(NN&V Staff) – John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, will be appearing on “The View” on Tuesday, February 15, 2011, to discuss his concerns about zero tolerance policies in the schools, especially as they relate to the case of Andrew Mikel, a 14-year-old honor student who was charged under a school zero tolerance policy with “violent criminal conduct” and possession of a weapon for shooting plastic “spitwads” at classmates.
Andrew Mikel will appear on “The View” with Whitehead, in addition to Mikel’s father, a former Navy Seabee and Marine officer.
The Rutherford Institute filed a legal action with the Circuit Court of the County of Spotsylvania challenging the decision by school administrators to expel Mikel, a freshman at Spotsylvania High School, for the remainder of the school year over the plastic “spitwad” incident. School officials also referred the matter to local law enforcement for criminal prosecution.
“Andrew Mikel is merely the latest in a long line of victims of school zero tolerance policies whose educations have been senselessly derailed by school administrators lacking in both common sense and compassion,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “School officials have developed a very dangerous mindset that allows virtually no freedom for students, while at the same time criminalizing childish behavior. This does not bode well for the future.”
On December 10, 2010, ninth grader Andrew Mikel, a student at Spotsylvania High School, was sent to the principal’s office after shooting a handful of small, hollow pellets akin to plastic spitwads at fellow students in the school hallway during lunch period. Mikel, an honor student active in Junior ROTC and in his church, was initially suspended for 10 days and charged with criminal assault and possession of a weapon under the school’s Student Code of Conduct. The Spotsylvania County School Board later voted to expel Mikel for the remainder of the school year, allegedly on the recommendation of the school’s assistant principal.
School officials also referred the matter to local law enforcement, which initiated juvenile criminal proceedings for assault, resulting in Mikel being placed in a diversion program, as well as having to take substance abuse and anger management counseling.
Decrying the school’s actions as arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a legal petition with the Circuit Court of the County of Spotsylvania asking the court to overturn the School Board’s decision. Institute attorneys are also challenging the school’s characterization of Mikel’s actions as “criminal” and the spitwads as “weapons,” contending that there is no indication that Mikel intended to harm anyone and the plastic tube and pellets do not rise to the level of “weapons” as defined by the school code.
Furthermore, Institute attorneys insist that Mikel’s conduct did not rise to the level required for expulsion or long-term suspension under the Student Code of Conduct. As a result of the criminal charges, Mikel, who had hoped to attend the U.S. Naval Academy following graduation from high school, can no longer be considered as an applicant.