Willows student's expulsion for gun possession draws national attention

**Willows student’s expulsion for gun possession draws national attention **

By Hudson Sangree
Published: Monday, Jan. 18, 2010 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Jan. 18, 2010 - 10:16 am

Folks in the rural community of Willows remember the days, not long ago, when teenagers would go duck hunting on autumn mornings and then park their pickup trucks on the Willows High School campus with shotguns displayed in racks.

That’s why many residents were upset when school officials in November expelled 16-year-old Gary Tudesko for parking his pickup on a street next to campus with shotguns in the back seat after a morning hunting waterfowl.

“This is a conservative, redneck hunting town. I’d say 99 percent of people in town support Gary,” said chiropractor Eric Wunsch, a 1985 graduate of Willows High School. He remembered his school’s parking lot filled with firearms.

On Tuesday, the Glenn County Board of Education will hear an appeal in Tudesko’s case, with local supporters and out-of-town activists expected to attend.

A prominent gun-rights lawyer from Southern California represents the teen, and the National Rifle Association has given its support.

The case has attracted national attention, and some lawyers predict it may end up setting legal precedent.

Tudesko and his mother, Susan Parisio, call the expulsion an injustice and want it to be overturned and erased from his record.

“I’d just like to go back to school,” the high school junior said.

School officials and Willows police, however, say the days when the town’s students could bring guns to school are gone, a result of the post-Columbine reality in which safety is paramount.

“Times have changed,” said Assistant Principal Jerry Smith, an avid waterfowl hunter and NRA member. "I wish it was still 1955. I think a lot of us do, but it’s not.

“Gun rights are one thing, but guns don’t belong anywhere near school,” he said.

Willows Police Chief Bill Spears said he decided not to file criminal charges against Tudesko because he felt the teen, whom he had taught in a course on the administration of justice, had no criminal intent.

The police chief left the matter in the hands of school officials, who he felt dealt with it appropriately.

“Prior to Columbine, no one would have cared,” the police chief said. "But the horse is out of the corral. Now we have to take it seriously. The school is taking it seriously.

“The school has to hold a standard somehow,” he said.

The controversy began Oct. 26, three days after the start of waterfowl hunting season, a major yearly event in Willows.

The town of 6,000, about 90 minutes north of Sacramento on Interstate 5, is surrounded by flooded rice fields and wetlands. Many residents hunt the geese and ducks that flock to the area as the weather turns cold.

Tudesko said he and a friend had gone hunting that morning on private farmland near the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.

Fearing he’d be late for school, Tudesko drove directly to campus instead of stopping at home to drop off his shotgun and his friend’s gun. He said he knew he couldn’t bring the weapons on campus, so he parked his Chevrolet pickup on a city street right next to the school. He left the shotguns, which he said were unloaded, and ammunition in the locked truck’s rear passenger area, obscured by dark privacy glass but otherwise unsecured.

Later that morning, private security guards performing a sweep of the school’s perimeter with a gun-sniffing dog discovered the guns.

School officials called Tudesko out of class to open his truck. They sent him home, suspended him and eventually recommended that he be expelled, saying they had no choice under state education laws.

After a Nov. 19 hearing, at which Tudesko and his mother testified, the Willows Unified School District board of trustees ordered him expelled for the rest of the school year.

Part of the evidence the school district presented included Tudesko’s disciplinary record for disruptive behavior. Typically, student discipline proceedings are confidential, but Tudesko and his family asked for the expulsion proceedings to be made public…

I live down from a school I hope school security never looks in my truck, I also drive pass four schools going to work everyday and I have loaded guns on me—the shame of it all!

These Barney Fife’s security cops had not right to search the kids truck it was off campus.

Barney Fifes? What proof do you have that they weren’t competent officers?

And if the kid walked onto campus blasting everyone in sight with his shotgun, the school, the police, and the security guards would have been damned by everyone for not providing adequate security.

It’s a school, not a public parking lot. The authorities have, as we lawyers put it, a “duty of care” to all the students, and that includes security sweeps to prevent the possibility of a repeat of Columbine.

The child was not parked on campus. he was on a public street. If the town laws permit unloaded firearms in plain sight in vehicles he was breaking no laws. The search was unlawful IMHO.

Had he brought them into school, they would have had recourse to suspension or expulsion. but that is not the case here.

The horse may be out of the corral, but we gotta go get it and fix the darn fence… Not disallow the ownership of horses to prevent more losses.


“…he parked his Chevrolet pickup on a city street right next to the school.”

Note that it was adjacent to the school. That’s within the zone of safety that the security guards had a reasonable right to inspect. Had he been a block away or more, okay, a public street, but not directly next to the school.

Was the truck on school property or not? Case opens or closes on that question.

Even if it was, intent matters. Give him a week suspension and get on with life.

Knee jerk regulations never help anything.

It’s not that simple. What duty of care does the school have to its students and how far does the boundary line of the campus, in light of that duty, extend?

The court may decide that the school was out of line and rescind the explulsion, but it may be more cautious in light of Columbine.

