Friday, March 15, 2013

Students Suspended for Disarming Gunman

In all my years of writing about school administrators who suspend students for the dumbest reasons known to man — a teenager holding an ibuprofen; making a gun with a finger and thumb; or, having a replica baseball bat in a car — this case may actually take the cake.

Last month, an unnamed 16-year-old Cypress Lake High student in Fort Myers, Florida was involved in an altercation on the bus when student Quadryle Davis pointed a loaded revolver at another student and threatened to shoot him. Our 16-year-old wrestled Davis to the floor and took the gun away from him. The kid believed Davis was going to shoot the other student, so he jumped on Davis, saving the other boy's life.

And got suspended for it.

In fact, there were three students who tackled Davis and they were all suspended.

According to a story on TheBlaze.com, the student's referral slip said he received an "emergency suspension" because he was involved with an "incident with a weapon." That's because, according to a statement by Lee County School District spokesman Alberto Rodriguez, "If there is a potentially dangerous situation, Florida law allows the principal to suspend a student immediately pending a hearing."

Allows, Alberto. Allows.

That means a principal may choose to suspend a student. He or she is not required to suspend them. This isn't Olympic figure skating.

Rather than err on the side of common sense, the school administration, led by principal Tracy Perkins, chose to make what may be the most boneheaded decision of the school year.

Zero Tolerance is a fungal growth on the brains of many school administrators, causing them to refuse to exercise any discretion or consider any mitigating circumstances, like "he saved someone's life." In this case, they suspended the unnamed student because he didn't sit idly by to see what might happen. According to some people, he may have saved several lives with his actions.

But that's not how Cypress Lake High administrators see it. He stepped in, that made him "involved," and so now he was punished. Like the scene in The Incredibles where Bob "Mr. Incredible" Parr's boss refused to let him leave the office to stop a mugging.

By this logic, the victim should have also been suspended, since he was "involved" as well.

It gets worse. According to a story on WTFX Fox 4, the teenage hero was interrogated for four hours against his will by school officials and the Lee County Sheriff's office.

"He was consistently denied access to his mother or to an attorney," said Jeffrey Nadel, president of the National Youth Rights Association.

Based on my own in-depth understanding of the law, gleaned from hours and hours of watching Law and Order, the police are not allowed to question minors without a parent present, and they definitely aren't allowed to question anyone once a lawyer has been requested.

Nadel is fighting to have the suspension expunged from the kid's record, and he's considering a lawsuit against the school district to get it done.

"He should not have a suspension on his record for his heroism," Nadel told WTFX. "If the district signals to us clearly that they are unwilling to do the right thing, then a lawsuit is definitely in the cards."

Nadel says if they file a lawsuit on the student's behalf, it would only be to cover attorney fees and force the district to remove the suspension from his permanent record.

Personally, I think they need to go one step further, sue the bejeezus out of the Lee County School District, and get his college education paid for. Hopefully he can go somewhere far away from — and smarter than — Lee County.

Meanwhile, according to TheBlaze.com, the alleged gunman was only charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon "without intent to kill." They reported that the sheriff's office said the gunman's charges are "based on our findings at this time."

In other words, he told us he wasn't really going to do it, so we're going to lighten the charges. But the kid who didn't feel like waiting around to see was subjected to four hours of illegal questioning.

If Cypress Lake wants to suspend someone, they need to suspend or even fire the administrator who said, "You know, we need to take a strong stand against being involved in incidents involving a weapon. Let's suspend the kids who saved the other boy's life."

That may end up being the smartest decision they'll make all year.



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