Rutherford Challenges Pellet Conviction

by Garet G. Sarkisian

A conservative-linked civil rights group has filed suit seeking to reverse the suspension of a Spotsylvania, Virginia high school freshman who “shot” classmates with plastic pellets blown from a toy.

Charlottesville’s own Rutherford Institute says it filed the suit as of last Wednesday in Spotsylvania County Circuit Court to stand up for the rights of 14-year-old freshman honor student at Spotsylvania High School Andrew Mikel II.

According to the Associated Press, along with being suspended in December for the rest of the school year, Mikel was charged with misdemeanor assault — a charge that was promised to be dropped as long as he completes a year-long “diversion program.”

Mikel initially was given a ten-day suspension, but the Spotsylvania County School Board later voted to punish him for the rest of the school year, citing the system’s Student Code of Conduct requirement that a student found with “any type of weapon, or object used to intimidate, threaten or harm others” be “expelled for a minimum of 365 days” unless “special circumstances exist.” The school system refused comment as to whether the toy could conceivably be used to “intimidate, threaten, or harm” anyone.

The district also sent the case to the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office, which charged Mikel with three counts of misdemeanor assault.

As result Mikel entered the “diversion program” — which includes community service and substance abuse and anger management counseling — to avoid prosecution. Mikel’s father now says his son’s damaged record has shattered his hopes of attending the U.S. Naval Academy after graduation.

The Rutherford Institute’s president, John Whitehead, said Mikel is a victim of so-called “zero-tolerance” policies in our nation’s schools that “defy common sense” and “essentially criminalize childish behavior.”

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