View Full Version : School suspends Marine drill team commander

02-12-09, 08:10 AM
School suspends Marine drill team commander
By P. Solomon Banda - The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Feb 12, 2009 5:07:55 EST

AURORA, Colo. — A Douglas County Young Marines drill team commander has been suspended from high school for having the team’s mock rifles in her SUV and faces a hearing Thursday on whether she should be expelled.

Marie Morrow, 17, was suspended for 10 days from Cherokee Trail High School in the Denver suburb of Aurora on Feb. 5. Her attorney, David Lane, said her hearing originally had been set for Feb. 20 but was moved up because of a scheduling conflict.

Morrow is a senior in advanced placement classes with a 3.5 grade point average and hopes to attend the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, one of five military service academies. She’s a member of the Young Marines, a youth leadership and life skills program for students, and has applied for the New Mexico Military Institute.

The mock rifles were to be used for the group’s after-school drill team practice at a private high school in preparation for a national drill team competition at the Air Force Academy in April.

Cherry Creek School District spokeswoman Tustin Amole said state law gives school administrators no choice but to expel Morrow.

But she said administrators do have some say over the length of the expulsion, which can range from a day to a year. An independent hearing officer will make a recommendation to district Superintendent Mary Chesley, who Amole said was not available for interviews.

The case sparked a public outcry over “zero tolerance” laws from people who say they give school administrators too little discretion.

One of the three mock rifles in Morrow’s vehicle was a replica of a brown, 45-inch 1903 Springfield rifle that was the main U.S. military weapon in World War I and is still used for military ceremonies.

“I know other schools use them, and we actually go to a high school to practice,” Morrow told The Associated Press by telephone. “I thought we’d just throw them in the back and not think anything of it.”

The group’s drill team also uses mock rifles as part of a color guard — soldiers who carry the American flag during public events — at schools in Douglas County and in parades, said the group’s adult commander Chris Proctor.

Cherokee Trail security and the school’s resource police officer responded to a report from other students about weapons in a car and determined the rifles were props. They were returned to Morrow after school.

State law calls for expelling students who arrive at school with a dangerous weapon, which includes a firearm or a “firearm facsimile that could reasonably be mistaken for an actual firearm.”

“I don’t think that they were props was obvious to the kids who saw them sitting in the back seat of the car,” Amole said. “The kids saw them, and they did exactly what we asked them to do, and that is they reported them to school officials.”

The Young Marines, started by the U.S. Marine Corps in 1959, is now a youth group with 3,000 adult volunteers serving 12,000 students in 46 states.

“Judgment comes into play,” said Trisha Sargent, a former principal and associate university professor who is mentoring Morrow. “That’s why we pay administrators to follow the rules, the policy, with the very best judgment you possibly can.”

Doug Pennington of the Washington-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence weighed in:

“People’s energy should be focused on the guns that kill people and try to work some reasonable compromise out with the student, if possible,” he said.


02-12-09, 08:59 AM
Plastic drill team prop earns student 10-day suspension
Student's predicament prompts lawmakers to seek change in law
Posted: February 11, 2009
11:40 pm Eastern

2009 WorldNetDaily

Colorado lawmakers are considering rewriting a state law after a Cherokee Trail High School senior who is a part of the Douglas County Young Marines was handed a 10-day suspension from school and faces an expulsion hearing tomorrow for having a fake plastic and duct tape drill team prop rifle in her locked car.

Marie Morrow, 17, was suspended immediately when school officials – alerted by students – found the fake weapon she uses for drill team practice recently.

Cherry Creek School District spokeswoman Tustin Amole said under state law a suspension is required for all weapons reported at schools – even fakes.

"We did what the law requires us to do," she said.

She told the Aurora Sentinel schools sometimes actually keep those facsimiles in school buildings – but they keep them out of sight of students. The Douglas County Young Marines isn't officially sanctioned at Cherokee Trail, which was why Morrow had the prop in her car.

Amole said school officials concluded the fakes fell under the state definition of "a firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, or a firearm facsimile that could reasonably be mistaken for an actual firearm."

Now state lawmakers are stepping in.

State Rep. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud,, said he would proposed legislation that eases the state mandate.

"There should be exemptions to this hard and fast rule so this type of thing doesn't happen again," he said. "I am outraged that a student faces expulsion for participating in a drill team."

A spokesman for the Young Marines, Chris Proctor, said he's going to require future drill team participants to acknowledge that the fakes cannot be taken onto any school grounds – ever.

"Obviously I completely understand the need for security measures. But when they found out that Marie was a Young Marine ... I think they should have slapped her hand," he told the Sentinel.

"There's no mistaking that these are not real rifles," Proctor told Denver's KUSA-Television. "I think somewhere along the line, logic has to take over and they have to be able to make exceptions to the rules."

District officials had called police, who took the drill team props – three were in Morrow's vehicle – and told her to pick them up when she needed them for drill practice.

Morrow's mother, Jennifer McGrew, said she hopes the school is not teaching the wrong message.

