Thursday, January 12, 2006

Student expelled over airsoft pellet gun

RAINIER -- One Rainier High School student has been expelled for a Dec. 10 incident involving airsoft pellet guns on campus.

Three other expulsion cases have been heard and decisions are expected today or Wednesday, according to Rainier School District Superintendent Michael Carter. The outcomes of those three cases will determine whether Rainier is put on a watch list of dangerous schools by the Oregon Department of Education.

"Jim Mabbott, Superintendent of the Northwestern ESD, conducted two of the expulsion hearings Monday and he will have a resolution within 48 hours," Carter said. "I was the hearing officer for the other two."

The student Carter expelled is out for an entire calendar year.

Initially, five students were recommended for expulsion over the Dec. 10 incident, which school officials have not described in detail. According to Carter, after the circumstances were reviewed only four faced expulsion.

The parents of the four students requested closed hearings. Carter excused himself from some of the hearings, saying he felt he was "too close" to the situation after serving as the investigator of the incident.

"After the hearing officer renders his decision, expelled students can appeal to the school board within five days," Carter said. "If they do that, I'll put the appeals on the school board agenda. The parents can again elect for closed or open hearings."

In addition to the student already expelled over the airsoft gun incident, the district last fall expelled a Rainier High School student for having a knife at school.

If all three remaining airsoft cases result in expulsions, the school would be put on the state's watch list for dangerous schools. After three years on the list, the state would classify the school as "persistently dangerous" and step in and administer the school's safety plan. Rainier would have to have five weapons-related expulsions a year to remain on the watch list.

"In the first year of being on the watch list, the school has to submit a school safety plan," ODE spokesman John Lenson said.

Two of the suspended students' families are contending that airsoft pellet guns are not weapons.

"In no way, shape or form are these things weapons by the school's own definition," one of the student's mother said last week.

The school's student handbook says that "bringing, possessing, concealing or using a weapon is an offense subject to expulsion. A weapon is described as any object which will or is designed to expel a projectile by action of an explosive." (Airsoft guns use a compressed spring to fire plastic pellets the size of BBs).

The student handbook also says "dangerous weapon" means any weapon device, instrument, material or substance readily capable of causing death or serious injury.

According to the Website for Taurus, a manufacturer of the airsoft pellet guns, the pellets travel at 250 feet per second and can puncture a pressurized pop can from 10 feet. Taurus airsoft guns come with the warning: "Misuse or unsafe use may cause severe injuries or death. Sale of this product to minors is not permitted."

The MFI company, another airsoft gun manufacturer, said airsoft guns were originally designed as look-alike toys. The guns later gained popularity as a training tool for law enforcement live-fire training. The word "soft" is a bit of a misnomer, according to MFI, whose website says there is nothing soft about being hit by a plastic BB. MFI reports that its guns shoot pellets from 425 to 1,500 feet per second.

The airsoft guns come with a florescent orange or green tip, and manufactures warn that to remove the tip may violate state and federal laws.

Archived User Comments:

Jim Booher wrote on January 10, 2006 10:15 PM:"Comparing these "guns" with a toy cap gun that "looks like a gun and goes boom" to me is a real stretch. These weapons do more than just "go boom" if they dispense a plastic-tipped projectile that will penetrate a pressurized pop can at 10 feet and come with a warning that they can cause serious injury or death. Eyes, teeth, soft passages to the brain, etc. would be in danger. Were the students carrying them in plain sight innocently thinking that they were acceptable or were they at least somewhat if not completely hidden from view of others because they knew that there was a problem having them? I don't know the answer to that question but I have a hunch what it is. What is the question about their being an unacceptable weapon to have in a school? Expulsion is a very serious punishment for a very serious infraction, and appropriate in these cases."

Quanah Blue-Eagle wrote on January 10, 2006 5:39 PM:"I am in total agreement with the angry Rainier parent and Kathy Clark ! A gun is a gun no matter what it does. How many times have genuinely innocent people brandished a "fake" gun and been shot for it or otherwise injured in some way. In todays society, people are already on edge due to all the incidents and violence in our world. How many robbers and crooks have gone in to rob an establishment with only a finger in the pocket to appear as though they had "the real thing " and been either killed or imprisoned for their actions . We MUST send the message out that these toys are no longer just toys! In my opinion, the parents of these kids are just as guilty as the child who commits the infraction. Why do you think so many of our children are in trouble and have absolutely no respect for society, much less themselves ? We have become far too complacent and liberal in our thoughts as to how to raise a child. Wake up people ! Do something with your kids before the law is forced too ! "

Mistified Former Resident wrote on January 10, 2006 3:37 PM:"Is anyone actually surprised? This is Rainier we're talking about. A place where up until a few decades ago (or less) it would have been acceptable to have a hunting rifle in your locker. There really is no excuse for the school or society at large tolerating this kind of behavior, but there is history here. Sometimes you need to look at where you've come from to figure out where you ought to be going."

mike wrote on January 10, 2006 12:18 PM:"I do think that there should be a repremand to the students but expulsion is a bit excessive. These "toy's" are not particularly dangerous. Is a cap gun a gun just because it looks like a gun and goes boom? does it belong at school? NO but should this incedent end in this drastic measure? NO"

concerend and angry Rainier parent wrote on January 10, 2006 11:58 AM:"I have a child in Kindergarten @ Hudson Park Elementaray, and they asked not to bring itmes like play makeup and jewlery. So why should a high school student get away with bringing a "airsoft" pellet gun? I think the students should be punished and agree that the parents are just as much as fault for allowing their kids to bring the guns to school. A gun is a gun. No matter what it shoots!!"

Kathy Clark wrote on January 10, 2006 9:10 AM:"In no way should those toy guns be brought to school. We all know by now what to bring to school and what not to bring. School is about learning not bring toy guns that may look like real guns and may cause harm to others. What ever happend to just bringing paper and pencils to school? Those kids should be expelled from school and there parents should be ashamed to think that they should get away with bring those guns or anything else that can harm other people. Kathy Clark"

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