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Seeing shades of gunmetal gray

2010-12-09T00:50:00Z Seeing shades of gunmetal gray Helena Independent Record
December 09, 2010 12:50 am

Anyone who’s followed the news in Helena the past few months knows that few issues bring as much attention as what’s going on in the public schools.

Firearms, too, are a topic near and dear to the hearts of many Montanans.

Mix the two, and you get, well, you get what’s going on in Columbia Falls on Monday night.

Right after Thanksgiving, officials at Columbia Falls High School announced that contraband dogs would be sweeping the school parking lot. That announcement spurred the memory of 16-year-old honor student Demarie DeReu, who had been hunting over the holiday weekend and remembered that she had neglected to remove her hunting rifle from the trunk of her car.

She promptly told school officials about it, and that’s where the trouble began.

DeReu was suspended, and faces a potential 21-day expulsion. That expulsion hearing is Monday night.

The federal Gun-Free Schools Act of 2004 mandates a one-year expulsion for any student who brings a gun onto school property, though Montana law indicates there’s some wiggle room for each case to be considered on its own merits, and school officials have said they won’t seek a lengthy expulsion.

There have been too many senseless tragedies, too many lockdowns, too many horrific incidents of violence in schools for this episode to be simply swept aside. But are suspension and/or expulsion really warranted in this case?

From all accounts, once she realized there was a problem, DeReu did the right thing. She absolutely made a mistake in bringing the rifle to school, and for that there should be some consequence — but she owned up to it, and for that she should be commended.

As with so many other parts of life, this situation reminds us that so few things are truly black and white. There are shades of gray to practically every issue of consequence, and nuance, circumstance and “the particulars” absolutely matter. Think how easy life would be if every decision was a simple yes/no, up/down, black/white. But even in the seemingly ironclad case of bringing a firearm onto school property — who could possibly argue that’s a good idea, after all — there’s room for debate when a particular case like this arises.

If DeReu’s truly was the honest mistake it appears to be, we hope the Columbia Falls school board shows some mercy. We’d wager DeReu, who now finds her name in newspapers across the state (including this one) and blogs around the country, has already learned the lesson that an expulsion would supposedly teach.

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(12) Comments

  1. artemisia
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    artemisia - December 19, 2010 9:19 am
    Curmudgeon said: "For MtMadeMan: I did not realize it was a Federal mandate. I had thought it was a state or local law.Could you please give us a citation?Thank you."

    Hiya Curmudgeon,

    I'm a little late but if you're still interested:

    http://www2.ed.gov/legislation/ESEA/sec14601.

    Also.....VERY well said Bojangles
  2. olemontanaboy
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    olemontanaboy - December 18, 2010 8:00 am
    Lewistownian said: "Juice - I learned how to be a man and take responsiblity for my actions, to be humble, teamwork, humility, and many other lessons in my life. I didn't learn them from teachers or "do-ers", I learned them from my coaches. From Small Fry Football and Babe Ruth Baseball to Capital High Track and Carroll Football. People who rip on coaches are those who weren't strong enough, physically and/or mentally, to play or to learn. It's just too hard for them to be out of their comfort zone and test themselves."

    I couldn't agree more! Your words accurately portray what team and individual sports do for a person. The unfair criticism of a few is why good coaches are leaving the profession. It is because the lack of gratitude they receive from the public.

    Second point, this is aimed at those belittling teachers and administrators. I am willing to wager that all of the posters in this forum received an education of some kind (Public or private). If you di you can thank a teacher for the skills you have. I get tired of hearing the comments, "those who can't teach......". Go into the profession then if you can do so much better. If you don't have the gall to step into a teacher's shoes then give them the gratitude they deserve. Also, a teacher is not just a person standing in a classroom. A teacher is a mother or father, a coach, a sibling, a grandparent, a friend, a group leader, a paster, a minister, and yourself!
  3. Curmudgeon
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    Curmudgeon - December 10, 2010 11:36 am
    For MtMadeMan: I did not realize it was a Federal mandate. I had thought it was a state or local law.

    Could you please give us a citation?

    Thank you.
  4. Lewistownian
    Report Abuse
    Lewistownian - December 10, 2010 10:07 am
    juiceball said: "I thought it went, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. And those who can't teach, coach.""


    Juice - I learned how to be a man and take responsiblity for my actions, to be humble, teamwork, humility, and many other lessons in my life. I didn't learn them from teachers or "do-ers", I learned them from my coaches. From Small Fry Football and Babe Ruth Baseball to Capital High Track and Carroll Football. People who rip on coaches are those who weren't strong enough, physically and/or mentally, to play or to learn. It's just too hard for them to be out of their comfort zone and test themselves.
  5. remybon
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    remybon - December 10, 2010 9:45 am
    everyone is getting in a tizzy. while the federal act is strict, montana does have the ability to decide on the manner, so unless they do decide to expell her, then the strictness and the wiggle room could work out great. imagine that, laws and decision making that make sense and work
  6. thedukeofhelena
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    thedukeofhelena - December 10, 2010 9:43 am
    Well, she certainly did the correct thing in going str8 to the school office and reporting her mistake but to have her name plastered all over the country really sucks. They could have omitted her name at least. I too, do not think she should face suspension, but I agree with a previous poster that perhaps she should write a paper on firearm safety or something similar. I'm afraid this will have a negative effect and other kids who make the same mistake will now NOT report that they inadvertently made a mistake by forgetting their gun in their trunk. I agree with you MtMadeMan, the anti-gun freaks should consider the situation in ALL states before making blanket decisions and laws.
  7. juiceball
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    juiceball - December 09, 2010 3:52 pm
    I thought it went, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. And those who can't teach, coach."
  8. MtMadeMan
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    MtMadeMan - December 09, 2010 3:01 pm
    It is too bad this young lady will end up with a police record and may have trouble getting into college because this will be on her permanent school record.

    That is what comes from eastern elites writing gun laws to fit all of the states. This law should have been written up in MT. Instead anti-gun nuts wrote a one-size-fits-all law that punishes western states and innocent citizens.
  9. Curmudgeon
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    Curmudgeon - December 09, 2010 10:17 am
    Very ancient saying: Those who can, do. Those who can't do, become teachers. Those who can't teach, teach teachers. Those who can't teach teachers, become administrators.

    Yes, I know it's an unfair cheap shot at the education establishment. But is it too much to expect a little COMMON SENSE from the school Administration?
  10. mike fasbender
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    mike fasbender - December 09, 2010 9:24 am
    Just another example of how one size fits all federal mandates are idiotic. Kudos to this young lady for doing the right thing by coming forward when in all likelihood the hunting rifle probably wouldn't have been found had she just kept her mouth shut. Hopefully the school board will do the right thing. And, I agree with Realist .... the change in tone of the IR Opinion page is refreshing.
  11. Bojangles
    Report Abuse
    Bojangles - December 09, 2010 8:53 am
    Great argument. Question: What do you think the next student will do in a similar situation? Exactly Nothing - no one will ever come forward on anything again - and the school can thank itself for this. First of all - suspension is ridiculous for a student trying to correct an inadvertent rule breaking. Her error was negligence and forgetfullness - she should have to write a paper on gun-safety for the local paper or something - not be suspended!! And by no means should her name be plastered in every paper across the state. Shame on Many!

    I'm convinced more and more every day that we are de-evolving. We have great technologies and no common sense or respect. Agh!!
  12. Realist
    Report Abuse
    Realist - December 09, 2010 5:24 am
    WOW!
    Some sense found on the opinion page of the IR! I appluad it and thirst for MUCH MUCH more!
    Thank you editorial staff.
    This is refreshing!

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