In the latest incident of anti-gun hysteria to erupt in a school setting, officials overseeing a school district in Alabama have expelled a 16-year-old girl for an entire year because she had a water gun at school.
Prior to her yearlong expulsion, the student, Sara Allena “Laney” Nichols, attended Prattville High School Prattville, a town of 35,229 just northwest of Montgomery.
The incident leading to Nichols’s suspension occurred on Friday, January 27, reports the Montgomery Advertiser.
Nichols and her mother, Tara Herring, say the teen girl did not bring the water gun to school. Instead, the mother and daughter claim, a male classmate gave Nichols the water gun to Nichols “as a joke.”
Nichols put the water gun in her backpack, and then in the backseat of her car.
The trouble started for Nichols on the following Tuesday when a concerned student told officials at Prattville High that she saw Nichols with a gun.
School officials found school surveillance camera footage showing Nichols carrying the water gun. The footage does not show Nichols receiving the gun from the male student.
The Autauga County Board of Education expelled Nichols in February. She is banned from entering all schools in the taxpayer-funded school district and from all extracurricular activities.
Herring, the mother, acknowledges that her daughter had the water gun on campus. She also concedes that the water gun was black, which made the plastic toy somewhat easier to mistake for a real gun. At the same time, the mad mother thinks the year-long expulsion is ridiculously severe.
“She’s 16 and doesn’t know what it means when you hear ‘gun’ on campus,” Herring told the Advertiser. “We admit what she did was wrong. I was hoping this could be a teachable moment for her. We’re not saying she should not have been punished. But she took a 10-day suspension. And then the board expelled her. We feel the expulsion is excessive.”
“After the principal and school officials knew it was a water gun, things should never have progressed this far,” Herring also told the Montgomery newspaper.
“The second you picked it up, you know its plastic and a toy,” Herring also said.
“Laney admitted she had the gun and told them it was a water gun and in her car. She and the other boy were silly and made a mistake. But the punishment she received was completely out of line for what happened.”
Autauga County school district superintendent Spence Agee refused to comment about the expulsion, citing student privacy concerns.
A local attorney, Julian McPhillips, is now representing Nichols’s family in an effort to reduce her punishment.
“(Laney) was the naive and unwitting victim of a scheme (for lack of a better word) by several boys to set her up and make her take the fall for a water-gun one of the boys brought to Prattville High School on Friday, January 27, 2017,” reads a letter from McPhillips to attorneys representing Prattville’s board of education.
McPhillips observes that the student who allegedly brought the water gun to school in the first place as well as “other boys who knew about what was going on” “escaped without any discipline whatsoever.”
The family is demanding that the school district retract the lengthy expulsion and wipe it from Nichols’s academic record.
The family is also contemplating legal action against the school district, in part because Nichols has plans to go to college. Herring said she hopes a lawsuit is not necessary.
“We just want her record and name cleared,” Herring told the Advertiser.
“We loved the schools in Prattville. But we have lost all confidence in the school system after this.”
The incident in Prattville is the latest incident in a long trend involving school officials going apoplectic over things that are not weapons but sort of resemble weapons because of zero-tolerance policies.
The quintessentially absurd story involving school officials reacting hysterically to an object that is not a weapon occurred at Park Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland when a little boy was suspended for two days because his teacher thought he shaped a strawberry, pre-baked toaster pastry into something resembling a gun. (RELATED: Second-Grader Suspended For Having Pop-Tart Shaped Like A Gun)
Officials at an elementary school in small-town Michigan impounded a third-grade boy’s batch of 30 homemade birthday cupcakes because they were adorned with green plastic figurines representing World War Two soldiers. The school principal branded the military-themed cupcakes “insensitive” in light of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. (RELATED: School Confiscates Third-Grader’s Cupcakes Topped With Toy Soldiers)
At Roscoe R. Nix Elementary School in Maryland, a 6-year-old boy was suspended for making the universal kid sign for a gun, pointing at another student and saying “pow.” That boy’s suspension was later lifted and his name cleared after a local attorney intervened. (RELATED: Pow! You’re Suspended, Kid)
In Calvert County, Maryland, a kindergarten boy was suspended from school for 10 days because he showed a friend his plastic, orange-tipped, cowboy-style cap gun on the way to school. The incident happened on a school bus. The boy later wet his pants during a lengthy interrogation, his mother said. (RELATED: Kindergartener Interrogated Over Cap Gun Until He Pees His Pants, Then Suspended 10 Days)
A six-year-old boy was punished because he took a plastic Lego gun roughly the size of a quarter on a school bus headed to Old Mill Pond Elementary School in Palmer, Mass. (RELATED: Kindergartener Gets Detention, Forced To Apologize For Tiny Lego Gun)
An eighth grader in West Virginia was suspended and, astonishingly, arrested after he refused to remove a t-shirt supporting the National Rifle Association. The courageous 14-year-old then returned to school wearing exactly the same shirt, which depicts a hunting rifle with the statement “protect your right.” (RELATED: Eighth-Grader Arrested Over NRA Shirt Returns To School In Same Shirt)
At Genoa-Kingston Middle School in northeast Illinois, a teacher threatened an eighth grader with suspension if he did not remove his t-shirt emblazoned with the interlocking rifles insignia of the United States Marines. (RELATED: Junior High Teacher Tells Kid To Remove Marines T-Shirt Or Get Suspended)
At Poston Butte High School in Arizona, a high school freshman was suspended for setting a picture of a gun as the desktop background on his school-issued computer. (RELATED: Freshman Suspended For Picture Of Gun)
At an elementary school in Philadelphia, school officials reportedly yelled at a young female student and then searched her in front of her class after she was found with a crude paper gun her grandfather had made for her. (RELATED: Paper Gun Causes Panic)
In rural Pennsylvania, a kindergarten girl was suspended after she told another girl that she planned to shoot her with a pink Hello Kitty toy gun that bombards targets with soapy bubbles. (RELATED: Kindergartener Suspended For Making ‘Terroristic Threat’ With Hello Kitty Bubble Gun)