A Virginia high school student was given a two-week suspension after making a critical mistake — she drove her stepbrother’s car to school instead of her own.
Sixteen-year-old Courtney Niles was unable to take her own car to school, so she borrowed her stepbrother’s truck. Unbeknownst to her, a gun was stored securely inside the truck, out of sight.
School officials called Niles out of class and brought her to the truck, where police confronted her. They asked her if there was anything suspicious inside the car that she should tell them about. Not knowing about the gun, she told them no.
The police then instructed her to open the car and look under the driver’s seat, where she found the gun.
Niles told The Virginia Gazette that the gun was hidden, and would have been impossible to see unless the police had peered through the back window of the truck.
Niles’s family isn’t sure who owns the gun, but assumes a friend left in the vehicle after a hunting and fishing trip.
Warhill High School principal Jeff Carroll was initially sympathetic to Niles, and tried to alleviate her punishment. Under the school district’s zero tolerance code of conduct, however, he had no choice but to suspend her for 10 days.
Niles is also banned from attending homecoming or competing in the school’s cheerleading championship.
“I’m really stressed out and worried I’m going to fall behind in school,” she said in a statement.
But some wonder whether the punishment fits the crime. Under the code of conduct for Williamsburg-James public schools, bringing a weapon to school — even accidentally — is automatically presumed to be “deliberate, overt and destructive,” according to Reason.
Possession or use of a weapon carries a greater punishment than bullying, sexual harassment and plagiarism.
Even so, Niles’s punishment could have been worse. The district lists expulsion and criminal charges as other potential consequences. And indeed, students who committed similarly accidental offenses have fared far worse. (RELATED: Felony weapons charge for student who brought fishing supplies to school)
The district did not respond to a request for comment.