It's the kind of phone call no parent wants to receive. The high school administrative office contacts you at your workplace to notify you that your child has been pulled out of class, accused of bringing a deadly weapon to school. This is a major disciplinary infraction that typically results in suspension or expulsion and possibly even criminal charges. Regardless of the circumstances that brought this situation about, your child now faces potentially serious consequences that could deeply impact their future.
Your child's future now hangs in the balance, and how you respond to these charges in the next hours or days could have a huge impact on your child's ability to finish school, go to college, find a good job, and build a good life. And yet, at the moment, you're probably just overwhelmed with a deluge of feelings—shock, horror, fear, anger, and apprehension. What do you do first? What do you do next? What can you do to prevent permanent damage to your child's prospects?
One of the first things to do in such moments is to hire an attorney advisor with experience in helping students deal with high school disciplinary infractions. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has a long-standing track record of success in helping high school students nationwide who are facing career-threatening disciplinary actions. If you're currently facing a crisis of this magnitude, the Lento Law Firm has compiled the following critical information so you can be prepared for what's ahead.
The Ramifications of Bringing a Weapon onto School Grounds
Bringing a weapon (e.g., gun or knife) to school has always been a violation of most school policies, but the charges and penalties have been enhanced in recent years in response to the flurry of school shootings over the past several decades. If the student allegedly threatens anyone with the weapon or discharges a firearm on school grounds, the penalties can be even worse. (Not to mention that in almost all states, it is a felony offense to bring any kind of firearm onto school grounds.)
Understandably, high schools are very sensitive to campus safety and security, and they crack down forcibly on any disciplinary infraction involving the possession of a weapon. If your child is caught with a weapon on school grounds, the student could face immediate expulsion from school.
How did my child get accused of bringing a weapon to school?
It's important to note that carrying a weapon to school is more common than you think. We only hear about school shooting events, but the number of kids to bring weapons on school grounds is much higher than the number who actually use them. According to a recent study, as many as 1 in 18 high school students brings a gun to school. Taking all schools into account, the CDC says at least 3 million kids have brought a gun, knife, or club onto school grounds at some point. It's more likely to happen in large urban school districts than in smaller school systems, but it can and does happen almost everywhere. The point here is that while weapons at school is a serious offense, it is also relatively common—and if your child has been accused of it, that should not mean your child is marked or blacklisted for life. In many cases, it's a mistake or an error in judgment—not an intention to do harm.
Some of the many reasons why your high school student may have brought a weapon to campus (or been falsely accused of it):
- An honest mistake. One example: your child brought his backpack on a hunting trip with his father over the weekend and forgot to remove the knife before bringing the bag to school. The knife was detected by a metal detector.
- A frame-up. Perhaps your child left a backpack open and someone else shoved a firearm in it to hide it—or to intentionally frame them.
- A misunderstanding of the rules. For example, your child didn't realize the multi-purpose knife he carries with him on scouting expeditions was forbidden or considered dangerous.
- For protection. Studies show that a large percentage of kids who bring weapons to school are being bullied. They aren't bringing the weapon to be aggressive, but because they themselves feel threatened.
- Behavioral problems or mental health issues. In a rare number of cases, a child might bring a weapon to school because they truly have a behavioral or mental health problem that has failed to be addressed.
What are the possible consequences of having weapons at school?
If your child is accused of bringing a weapon to school, it constitutes a crisis with high stakes for your child's future. High schools take weapons possession very seriously, and without intervention or skilled negotiation, the consequences to your child's education and career prospects could be severe and long-lasting. Let's take a look at the possible short-term consequences and the long-term impacts:
Possible immediate consequences of a weapons offense
These are the actions the school is likely to take against your child in direct response to a weapons offense:
- Immediate suspension from school (pending an investigation)
- Long-term suspension (e.g., for the remainder of the term)
- Expulsion (permanent removal from the school—this is the most common outcome for gun offenses)
- Possible criminal charges (if the school reports it to law enforcement)
Possible long-term impacts:
If the immediate consequences seem bad, the long-term impacts of a gun offense can be even worse for your child. Here's what your child could face in the days and even years ahead:
- The student will have a permanent negative notation on their school record of the suspension or expulsion.
- The student may face challenges getting into another high school to complete their education.
- If the student can complete high school, they may still have trouble getting accepted into college.
- The student may have trouble getting hired.
- Without a completed education, the student may be limited in the types of jobs they qualify for.
What does the high school's disciplinary process look like?
Every high school has its own disciplinary process that complies with applicable state and federal laws. These can typically be found in a Student Handbook or Code of Conduct, so you should read these to learn the specifics for your child's high school. That being said, most schools follow a similar plan of action when determining penalties for disciplinary infractions. Most high schools will implement some version of the following process:
- The immediate incident is mitigated or de-escalated, as necessary (e.g., the student is separated from the weapon and detained from classes).