HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Students in Huntsville are back in class, and across the country student safety remains a concern for parents dropping their kids off for the day.
Just last school year, a Sonnie Hereford Elementary School student brought a handgun to school and accidentally shot himself. No other children were hurt, but it did bring to light the school system’s policy on bringing a gun to class.
The Huntsville City Schools’ discipline policy for students who bring a weapon to school includes a step called “restorative panel meetings.”
The system says those meetings have been a policy standard for several years.
According to the policy, the meetings are a chance for a student and their parents or guardians to participate in a “restorative conference” with HCS’s Restorative Panel.
The policy says the panel, including students, parents, and administrators, will discuss the harm caused by the behavior, develop a behavioral plan for the student, and discuss access to potential interventions like counseling or mental health services.
Here’s where things become unclear.
The policy says restorative panel meetings are often “in lieu of expulsion.” So for secondary students, failing to participate in the restorative panel meeting or failure to follow the panel’s agreed upon plan – may result in a recommendation for expulsion.
As previously reported, a Sonnie Hereford fourth-grader accidentally shot himself in the classroom earlier this year. His case was ultimately turned over to the juvenile court system for further review.
It’s unclear whether that child faced any consequences with the school district.
According to what Huntsville City Schools’ spokesperson Craig Williams told News 19, “elementary students will not be expelled pursuant to applicable laws.”
To further clarify, HCS says its secondary students, that’s children beyond elementary school years, could still face expulsion for bringing a gun to school. It’s not clear whether a student who has not been recommended for expulsion after bringing a gun to school will be allowed back at their original school, or be sent to an alternative campus.