Springfield schools sued over weapons policy

Published: Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013 11:58 p.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013 12:16 a.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD – The father of a straight-A high school senior who was expelled after a hunting knife was found in his car trunk is suing the Springfield School District, claiming its zero-tolerance weapons policy is unfair.

The lawsuit claims the district failed to take into account the student’s intent or his academic, extracurricular and disciplinary records. It said the student had a 5.0089 grade-point average on a 5.0 scale, was a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist, belonged to the varsity golf and tennis teams and had no previous disciplinary problems, the (Springfield) State Journal-Register reported Friday.

The lawsuit, filed by the boy’s father, Allen Mueller, also claims the district violated the Illinois School Code by failing to publish its weapons policy for public inspection in its administrative office.

According to court records, police with a K-9 dog searched the student’s car in the school parking lot Sept. 27 after receiving a tip that he might have marijuana. A search of the trunk allegedly turned up a collector’s “Buffalo Bill” hunting knife inside a backpack, drug paraphernalia with traces of suspected marijuana and golf clubs, court records say.

The Springfield School Board voted earlier this month to expel the student, although the Springfield High principal testified on the student’s behalf and his tennis coach wrote a letter of support.

The student’s lawyers asked for a temporary restraining order to block the expulsion, arguing that he would suffer “irreparable injury” by being forced to receive a substandard education this year, but a judge rejected the request, the newspaper reported.

School district lawyers noted the student was offered the chance to enroll in the Springfield Public School Alternative Education Program but instead enrolled at Sacred Heart-Griffin High School.

Neither the student’s attorney, Dennis O’Brien, nor school district attorney Denise Druhot returned phone calls from the newspaper. A call to O’Brien’s office by The Associated Press on Saturday rang unanswered, and Druhot did not immediately return a phone message.

Springfield interim school superintendent Bob Leming declined to comment to the newspaper.

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