A three-person committee of board members for Virginia Beach City Public Schools unanimously decided the fate of Khalid Caraballo, 13, and his friend Aiden Clark, also 13, at a hearing on Tuesday morning. The suspension continues through June 2014, but another hearing will be held in January to determine if the boys can return to their school early.
The two were playing with airsoft guns in Caraballo’s front yard on Sept. 11 and 12, while waiting for the school bus to arrive. The boys thought it was harmless fun, but their school, Larkspur Middle School in Virginia Beach, thought differently, immediately suspending the two for “possession, handling and use of a firearm” upon learning that several students had been shot while running toward the nearby bus stop.
“Because students were on their way to or at a school bus stop when they were struck by pellets, the school division has jurisdiction to take disciplinary actions against those students responsible for the disruption,” Principal Matthew Delaney said in a statement. “There is an expectation that all students should be able to travel to and from school in the safest environment possible.”
A neighbor also called 911 on Sept. 9 to report the boys playing with airsoft guns, according to WAVY News. The caller openly acknowledged that they were fake guns, however, and confirmed that the boys were shooting at a zombie target in a tree.
Eileen Cox, director of communications and community engagement at Virginia Beach City Public Schools, told Red Alert Politics she did not have any additional information about how the decision was reached.
She added that Caraballo will be attending Renaissance Academy, a school for “students who are not experiencing success in regular secondary (grades 6-12) school settings,” during the 2013-14 school year. If his attendance, behavior and academic standards are deemed sufficient at the January hearing, he will be allowed to return to a traditional school setting.
Clark’s parents told WAVY that they would be homeschooling their son instead of placing him in an alternative education setting.
Caraballo told WAVY that he never brought the airsoft gun to the bus stop, and while he admits to shooting other kids, he said it was all in good fun. He thinks the punishment is unfair because the boys never brought the guns to school or the bus stop. Caraballo also laments the fact that it may hurt his future.
“It’s terrible,” he told the news station. “I won’t get the chance to go to a good college. It’s on your school record. The school said I had possession of a firearm. They aren’t going to ask me any questions. They are going to think it was a real gun, and I was trying to hurt someone. They will say, ‘Oh, we can’t accept you.'”