"I just don't want it to affect her view on the world, (make her believe) that people who do the right thing don't come out on top," McGrew said. "I've always kind of really looked up to my daughter for having a mind of her own and going places that I never even dreamed."

Morrow already has obtained a recommendation from a member of Congress to attend the Merchant Marine Academy. She's been told an expulsion would not affect her plans to attend the academy.

At the Peoples Press Collective in Denver, a commentator said whether the guns were fake or not really doesn't matter.

"In this world there are good guys and there are bad guys. Let's call the good guys law-abiding citizens, and call the bad guys criminals. Law-abiding citizens (often with significant firearms safety training, 1000s of rounds of practice, years of experience, and concealed weapons permits) disarm themselves and lock their firearms in their vehicle prior to entering a gun free school zone. Good guys follow the rules. On the other hand, the criminals don't. That's what makes them criminals; criminals break laws. Before the bad guys at Columbine (13 dead) or Virginia Tech (33 dead) stepped foot onto the gun free school zone, they had already made the decision to break one of our most sacred laws: murder."

He continued, "Want to really protect the children? Want to keep good students from being suspended for having duct taped, prop rifles locked in their vehicles? Eliminate the ineffective, feel-good, gun free school zone laws that only help kill our children."

The commentary at the Denver Gun Rights Examiner was even more harsh.

"The school said students told teachers there were guns in a car in the parking lot. Certainly, investigate student concerns. After looking in her car, the school officials should have said, 'Just replicas, not real, go back to class.' Judgment has to enter in," the opinion column said.

"Marie Morrow seems to be a model student. Indeed, to me she sounds like the flower of American youth. It is people like her who defend our country today," the column continued.


02-13-09, 09:18 AM
'Young Marine' With Mock Rifles Pleads Case At Hearing
Marie Morrow Will Learn Friday If She Will Be Expelled

POSTED: 11:36 am MST February 12, 2009
UPDATED: 7:22 pm MST February 12, 2009

AURORA, Colo. -- A Young Marines drill team commander suspended from high school for having the team's mock rifles in the back of her car pleaded her case Thursday at a hearing that would determine whether she should be expelled.

Marie Morrow was suspended for 10 days from Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora after the wooden replica rifles were found in her sport utility vehicle in the school parking lot.

After the hearing, Morrow told 7NEWS, "I think it went over pretty well. I think they're going to consider the minimum

sentence, take it as an honest mistake."

The hearing included character witnesses and accounts of what happened.

"My best-case scenario is that I'm back in school as soon as possible," Morrow said.

Morrow said the Young Marines program has "been a big part of my life. It pretty much shapes who I am and what I want to do in the future."

Morrow is a senior in advanced placement classes with a 3.5 grade point average. She's a member of the youth leadership and life skills program for students and plans to attend the U.S. Merchant Marines Academy when she graduates. The academy is one of five service academies. The Young Marines is a youth leadership program of the Marine Corps League, an organization for current and former Marines.

She felt the administrators at the hearing wanted to see her come back.

"One of the guys said, 'Keep working on your homework.' That's a good sign," Morrow said.

The state has a "zero-tolerance" law governing firearms on school property.

Cherry Creek School District spokeswoman Tustin Amole said state law gives administrators no choice but to expel Morrow for having weapons at the school -- whether they are fake or not. The question is the length of that explusion.

Morrow could learn Friday whether she'll be expelled.

State Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, says he plans to introduce a bill in the Legislature next week that would exempt facsimile weapons from the zero-tolerance law.

"We are just trying to add a little bid of discretion to situations that are not a threat in any way," Lundberg said Thursday.


02-14-09, 08:31 AM
Young Marines drill leader can return to school
The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Feb 13, 2009 20:01:14 EST

AURORA, Colo. — A 17-year-old drill team commander for the Young Marines will be allowed to return to school next week after she was barred from classes for having the team’s mock rifles in her SUV in the school parking lot.

Cherry Creek School District Superintendent Mary Chesley ruled Friday that Marie Morrow could return to Cherokee Trail High School on Wednesday, the next time school is in session.

Her first day in class won’t be until Feb. 20 because she will be on a previously planned trip to New York state.

She was suspended Feb. 5.

“This has been a tiring experience,” Morrow said. “I’m glad to go back and be a regular kid.”

Morrow is a senior with a 3.5 grade-point average and takes advanced placement classes. She had the mock rifles because for drill team practice after school.

She hopes to attend the Merchant Marine Academy. The Young Marines is a youth program of the Marine Corps League, an organization of current and former Marines.

Chesley said she had no choice but to expel Morrow under a state “zero-tolerance” law governing firearms and facsimiles on school property, but that the law gave her discretion on the length of the expulsion.

Chesley decided to expel Morrow for the period she had already been suspended, which was six days.

“I do not believe that the circumstances of this situation warrant the severe calendar year penalty that legislators intended when this statute was enacted,” Chesley said.

State Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, has said he plans to introduce legislation to exempt facsimile weapons from the zero-tolerance law.