Columbia County school board members voted Tuesday in a closed session to reject the appeal of an Evans High School student punished for bringing a gun on campus.
Wes Ivie, a 16-year-old junior, had been serving in-school suspension while awaiting the school board's decision. He must now attend the system's alternative school for the remainder of the semester before returning to Evans High, according to a written summary of the board's decision.
Ivie said he had forgotten he had left a hunting rifle in the back of his vehicle after a weekend hunting trip, according to his mother, Anita Ivie, and a police report. He recalled that the rifle was in his car during a "soft lockdown" search of the school by police Oct. 24. He reported it to the school office.
Police did not charge the teen in the incident.
"In this particular case, it was clear to the investigating officer that this was a mistake and no criminal intent existed," Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said.
Though the school board made its decision on the appeal Tuesday, its findings were not released until Wednesday. School trustees refused to discuss the issue after the meeting.
In an exception to state open meeting laws, school boards may discuss and vote on student disciplinary matters in closed sessions and report their findings in writing at a later time, Columbia County school board attorney Pete Fletcher said.
Ivie said Tuesday that she intends to appeal the board's decision to the state Board of Education.
A deputy noted in a police report that the teen had no criminal record or any school discipline issues.
"He did the right thing," Ivie said of her son. "He stepped up to the plate."
The decision made by the school board Tuesday sets a bad precedent for other students, Ivie said.
"What incentive do kids have to do the right thing if they know they're going to be punished for it?" she said.
At the meeting, board Chairwoman Regina Buccafusco said that while she appreciates the support shown to Ivie by his classmates, educators and others in the community, disciplinary decisions can't be swayed by those sentiments.
"I believe justice has to be blind," she said.
In other business
During the open session of Tuesday's meeting, the board gave tentative approval to a plan allowing middle school pupils in remediation courses to skip physical education. Officials said they were worried the pupils might drop remediation before nixing band or chorus from their schedules. The only other option was P.E.
Also, the board approved a $1.77 million bid by Lloyd Roofing Co. Inc. to reroof portions of Lakeside High School. The work should start in late December and finish by May 1.
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