**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…