16-Year-Old Student Expelled for Entire Year Over Water Gun

When “zero tolerance” turns into extreme overreaction.

In Prattville, Alabama, a young high school student was expelled from all county schools, banned from school property, and all extra-curricular activities for an entire year for having possession of a water gun on campus.

According to the Montgomery Advertiser, 16-year-old Sara Allena “Laney” Nichols was handed a black water gun by a male classmate “as a joke” and proceeded to put it in her backpack and walk it to her car. School surveillance cameras caught the exchange, but not the male student. A few days later, another Prattville High School student turned Nichols in for having a gun. 

Nichols received a 10-day suspension before the school board decided on the expulsion. The male student involved received no punishment whatsoever. In fact, he brought another water gun to the school on April 3rd and along with another student, only received an in-school suspension.

Lawyers representing the female student are considering a Title IX discrimination case against the high school since she faced a stiffer penalty than did the male student who was involved both times.

However, Nichols mother, Tara Herring, just wants her daughter’s record cleared:

“We just want her record and name cleared. Laney has gone to Prattville schools since the second grade. We had every belief that she would graduate from Prattville High and go on to college. My youngest daughter has been going to Prattville schools since kindergarten. We expected the same thing from her; graduate from Prattville High and then go to college.

“We loved the schools in Prattville. But we have lost all confidence in the school system after this.”

Herring said she understands the school’s zero tolerance policy on guns but thinks her daughter’s punishment was excessive:

“But the second you picked it up, you know it’s plastic and a toy. So, we can understand the initial reaction, not knowing it wasn’t a real gun. But after the principal and school officials knew it was a water gun, things should never have progressed this far.”

“We admit what she did was wrong,” Herring continued. “I was hoping this could be a teachable moment for her. We’re not saying she should not have been punished.”

“The little girl who went to the office [and turned Laney in] was scared to death,” Herring added. “She saw the boy hand Laney the gun on Friday and didn’t know the gun wasn’t real. She did what she was supposed to do, she went to the authorities. They did what they were supposed to do when they were told a gun may be in the school.”

“Laney admitted she had the gun and told them it was a water gun and in her car. She and the other boy were silly and made a mistake. But the punishment she received was completely out of line for what happened,” Herring said.

The girl’s lawyer feels she was “the naïve and unwitting victim of a scheme (for lack of a better word) by several boys to set her up and make her take the fall.”

Below is a picture of Nichols and a local report:



Photo credit: Dean Hochman via Foter.com / CC BY