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court (emphasis added):

“There can be no justice in a nation where young people like Andrew Mikel have their futures senselessly derailed by school administrators lacking in both common sense and compassion,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “That the Supreme Court refused to hear Andrew’s case is a tragedy in itself, but by failing to intervene, the Court is legitimizing the perverse use of zero tolerance policies by school districts and the criminalization of America’s schoolchildren by teachers, administrators and police.”

Decrying the school’s actions as arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute filed a petition with the Circuit Court of the County of Spotsylvania asking the court to overturn the School Board’s decision. Although the Circuit Court ruled in favor of the school, it did acknowledge that it was “incongruous” that Andrew was suspended for the remainder of the year for spitwads while a student who punched someone in the eye could be suspended for only ten days. 

Ah, but the student who punched someone in the eye wasn’t armed with an illegal weapon — a straw and some hollow plastic “spitwad” pellets.

I have some questions for Spotsylvania school officials, police, and the courts through which this farce proceeded:

  • Is a straw automatically a weapon, or only if it’s “loaded” with a pellet?
  • What if the straw’s “unloaded,” but the student has the “ammo” elsewhere on his person?
  • Is it a worse offense if he’s carrying the straw concealed?
  • What’s going to be declared a weapon next — a rubber band? A spork?
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