In a unanimous decision on Tuesday morning, a disciplinary committee voted to hand down long-term suspensions to three Virginia Beach seventh-grade students for playing with airsoft guns on private property.
Khalid Caraballo, Aidan Clark and a third student will reportedly be suspended until June, or the entire school year. However, the committee voted to hold the suspension in “abeyance” to allow the students to attend an alternative education program during the suspension.
A hearing will be held on January 27 to determine if the students will be permitted to return to school sooner than that.
“The students’ parents initially told WAVY News’ Andy Fox their children were expelled, but when Fox looked at the official letter from the school, he found they were long-term suspensions and not expulsions, as was recommended by the school’s principal,” WAVT-TV reports.
However, the technicality means little to the parents of the students.
“I’m more than angry,” Tim Clark, Aidan’s dad, said, “it’s like an expulsion-suspension.”
The incident occurred on Sept. 12 as the students played with the airsoft guns on the Caraballos’ private property while waiting for the school bus. The front yard in which the boys were playing is located 70 yards from the bus stop.
Both Khalid and Aidan say they never took the toy guns to the bus stop or to school. But that didn’t stop the school from suspending them for “possession, handling and use of a firearm.” However, the offense was altered this week to change the wording to “airsoft gun” instead of “firearm.”
WAVY-TV also obtained a copy of the letter sent to parents, which indicates the students will be suspended for “one year.”
Solangel Caraballo, Khalid’s mother, was not at home when her son and his friends were playing with the airsoft guns because she was taking her younger son to a Head Start class. So she left her 16-year-old daughter in charge.
The mother said Khalid knew he wasn’t supposed to play with the airsoft guns when she wasn’t around, but she argues it’s her job as a mother to discipline her children outside of school — not the school district.
“My son is my private property,” she told WAVY-TV. “He does not become the school’s property until he goes to the bus stop, gets on the bus, and goes to school.”
The Virginia City Code states: No person “shall … discharge any firearm, spring-propelled rifle or pistol … within … 150 yards of any building.” It also says “no person shall use a pneumatic gun except at approved shooting ranges or within private property.”
“That is exactly my point. It is private property,” Solangel Caraballo said in response to the code.
Further, an additional 911 call made on the day of the incident reportedly “further confirms Khalid Caraballo did not leave his private property during the September 12 incident,” according to WAVY-TV.
Virginia Beach Public School Board Chairman Daniel Edwards posted a statement on Twitter Tuesday evening defending the decision and seemingly shaming Khalid by revealing his past disciplinary problems at school.
Edwards says there are witnesses who claim the boys were shooting other students in the street. Larkspur Middle School principal Matthew Delaney says there was a student only 10 feet from the bus stop fleeing from “from the shots being fired, but was still hit.”
It’s unclear how, if the Caraballos’ property is 70 yards from the bus stop and a 911 call supports Khalid’s claim that he never left his property, students were hit with “shots fired’ 10 feet from the bus stop.
Aidan Clark, 12, admits to running into the street in front of Khalid’s house at one point, but he said they didn’t shoot the guns in the street and his friend never left his property.
Read Edwards’s full statement below:
This story has been updated.