*I don’t see this as a violation of our right to bear arms, as much as it is the school erring on the side of caution. In light of school shootings, they are just being cautious, that’s how I see it. I don’t think the kid should be expelled or suspended…UNLESS, the kids are given a handbook of rules on say the first day of school, and this is clearly listed…that you can’t park adjacent to school property, with a gun in the car. I think that barring any rule books siting this, I’m not sure what grounds the school could have, then. But, all things considered, they are erring on the side of caution, it seems. *

*I highly agree here…but, I wonder what if any authority the school has, if the ‘‘rules’’ are not specified to the students…before they break them. :o lol He was parked off campus, not on site…but, close to the school. If the school didn’t provide a set of rules that would specify that kids can’t park their cars near campus with guns in the car…how can they enforce a punishment, if they didn’t share the rules?

I’m wildly guessing with this…I don’t know if the school did or didn’t give a handbook of such rules. At the beginning of every school year, my kids get a 100 page (at least) handbook of rules, to follow on school property and close to it…just curious if that was the case here. If the school DID provide such a handbook, stating that kids can’t park near or around or on school property with a gun in their cars…then, he and his parents shouldn’t be shocked by the punishment.*

I think that whether the gun was on campus or off campus, the school and those nuts who run the schools, are way off base. Does the child have a history of being violent, or was everyone aware of the fact that he was probably just hunting? Why do people check their brains at the door when it comes to these facts?

If the gun was on campus, and not by campus, than maybe the school might have had the right to suspend the child. But to expel him simply for having a hunting gun is just crazy.

An excellent point. Absent a rulebook that is either on point or deals closely with the topic, there may be no way to enforce the punishment.

I’d think, however, that if the boy has the suspension lifted, next year’s rulebook is going to be quite specific about how close to the school they’ll allow firearms!

And, a few minutes before those boys at Columbine opened fire on the students, they “simply had hunting guns.”

The school has an obligation to protect its students and that should carry a lot of weight with the court.

That’s the thing with these articles…they leave out all the details for us readers to debate. :smiley: I think that if there in fact is a handbook that points to this very violation, the kid then would be at fault. Doesn’t matter if WE as readers don’t like the handbook…if that was school policy, and he/his parents didn’t read it, oh well…then the punishment makes sense. If there is no such handbook, then he should not be punished AT ALL…not even lightly. My employer has a handbook…if you violate the rules, you might be fired or suspended. I can’t see why a school should follow a different protocol…I wonder if there will be more details about this…or if anyone has any other links to this story.

*It is a very bizarre reaction, and here goes the tax payer dollars…in defending this whole situation in court…a situation that should be a common sense type of debate. Again, was there a rule book?

Maybe I should call the school. :smiley: If there was no rule that the school specifically stated somewhere…in a notice home, handbook…SOMEWHERE in plain view, then this kid should be let off…and back into school. I understand the reaction…erring on the side of caution…but, not kicking the kid out of school. :rolleyes:*

That’s why many residents were upset when school officials in November expelled 16-year-old Gary Tudesko for parking his pickup on a street next to campus with shotguns in the back seat after a morning hunting waterfowl.

He wasn’t on the campus. The school has no right to expel this student. If he was on campus, absolutely. But he wasn’t. This is just about on the same level as the principal seeing shotguns in a student’s car at a grocery store and expelling the student. Off-campus is off-campus. And if it’s off-campus, the school has no right to do anything. It’s not on their property.

*UNLESS…this was specified in writing…in a handbook that the kids get early on in the schoolyear. If the school wishes to exercise such authority, shame on them if it wasn’t explicitly written for the students to review (and parents) If it was in plain view written somewhere…then the kid was in violation. A school can make up any rule it wishes…BUT…it has the obligation of sharing that rule with its students. lol *

So because SOME kids who never ever went hunting, had a history of violence, showed violent tendencies, everyone must pay? Is that what you are saying?

Hunting is not against the law. Having hunting guns in this county was not against the law. But yet the school felt that they had the right to expel the kid.

I grew up in a small town where everyone hunted, and kids brought their shot guns to school (left them in their trucks of course), guess how many school shootings there where in our school. This was only 15 years ago, just a few years before Columbine, and just before the world lost their minds.

Yes, that is true. I would imagine that they did print a rule about not having firearms on school property, which the kid was following. I am guessing that’s why he chose to park off-campus rather than in the school parking lot.

I also come from a very rural setting and people in my school always came to school with gunracks in their car. Anyone with guns parked in the church parking lot across the street so as to follow the rules. Then there was this big hulla-buloo about even having empty gunracks in the car. It’s kind of silly. Frankly, the hunters were the better students because they were hunting in their spare time rather than drinking, doing drugs, partying, and sleeping around as is typical in small towns for kids with no hobbies.

*In reading the entire article just now, sounds like there is more to this story than meets the eye…more than just a gun violation. Sounds like the kid had some disciplinary problems…which have been documented by the school. Maybe they thought he would do something crazy …who knows. But, it doesn’t sound like a straight A student, who was kind to all of his teachers…and this was his first and only infraction. Sounds like this was the final straw (from the school’s perspective, but they are not saying that). I think though STILL…that unless the school had something in a handbook, the kid should be allowed back in school. *

Actually, that is how things work out. If the student had an opened half gallon of vodka on the front seat, many folks would applaud the expulsion.

As to the safety of school children, sometimes the schools have to err on the side of caution.

The number of school shootings has remained constant for about a century. Joe Pepitone was shot in the stomach in high school in Brooklyn by a schoolmate in the fifties. Previously people did not have driver’s licenses nor did they have motor vehicle insurance. Times change and regulations change with them.

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