A Missouri high school student is reportedly facing expulsion after school officials discovered an unloaded, disassembled shotgun in his pickup truck last week. According to The Joplin Globe, 18-year-old Sawyer Shepard has been put on a 10-day suspension while the Carthage School Board considers additional disciplinary actions. Under the school’s current policy, bringing a weapon onto campus could result in a year-long suspension or expulsion, both of which would prevent Shepard from graduating next month.
A popular student and athlete, Shepard’s absence has drawn protests from students and others who are calling for the school board to be lenient. Present during the rally was State Representative Mike Kelley (R-Lamar).
“Too often today the bureaucratic rules [of the] government squelch the freedom of its citizens,” Kelley wrote on Facebook. “For those that have asked why am in involved, I tell you this. I feel it is my duty to assist when government oversteps its role.”
The lawmaker previously opposed “Gun Free Zones” and called such policies “a true example of government policy at its worst.”
The incident occurred last Tuesday when Shepard went turkey hunting with a friend in the morning before school. The pair successfully bagged a bird and Shepard dissembled his gun—removing the barrel from the stock and receiver—and stored it in his truck. He then drove home, changed clothes, and arrived on campus. Shortly afterwards, an anonymous caller informed school officials that Shepard may have brought a firearm onto school grounds. According to the Associated Press, an administrator asked the student if he had any firearms in the truck, and Shepard acknowledged that the shotgun may be inside. At this point police were called to the school, but declined to press charges since no laws were broken. School officials say they had no choice but to suspend the teen while they launched a investigation into the incident.
“This is a very emotional issue,” said Carthage School District Superintendent Blaine Henningsen. “We have a lot of people in the area who hunt and are outdoorsmen. This is the case with this particular student.”
The administration also indicated that it was highly likely for Shepard to still graduate, which may be helped by popular support from the student body and on social media, where the hashtag #FreeShep has been trending. For their part, Shepard’s family stated that they are not upset with the investigation but appreciate all the support from the protesters. The family has since retained an attorney.
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