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Friday, March 23rd, 2007

Student may be expelled

Loaded hunting rifle is found in his vehicle

By Margie Wuebker
A 17-year-old Marion Local High School junior faces the possibility of expulsion after a loaded rifle was found in his vehicle parked on school property.
The incident unfolded Monday morning after a witness reported seeing someone toss what appeared to be a beer can from a vehicle leaving a driveway at the elementary/junior high building.
School officials subsequently found the beer can and determined the vehicle description matched a black Pontiac Grand Am registered to a student.
The unidentified student permitted a Mercer County Sheriff's deputy to check his car for alcohol. Prior to the search that yielded neither beer nor any other type of alcohol, he reportedly alerted the officer to the presence of a loaded .22-caliber rifle in the backseat.
According to sheriff's office reports, the youth explained he had been hunting groundhogs the previous day and forgot to remove the weapon from the car.
Marion Local Superintendent Carl Metzger confirmed the incident occurred but declined to comment on the student's explanation.
"I am not taking this lightly," he told The Daily Standard. "Whether the firearm was forgotten or brought to the school intentionally, it represented a danger to the student body as well as the staff."
While the sheriff's report has been forwarded to the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office for review and possible charges, school officials continue to investigate with Metzger noting due process will be followed in accordance with board of education policy.
"The board is committed to providing the students of the district with an educational environment which is free of the dangers of firearms, knives and other dangerous weapons," board policy states.
As superintendent, Metzger can expel a student from school for a period of one year for bringing a firearm or knife to school or onto school property. He also has the authority to reduce the length of the expulsion on a case by case basis.
The policy identifies factors leading to such a reduction as: the student's mental and/or physical characteristics or conditions; the age of the student and its relevance to the punishment; the student's prior disciplinary history; and/or the intent of the perpetrator.
A student suspended, expelled, removed or permanently excluded from school also faces the prospect of losing driving privileges with notice to be sent to the county registrar and juvenile court judge within two weeks of disciplinary action.
In accordance with clearly defined due process, the student and his parents, guardian or custodian would receive notice of intended expulsion. They would have the opportunity to challenge the action or otherwise explain the student's actions.
Additionally, the student and his parents, guardian or custodian have the right to appeal to the board of education, the right to be represented at the appeal and the right to request the hearing be held in executive session.
Metzger also indicated he would not comment on specific action taken during the coming days, adding "We will do what we have to do."
"There appears to be no indication this young man intended to cause problems at school," Sheriff Jeff Grey said. "He claims he forgot to take the gun out the car. While I can understand how something like this could happen, schools and law enforcement must take the presence of weapons on school property seriously."
The gun was loaded but there was no round in the chamber meaning the weapon was not ready for immediate firing.
"The backseat of a car is not a safe place to store a loaded gun," he added. "This incident should serve as a message for all parents whose children hunt or use guns in sporting activities. Make sure that gun is stored safely at home and not in a motor vehicle where intentions can be misinterpreted."
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