High School Student is Expelled and Criminally Charged For Spitballing

Spotsylvania High School student Andrew Mikel II, 14, is the latest kid to be swept up in the zero tolerance/zero logic campaign against toy guns in school. (For earlier stories, click here and here and here). Mikel was expelled and criminally charged after he used a pen casing (the tube of preference for spitballers) to spit plastic pellets at other students at lunch. He was charged with use of a “weapon” in school. The Spotsylvania Knights may carry a lance

Notably, the school’s hearing officer, John Lynn, wrote to administrators that he was “not at all comfortable expelling or suspending this student for the remainder of the year,” according to the documents. However, even with the opportunity of hindsight, the school officials insisted on expulsion.

The boy is now charged with three counts of misdemeanor assault. The school officials cited the federal Gun-Free Schools Act that requires expulsion for weapons, including hand guns, explosive devices and projectile weapons “used to intimidate, threaten or harm others.” This was a spitball incident.

Nevertheless, Principal Russell Davis insists “[w]e have an obligation to protect the students in our building from others who pose a threat to the over-all safe learning environment.” What of the obligation to be fair to students and not to criminalize education in our society? What of the obligation to use a modicum of logic and discretion? I have previously written on this trend.

What is astonishing about these incidents is that they cause national outcries but the officials are never reprimanded or retrained — leading to a continuation of this blind application of the zero tolerance policy that is turning our children into neurotic little felons.

Source: Washington Post

Jonathan Turley

38 thoughts on “High School Student is Expelled and Criminally Charged For Spitballing

  1. Oh for crying out loud. Between sexting, cyber bullying, and now spit balling, schools are almost too dangerous to attend. When I was in school, there was real sex, real bullying, and spit balling galore. Why is everyone being such a baby now?

  2. “‘More and more school districts apply these zero-tolerance policies, and common sense goes out the window,” said Del. Mark L. Cole (R-Fredericksburg). “Something like this can haunt a kid for the rest of his life, just for a little mischief.'” (Kevin Sieff-Washington Post)

    Wrong. Common Sense does not “go out the window” … it was never in the room.

  3. “Nevertheless, Principal Russell Davis insists ‘[w]e have an obligation to protect the students in our building from others who pose a threat to the over-all safe learning environment.'”

    Really, genius? When I was in 7th grade, such “dangerous weapons” as pen-based spitball “guns” were a very common item. I, like the my classmates, managed to survive such a dire “threat”. No one lost an eye. No one died. No one felt threatened by a spitball. Why? Because spitballs are harmless.

    Principal Davis?

    You are a total (insert expletive of choice here) moron.

    If the school board in your district has a lick of sense, you’ll be unemployed soon too.

  4. Spitballs, dangerous?? Hell no. Gross but faaaaaaaaaaaaar from dangerous.

    If the most dangerous thing kids did in high school was lobbing spitballs, I’d give them each a hug.

    Zero tolerance policies run amok.

  5. I don’t think expulsion was appropriate, but I definitely disagree with your characterization of this as being expelled for shooting “spitballs”. Spitballs are balls made from wadded up pieces of paper wetted with spit. He was using plastic pellets. The real headline should be “Student expelled for shooting his classmate with plastic pellets using a homemade blowgun.” Still doesn’t warrant expulsion, but it ain’t “spitballing.”

  6. Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex and intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior.
    —Dee Hock

  7. James M.,
    Even with plastic “pellets” it is still spitballing. The kids weren’t injured, they weren’t harmed and they weren’t intimidated. These administrators should be walking the street now looking for a new profession. If this was in place when I was in grade school, I would still be in prison.

  8. It is the law and the structure of law which is moronic.

    It is concocting a structure of law, which, when imposed upon people, becomes so profoundly brain-damaging, especially to lawyers, that no lawyer dare ponder a viable remedy.

    Engineers, on the other hand, actually learn to accurately analyze a problem and design effective, economical, efficient solutions to practical problems.

