Montana Teen Hunter Demari DeReu’s School Board Hearing
16-Year Old Montana Girl was Facing Expulsion for legally carrying a Hunting Rifle in her car.
Washington, DC –-(Ammoland.com)- Included below is a report from Sean Frampton, Demari’s attorney, about Demari’s school board expulsion hearing last evening.
Although the school board voted unanimously to not expel Demari, I am disappointed that she is on probation and her record will only be cleared at the end of the school year if she has no further violations. I do not believe this incident was a violation (except a violation of Demari by school administrators). Continuing probation implies that Demari did something wrong. I don’t like that implication.
Also, I’ve heard no reports that the school board will address the mistakes made by their employees, school administrators, or seek to revise their flawed school policy that is at variance with federal law.
BTW, I have finished drafting a bill to fix state law to prevent further occurrences like this. That draft has been delivered to requesting legislators. Expect that bill to be introduced into the upcoming legislative session and to be added to MSSA’s already extensive legislative agenda.
The meeting ended with a good result for Demari. More than 75 people showed up in support of Demari at a location that was changed at the last minute to accommodate the expected large crowds. Approximately 10 to 15 picketers with signs such as “Free Demari” were standing outside of the hearing place. The local and regional print and television media also attended.
The hearing began with the school’s position. Of particular note was the Principal’s recitation of the number of times that the policy had been communicated to the students, including a review by the teacher on the first day of class and specific announcements during hunting season.
Demari told her story to the Board herself. She testified consistently with the position communicated in the media. I then spoke to the legal issues. My main point was that Montana never intended to “trap” kids with this law. I found two instances in the legislative record where representatives inquired and satisfied themselves that the proposed bill (now statute) would not trap them.
One such legislature said “he does not want to see rural kids with a .22 in the back of their truck trapped by the bill.” Another asked if a student “could bring a truck with a gun in a gun rack and park it there all day.” In both instances, the response to their inquiry was that a hunting rifle “wouldn’t be a concern of this legislation.” I then addressed the exception in federal law that the Gun Free School Act “shall [not] apply to a firearm that is lawfully stored inside a locked vehicle on school property.” 20 USCS 7151.
Two other interesting points I raised were that when a school teacher, in reviewing the policies, instructed Demari and other students to just call the principal if they accidentally leave a hunting rifle in the car and they will be allowed to take it home and, impliedly, without punishment, such a statement constituted an oral policy that was different and less strict than their written policies. Also, I argued that the school officials did not follow their own policy which requires that prior to dispensing disciplinary action, the school authorities shall consider extenuating circumstances.
Larry Wilson, the only NRA member on the Board of Trustees, moved to deny the expulsion, have Demari’s record and her suspension expunged at the end of the year, be readmitted immediately into school, and given all of the assistance necessary to catch up on her homework and be allowed to take her exams. Superintended Nicosia, who initially had recommended expulsion, withdrew his recommendation and stated that he will do everything within his power to help Demari make up her work. The Board unanimously passed the motion.
At one point in the hearing, Demari became very emotional. The issue was whether this suspension would affect Demari’s ability to enter college. The Principal said that he spoke to a number of schools, including the University of Montana where Demari wants to go, and represented that this suspension will not hurt her education. Demari asked her attorney (for permission – GM) to speak and when she spoke, she became very emotional about how this has already affected her chances because she has at least two F grades due to her inability to take mid-term exams. The school authorities assured her that they would do everything necessary to help her.
Eleven people spoke in public comment. All were in favor of Demari. Most speakers received applause after their comments. Tom Opre, a Board member of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, received an applause when he said that the school district needed “common sense policies.” Fred Hodgebloom generated applause when he said the motion should be amended to give Demari an apology and to suspend the school officials for their conduct. Two representatives from the Montana legislature were present and in support of Demari. Jerry O’Neil, who represents the district which comprises Columbia Falls, advised that he currently has a place holder for a bill and would be willing to sponsor a bill to amend the laws to make them more clear.Gary Marbut, president
Montana Shooting Sports Association
author, Gun Laws of Montana
About Montana Shooting Sports Association:
MSSA is the primary political advocate for Montana gun owners. Visit: www.mtssa.org