Monday, January 18, 2010

Guns, Stupidity, and Willows

imageLet me preface this story by saying that I really do not like the town of Willows.  I know, how does one dislike an entire town?  Well, I’ve had quite a few experiences within the “city limits” of Willows, and almost none of them were good.  I was lucky enough to meet a couple of very kind families when I was in high school, but my adult life has witnessed nepotism, racism, and plenty of “good old boyism”.

The story about Gary Tudesko brings up any questions not only about Willits, but about the role of guns in society, the idea of common sense and the law, and decisions that people make.  Gary is not the best at making decisions.  Back in October, Gary went duck hunting before he went to school.  Potentially late for class, Gary didn’t go home, left the shotguns in the truck, parked on a city street across from the school, and went to class.  Police were conducting a narcotics sweep that afternoon, tagged the car, and Gary was taken out of class.  The guns were both unloaded and locked in the car.  Gary was then set up for expulsion for having a firearm within 1,000 feet of campus, which apparently is a zero tolerance policy.  

The case is being made by Gary’s mom that it’s a gun rights issue.  I’m pretty torn here because first of all, this isn’t downtown Richmond, California.  Most of the gun owners in the Central Valley are probably some of the most responsible in the country.  Kids grow up around guns, respect the idea of owning them, and treat the hobby with an incredible amount of responsibility.  I’ve met plenty of 14 year olds that didn’t make me the slightest bit uncomfortable when they were wielding their rifles.  So the question needs to be asked, when a student makes a mistake like this, how can you justify expulsion based squarely on a misunderstanding of the law?  Seriously, did you know that schools had a 1,000 firearms exclusion zone?  I would guess not, and the principal and school board would have probably made a different decision if the person that made the infraction wasn’t Gary Tudesko.

Tudesko said he believes the district targeted him because of his discipline record and claimed that Smith told him they were "looking for a way to get me into the community school."  A letter to Tudesko's family explained that his initial suspension was being extended until his expulsion hearing because "Gary poses a continuing danger to himself and others."  Who’s in the right?  Let’s look at Gary’s discipline records:

• On Oct. 23, three days before the gun incident, Tudesko served a one-day suspension for parking his truck across the sidewalk and in the oleander near the school's tennis court.

• In May 2008, he was assigned Saturday school after he used racial slurs to disrupt a showing of "To Kill a Mockingbird," repeatedly saying the "N" word.

• And last March, he was suspended for four days for calling a teacher's assistant a "stupid Mexican."

In addition to his two suspensions, Tudesko acknowledged at least 25 office referrals for infractions ranging from "constant classroom disruptions," to fighting and cheating and making racially motivated "hate statements" on at least one occasion.  Gary says that he was simply “running my mouth” and that it is all no big deal.  Apparently, neither does mom. 

At this point, I totally understand why Gary is up for expulsion and why the principal is sticking to his, pardon the pun, guns.  Gary does not belong at the high school, period.  Gary is probably correct that the Willows administration is out to remove him from the academic environment because there is no real reason for him to be there.  He seems like the perfect candidate for the “all we need is a legitimate reason” clause of Ed Code, and it actually should not be that hard for administrators to remove problem students from campus.  Sorry, I can’t blame the Willows admin on this one.  Gary set himself up and Gary now lives with his poor decisions.  His mom mentioned in a local Willows news article that his son “owns what’s his”.  Well Gary, time to own up.

Thanks to the Sacramento Bee for the heads up on this story.

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