    This is not the fault of lawyers, law education grants to lawyers no method of accessing any effective, economical efficient solution and only offers using precedent to so complicate the law that lawyers rarely are allowed by law to admit the predicament.

    Engineers are required by applicable engineering law, to acknowledge an engineering problem and seek a viable solution which is practical, efficient, economical and effective.

    Perhaps law needs to be placed under engineering supervision.

  9. Oh. Sorry.

    What I wrote is wrong, and I apologize.

    Thanks to modern medicine and iatrogenic blunders, I was medicated into a dementia, by mid 1989, in which I was oriented times zero. I could not recognize my name much of the time, could not add 5 and 6, and would be found in bed in another patient’s room during broad daylight because I could not recognize that bright light outside meant it was not night. A fair estimate of my WAIS-R score might have been an IQ of around 5 or so.

    Therefore, I am personally familiar with pretty much the whole range of mental competence in the scientific language of the 1930s, during which I was born. I went from high intelligence through normal, moron, imbecile and idiot, all the way to very low grade idiot, and returned back to Mensa qualifying scores.

    That Dee Hock quote is elegant.

  10. “Stupor of knowledge lacking inwardness–
    What book, O learned man, will set me right?”

    –The opening two lines of Theodore Roethke, “The Pure Fury”…

  11. Do they still have thumb tacks…..I remember putting one in the underneath of a teachers chair….it took awhile to get it through the plastic…preservation played out….

  12. jeez, i threw a paper airplane bounced it off the blackboard and stuck in the teachers ear and didn’t even get sent to the office.

  13. It’s a good thing that my red wax lips, and later, my wax buck teeth were confiscated by my teacher in the 1940’s, not the 2010’s. I might have become a dangerous menace to society instead of the solid citizen I have become. C’mon now, who’s snickering back there.

  14. On a dare one of the boys in my eighth grade class glued all the teacher’s books together. He mistakenly glued his school I D to the bottom of the pile. When confronted, he confessed and had to spend three days doing all his school work in the Principal’s office. He spent a lot of time in the Principal’s office for pulling the fire alarm, putting cherry bombs in the drinking fountains and letting all the air out of the basket balls.

    Two years ago I went to an eighth grade class reunion and he was seated at my table. He is now President of a very large mid-western University. The rest of us didn’t give a hoot and had a great time telling his wife all about his bad-boy days.

    God only knows where he’d be if the rules kids deal with today were in place when he was a boy.

  15. Blouise

    Your friend should be a good administrator – he’ll be forewarned about all the mischief those students can get up to.

  16. I’m with James M. Sounds like plastic spitballs could put an eye out, but expulsion isn’t warranted. Just explain and take away the weapon. If it happens again, then something should be done.

  17. In theory? James has a point. In practice, and I know this from many many hours constructing said devices, if they are the plastic pellets that come from the little spring loaded plastic guns? You can’t develop enough pressure in the pen as a pressure vessel to make that low a mass projectile dangerous. Two reasons: pens are hard to get perfect seal on and they hold a very small volume of air, even compressed, without cracking. Even a metal pen case would be insufficient given the pellet mass to give it penetrating power. Air rifles often have 800+ psi to shoot BB’s or metal pellets. In a pen case with a manual pumping/firing system? You’d be lucky to get 5 psi.

  18. BIL,

    You can use wadding to get a better seal😛

    I was also a big fan of this kind of stuff when I was younger, although I was just a big nerd, so I wasn’t shooting things at other people so much as seeing what fun things I could turn my pen into. To be honest, I think I made stuff out of binder clips and rubber bands that was a hell of a lot more dangerous than what this kid was doing. I don’t think he should have been punished for the pen at all — although if this was done in a bullying context, obviously punishment would be warranted for the bullying, rather than the pen.

    However, shooting plastic is more serious than spitballs. This is still a phenomenal overreaction, and the story works just as well as a cautionary tale for zero tolerance policies run amuck if it’s clear he was shooting little plastic BBs out of a metal pen. You don’t need to embellish the story to make it resonate better, which I suppose is what I’m reacting to. It’s changing the facts slightly to better play into a cross-generational “look how crazy things have gotten” trope.

