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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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🙂

  4. 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”.

  5. 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. …”

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/texas-teen-fined-cursing-fellow-student/story?id=12821959

  6. “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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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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