Pitt County Parent, Sheriff Respond To NC Teen With Guns At School

A lot of people are talking about a teenager in our state charged with a felony and suspended for having unloaded guns in his car on school property.

18-year-old Cole Withrow of Johnston County says it was an accident. The school district has placed him in an alternative school, but will allow him to graduate.

It has happened in Pitt County schools before too- a high school student bringing a weapon on school grounds apparently by accident. Students still face the consequences. D. H. Conley High School parent Josette Cooke says it's under those circumstances, the punishment is too harsh.

"Definitely not a felony. He was responsible enough to let somebody know that he did have it. He did not pull it or bring it into the office," said Cooke.

Pitt County Sheriff Neil Elks says the rule establishes accountability.

"Let's backtrack a little bit. Let's talk about the responsibility the parents have," said Sheriff Elks. "If the parents are going to allow their kids to possess guns and target practice they need to be responsible and remind the kid before they go to school in the morning."

In February of 2012 a student at North Pitt High School told deputies he forgot he had a gun from shooting the night before and put it in his book bag. Parents of a student at South Central High School also came forward and told administration about a weapon in their child's possession by mistake.

"I think there should be some discretion there if a kid comes to you and asks or tells you he made a mistake. I think you should have discretion," said Elks.

Now not only will Withrow be graduating in Johnston County, but he also received scholarships to two universities. Pitt County Schools says if a student is found with a firearm on school property he or she receives a 10 day suspension, and the principal shall recommend a 365 day suspension.

The N.C. Board of Education has the authority to modify each suspension on a case by case basis.

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A lawyer for Johnston County schools says a teen who said he left two unloaded shotguns in his car at school will be allowed to graduate.

Eighteen-year-old David Cole Withrow was arrested Monday on a felony charge of bringing a weapon onto school grounds after he left the guns in his car at Princeton High School.

School board attorney Jimmy Lawrence said Thursday that Withrow has not been expelled and will be allowed to graduate if he meets the normal graduation requirements.

His family is upset he must finish at an alternative school.

Withrow has received a scholarship offer from Liberty University in Roanoke, Va., and from Harding University in Searcy, Ark.

Liberty Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said Withrow is a victim of a system that he called "overly sensitive."

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)