Zero tolerance strikes again, with a vengeance: A Maryland high school expelled a well-behaved 18-year-old student who accidentally brought a shotgun onto school property because he left it in his car after returning from a hunting trip.
The student, 18-year-old Patrick Bryan Mitchell, was expelled from South River High School. He was also arrested by county police and received a mugshot. He is barred from possessing a gun for a year.
He missed his senior lacrosse season, several weeks of school, and his chances at an athletic scholarship to Pfeiffer College were crushed. He was forced to drop out of two Advanced Placement courses, and has attempted to keep up with his studies by enrolling in online classes.
Now he has a simple request: to attend graduation and senior prom. He has filed an appeal with the Board of Education of Anne Arundel County Public Schools.
At his appeals hearing on Thursday, he made clear he realizes his mistake was a serious one.
“I just wanted [the hearing examiner] to realize that it was a mistake, and I had no ill intent on harming anyone,” he said, according to The Baltimore Sun. “I love South River. I love everybody in it. It’s just a shame.”
His mother told reporters that her son should not be punished so vigorously for something that was purely accidental.
“I believe it was a small mistake,” she said. “It was a serious mistake, but a small mistake.”
But Laurie Pritchard, the district’s legal director, disagreed.
“The superintendent certainly does not consider possession of a shotgun with ammunition in a vehicle on school property … to be something small,” she said in a statement. “Bryan is by all accounts … a very nice young man, and I’m glad to say he’s on track to graduate. This, however, is a very serious matter.
Both Principal William Myers and Interim Superintendent Mamie J. Perkins maintained that expulsion was the correct verdict, according to the Capital Gazette.
Perkins did not respond to a request for comment as to whether she believed Mitchell should be allowed to graduate.
Mitchell is hopeful that the board will vote to allow him to attend prom and graduation, though he realizes that’s a long shot.
The shotgun was discovered in the seat of his car, which he had parked in the school parking lot because he was late to class that February morning. An administrator noticed that his parking credentials were outdated, inspected the car and discovered the weapon.
Mitchell created a dangerous situation, according to Pritchard.
“We’re very lucky nothing happened,” she said.