    I think we basically agree about what happened and what to do about it, I’m just quibbling with the definition of a spitball:)

  19. Buddha,

    I should write my friend about you … he’d probably make you a V.P. and the two of you could franchise a new campus “Animal House”.

  20. The only real problem I recall from my primary or secondary school related to projectile weapons was when one of the kids in ‘auto shop’ was caught with a zip-gun. He got expelled but from grades 1-12 spitballs and the rubberband launchers and the like were pretty much ubiquitous with stern words and seeing the principal being the remedies.

    Lol, I remember a friend and I being sent to our principals office for fighting, we were innocent, or as innocent as participants can be (my story, stick’n to it) and our principal, a jolly, large, bearded fellow everybody liked on sight, gave us a very reasonable and kind talking to.

    It did start off with him taking a brass knuckles thing out of his desk drawer, showing it to us and bashing his desk a few times with it to show the damage it could do. Of course, he went on to say that a habit of fighting comes to no good end, it escalates, you end up as jd’s, you resort to weapons, you break your mother’s heart, we are too smart for that, etc. etc. etc. That’s pretty impressive to 9-10 year olds. We worked thereafter to (eventually) made him proud.:-)

    This kid in Texas wasn’t so lucky to have a good principal:

    “Texas High School Senior Fined $637 for Cursing At School
    Victoria Mullins Has a Warrant Out for Her Arrest After Cussing at Fellow Student

    “High school senior Victoria Mullins is looking for a second job to help pay off a $637 fine she faces for cursing in class. …”


  21. “What is astonishing about these incidents is that they cause national outcries but the officials are never reprimanded or retrained — leading to a continuation of this blind application of the zero tolerance policy that is turning our children into neurotic little felons. ”

    Would this current environ be here if the student teacher ratio were more humane and reasonable? This kind of crap happens when people are expected to work miracles with little resource and held to standards made impossible. Maybe the politicians that keep sucking school resources into their pet projects could give up 50% of their salaries and subscribe to the same benefit packages teachers have to live with and see if it doesn’t make a difference in their thinking. And I must say, there is a pathetic and deliberate lack of response to public outcry from those same politicians….the nature of their power is that it is GIVEN to them by social contact not for their own use, but to respond…that is RESPOND to these situations which hinder our society. Instead, the political environment is such that they parasitize the power and resource to build a separate, very unequal, society at the expense of those who actually keep to the contract.

  22. There is really only one way to ban all crime, ban humans from existence.

    Or, would that be an even greater crime than the sum total of all other crime?

  23. People believe a lie of fear,
    hundreds of millions of people die as peers,
    and I see and hear the question near,
    and so here I cry a sea of tears.

  24. guilhem,

    When you make having a pen a crime, only criminals will have pens. But you may be on to something there. Pens are mightier than swords after all.

  25. As a first grader I was stabbed day after day by Johnny Johnston who sat next to me. He would use an ink pen or sharpen his pencil and stab me.
    He also kicked, and slugged me an pulled hunks of my hair out, scribbled on my work, stole from me and verbally harassed me.

    This was in the class room with the teacher looking on.

    This in 1950 and boys were allowed to beat up on girls and on each other.

    Does anyone doubt that what I went through for that year did not effect my learning? Or for that matter that it did not send a message to Johnny Johnston that what he was doing was acceptable?

    No child should have to suffer at the hands of another in the class rooms or hall ways of a school.

    Johnny was a bully and a trouble maker all the way through high school, maybe if he had been taught that abusing other students was not going to be accepted, when he was six he would have become a less violent and better disciplined person.

    Assault and battery is a crime. Children need to learn that it is unacceptable and it is punishable.

  26. Buddha,

    You know, simply by deleting a space and adding some punctuation in that sentence you get a great statement about violence and the masculine ego.

  27. All of u on here take the kids side but here’s the thing I graduated from Spotsylvania High where it happened and violence and fighting ad racism are very high there. Mr. Davis is a great man and principle trust me he did what was right.

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