A Montana high school junior will not be expelled for accidentally leaving a hunting rifle in her car and then parking on school property, the local school board decided Monday night.
Demari DeReu, 16, was immediately suspended after she turned herself in following a school PA announcement that contraband-sniffing dogs were on the premises. The 16-year-old honor roll student, class treasurer, and varsity cheerleader said she forgot the gun in her blue-green Honda Accord after a Thanksgiving hunting trip.
DeReu's high school, Columbia Falls High school in Columbia Falls, MT, has a zero tolerance policy against guns on campus, in accordance with federal law. However, as Foxnews.com noted, that federal law does provide for some wiggle room on a case-by-case basis.
On Monday night, the school board exercised that case-by-case discretion and voted unanimously to not expel DeReu.
“I honestly expected to be expelled today,” she told the Daily Inter Lake after the vote.
Around 150 townspeople attended the board meeting to support DeReu, and about 20 picketers showed up as part of a supportive protest.
“I don’t think any crime was committed, and I don’t think any crime was intended,” said Clarence Taber of Columbia Falls. “This lady here is one we should hold up in our community as an example of what we’re looking for.”
But while the board will now allow DeRue back to school, she still is suffering the effects. Normally a 3.0 student, she's now receiving two F's because of missing work and now must try to bring up the grades.
“At this point ... I don’t have any teachers. I’m teaching myself,” she told the paper through tears. “It’s not fair for me to hear this isn’t going to affect my college education when I have two F’s since I’ve been suspended.”
In response, superintendent Michael Nicosia told the Inter Lake that the district would work with DeReu to help her catch up on the work she has missed while suspended and to mitigate any effect the incident might have as she pursues college.
That was welcomed news to DeRue: “I’m really happy that I can sort out all this mess, that it won’t affect me when I go to college."