The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal of a lower court’s ruling that shooting spitwads at school is “violent criminal conduct.”
The Rutherford Institute has battled the case on behalf of Andrew Mikel II, a student at Spotsylvania High School in Spotsylvania, Va.
“That the Supreme Court refused to hear Andrew’s case is a tragedy in itself, but by failing to intervene, the court is legitimizing the perverse use of zero tolerance policies by school districts and the criminalization of America’s schoolchildren by teachers, administrators and police,” said Rutherford Institute President John W. Whitehead.
The decision not to visit the dispute came this week as the high court prepared to conclude its 2011-2012 session.
“There can be no justice in a nation where young people like Andrew Mikel have their futures senselessly derailed by school administrators lacking in both common sense and compassion,” Whitehead said.
The case developed when Mikel was 14. In December 2010, as a freshman at the school, he was expelled for the remainder of the year after being accused of shooting spitwads at classmates.
He was accused of “violent criminal conduct” and possessing a weapon in school, and school officials referred the issue to local law enforcement to be handled as a criminal prosecution.
Although no one was harmed, the Spotsylvania County Circuit Court upheld the disciplinary action in May 2011, and the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court now is the end of the road for the case.
The Rutherford Institute reported that the student “was sent to the principal’s office after shooting a handful of small, hollow pellets akin to plastic spitwads at the school.”
“Andrew, an honor student active in Junior ROTC and in his church, was initially suspended for 10 days and charged with criminal assault and possession of a weapon under the school’s Student Code of Conduct,” the institute reported.
The penalty later was changed to a suspension for the rest of the year, and the complaint to law enforcement resulted in Andrew being placed in a diversion program.
An intermediate court admitted that it was “incongruous” that Mikel was suspended for the rest of the year while school rules allowed a student who punched someone in the eye to be suspended for 10 days only, but the court refused to change the penalty.
Rita Dunaway, a staff attorney with the Rutherford Institute, had argued in the case that the school determination that Mikel “possessed” a “weapon” reached too far.
Mikel has been homeschooled since.
Whitehead has characterized schools’ “zero-tolerance” policies as a “dangerous, monolithic mindset.”
The student’s father said his son knows he was wrong, but the punishment “went overboard.”