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California: NRA and CRPA Foundation Assisting High School Student with Appeal of Expulsion for Having Unloaded Shotguns in Off-Campus Truck

Friday, December 18, 2009

The NRA and the CRPA Foundation have joined forces under their California Legal Action Project (LAP) to provide legal assistance for high school student Gary Tudesko in his fight to be readmitted to Willows High School. Sixteen-year-old Tudesko was expelled on November 19th for having unloaded shotguns in his pick-up truck that he legally parked on an off-campus, public street near the Willows High School campus. The high school is in a small rural community near Sacramento. The unloaded shotguns were in his truck because he had gone duck hunting in the early morning hours before school. The case has garnered significant national media coverage as an example of zero-tolerance policies run amuck. (See article in Chico Enterprise Record; see article in Sacramento Valley Mirror; see David Workman article; and see Fox News Video Interview of Tudesko and his mother at www.calgunlaws.com)

The shotguns were discovered in the pick up truck by scent-sniffing dogs on October 26th during a questionable school search. Police ran the license plates and determined Tudesko was the owner, then called Tudesko out of class. Tudesko cooperated and readily told the Principal about the shotguns and his early morning hunting trip.

The school first suspended Tudesko for five days, then extended the suspension indefinitely until an expulsion hearing was held. Tudesko’s mother, Susan Parisio defended her son during the November 19th public hearing on his expulsion. She challenged the school district’s legal jurisdiction to enforce the Education Code’s prohibition of guns on campus for her son having unloaded shotguns locked in an off-campus vehicle parked on a public street. Nonetheless, Willows High Principal Mort Geivett told the local School Board that, as a matter of law, it had no choice but to expel Tudesko. The Board did just that. (Notice of Expulsion is posted at
www.calgunlaws.com).

Geivett claimed the school had jurisdiction over students traveling to and from school, as well as students off-campus during lunch, and that the school had jurisdiction over off campus vehicles because students could not possess firearms within 1000 feet of campus. But Geivett confused the Penal Code with the Education Code. With a number of exceptions, it is a potential criminal violation of the Penal Code, specifically the Gun Free School Zones law, to knowingly possess a gun within 1000 feet of a school. But that law has nothing to do with the sections of the Education Code Tudesko is charged with violating, which generally prohibit possession of firearms on school grounds. (Education Code sections Tudesko allegedly violalted posted at
www.calgunlaws.com). Tudesko’s truck was parked off school grounds. And Gary was not traveling to or from school at the time of the search of the off-campus truck. He was in class. Moreover, schools do not enforce criminal / penal statutes like the Gun Free School Zones law, the District Attorney does. And the District Attorney and Willows Chief of Police have already stated there would be no charges filed against Tudesko, likely because there was no intent to violate the law.

Tudesko is now appealing the local school district’s expulsion order to the Glenn County Board of Education. A hearing is scheduled for January 15, 2010 at 10 a.m. at the Willows Administration Building located at 311 S. Villa Ave, Willows, CA 95988.

Tudesko is now being defended by civil rights lawyers Chuck Michel and Hillary Green of the Long Beach based law firm of Michel & Associates, P.C. (
www.michellawyers.com)

Legal issues aside, Tudesko is in this position because of a short-sighted bureaucratic approach to enforcing the school’s “zero tolerance” policy toward firearms, which is in many schools and cases is misapplied. (See Zero Tolerance Memo from Department of Education: [url]http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ss/se/zerotolerance.asp[/url and at www.calgunlaws.com]). Time and again these policies have resulted in a triumph of irrational political correctness over common sense and justice. Given that Tudesko had gone duck hunting that same morning with friends (hence the two shot-guns), had bird-shot loads as ammunition, had both firearms unloaded, had intentionally parked off-campus to avoid any issues, and had several people corroborate his story, school administrators should have acknowledged that the circumstances did not warrant expulsion. (See Administrator Discretion for Expulsions at www.calgunlaws.com and:
http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ss/se/expulsionrecomm.asp)

Gary Tudesko needs your help and support. Please attend the hearing if possible, and at least contact the Board of Education on Gary’s behalf through the “one click” e-mail tools at
www.calnra.com or by calling the Board of Education at (530) 934-6575, or fax your note of support to (530) 934-6111

Information about Gary, media coverage, copies of legal submissions, and other documents are being posted at
www.calgunlaws.com.

Although the attorneys are largely working pro bono, even so there are significant costs and other fees associated with this type of defense. Donations to the CRPA Foundation / NRA LAP are appreciated. If you are able and want to help fund Gary Tudesko’s defense, as well as other LAP efforts, please visit the CRPA Foundation(
http://www.crpa.org/_e/dept/06/The_CRPA_Foundation.htm) website and make a tax deductible donation today.

The NRA/CRPA Legal Action Project is a joint venture between the NRA and CRPA Foundation to advance the rights of firearms owners in California. Through LAP, NRA/CRPA attorneys litigate to fight against ill-conceived gun control laws and ordinances, assist individuals like Gary, and educate state and local officials about the programs at their disposal that are effective in reducing accidents and violence without infringing on the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

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