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Sunday, July 14, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Kansas Student Expelled For Having Paintball Gun At School

Knight-Ridder Newspapers

WICHITA, Kan. - Jeremy Oliver made a mistake that cost him his senior year of high school.

Jeremy, a 16-year-old junior, had a lot of things on his mind - getting through his finals, for one - when he showed up at Northwest High School in May.

He was taking his last test in history and was minutes away from the end of the school year when he was pulled from class. An assistant principal told him a gun was spotted in his car. They checked his black and red Blazer and found a paintball gun, partially hidden by a duffel bag.

Jeremy, an honors student, had competed in a paintball tournament the night before and had thrown the gun in the back afterward. "I forgot about it," he said.

He was suspended and then expelled for 186 days - all of his senior year. He and his parents, Jack and Jana Oliver, appealed the decision to the school board, but it was upheld.

Jeremy had violated the Wichita school board's zero-tolerance policy on weapons in schools. And "zero tolerance" means just that, the board decided. No exceptions. Period.

Wichita board members, disturbed by a rising number of guns, knives and weapons being brought to schools, decided last year to take a hard-line approach. They passed a policy mandating that anyone caught with a gun or a realistic-looking replica would be expelled for a year.

The result so far has been fewer incidents involving guns at school. But the policy also has meant more suspension and expulsion

hearings and more students like Jeremy being kicked out of school.

Jeremy's case was one of eight incidents reported during the last school year. Because of his academic record and other activities, Jeremy had hoped the board would make an exception in his case. He had a 3.64 GPA, ranked 43rd in a class of 327, was a member of the National Honor Society, and a state officer for DECA, a marketing association for students, among other things.

In Jeremy's case, getting expelled will mean getting to start college sooner than expected. He got his GED and has enrolled at Washburn University in Topeka for the fall semester.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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