For unknowingly having a gun locked inside the vehicle she drove to school, a Virginia high school student was recently confronted by the police and suspended for two weeks, compromising her academics and extra-curriculars.
Courtney Niles, a 16-year-old junior at Warhill High School, was unable to drive her own car to school on October 18. She borrowed her stepbrother's truck, completely unaware of the gun securely stowed inside. Because the vehicle lacked a parking pass, a school security guard was alerted. According to the Virginia Gazette, Niles “was pulled out of her second block class and taken to the parking lot,” where she was confronted by the police:
"They asked me if there was anything in the car I needed to tell them about and I said 'no,'" she said."They said 'can you open your driver's side door and look under the seat.' There was a gun there."
She said the gun was tucked between the center console and the seat, completely out of view unless someone looked in through a back window. She was suspended as of Oct. 18, and she'll be out of school until Nov. 1.
Niles said Warhill Principal Jeff Carroll told her he checked into the specifics of the required suspension to see if there was anything he could do given the situation, but indicated there wasn't.
Warhill High School has strict policies about weapons. The student code of conduct states, “Possession or use of a weapon, whether operable or inoperable … on school property, at a school-sponsored activity, or going to or from school, is prohibited.” The school ranks offenses from 1 to 4. Breaking rules related to weapons are necessarily “presumed to be deliberate, overt and destructive,” and the student is not only automatically suspended for 10 days, but also recommended for expulsion, and police are notified.
To put the punishment into context, Warhill High considers Niles' mistake, which had no victim other than herself, equal to or worse than fighting, stealing, committing vandalism, extortion, or sexual harassment.
Furthermore, one can question what lesson Niles is supposed to take away from her punishment. She is barred from attending the homecoming dance or participating in the district cheerleading championship. She told the Gazette that her biggest concern is that being out of school for two weeks is going set her back academically.