Criminal charges were dismissed against the boy this past June in Hawkins County Juvenile Court after a second boy in the case reportedly admitted he had brought the gun to school and placed it in a backpack belonging to Morristown attorney Paul Whetstone's client.
A temporary restraining order
Whetstone has since filed a lawsuit against the Board of Education seeking to have the boy reinstated in school, with a hearing set for Tuesday afternoon in Hawkins County Chancery Court.
At Whetsone's request, Chancellor Doug Jenkins issued a temporary restraining order last week prohibiting the school system from banning the boy from school — which began the new school year Monday — pending the outcome of Tuesday’s hearing.
Whetstone alleges that his client, who will be sophomore this school year, was barred from attending school Monday at Cherokee, in violation of the restraining order.
“We believe this is a misunderstanding”
Director of Schools Matt Hixson told the Times News on Monday that the boy wasn't barred from school, and Hixson believes there was a misunderstanding.
“He is allowed,” Hixson said. “We requested transcripts while he and his aunt were there in the office. He was offered the opportunity to wait for the transcripts, but he and aunt decided they would leave. We believe this is a misunderstanding. Rather than call us directly and find out what the truth is, the opposing attorney has jumped to a conclusion on his own.”
The two boys were arrested on March 29 after an unloaded .38 caliber handgun and ammunition were found in a VHS tape box in a backpack belonging to Whetstone’s client. Whetstone said the boy who brought the gun to school later “totally exonerated” his client in court.
The case was dismissed
“He put it in my client's backpack, and my client didn't have time to react, and they charged my guy just like they did the other,” Whetstone said. “I filed everything in Juvenile Court, and the case was dismissed. But they (the Hawkins County School System) are still trying to make him go to alternative school, and we're fighting that.”
The petition filed by Whetstone seeks for several people to be found in contempt of court, including Hixson, acting Cherokee Principal Thomas Floyd and all seven members of the Hawkins County Board of Education. It will be heard Tuesday in Chancery Court at the same time as a hearing to determine the student's fate for the 2019-20 school year.
“Have them all thrown in jail”
“They think they're above the law, and I have petitioned to have them all thrown in jail,” Whetstone said. “The judge signed a restraining order preventing the school from denying my client access to class, and they denied him anyway. They could have let him go to class, and she (the aunt) could have handled all that (transcript issue).”
Whetstone's petition asks that they each be sentenced to 10 days for “deliberate and willful contempt of court.”
“They did not let my client go to class like the court order said,” Whetstone said.
Hixson’s compromise rejected
According to court documents, on July 15 Hixson offered to allow the boy to enroll beginning Aug. 5 via either homebound services or the new Virtual Academy program until March 9.
Assuming the boy stayed out of trouble, he would then be allowed to attend Alternative School March 9-20 and then return to Cherokee beginning March 30 — which would be one year and one day after the incident.
Hixson's proposal was rejected by the boy's family, who then directed Whetstone to file a lawsuit in Chancery Court.
“Get on with his education and his life”
Whetstone said he believes the school system has found his client guilty, despite the Juvenile Court’s dismissal of the charges.
“The DA took a look at the evidence and agreed with me and nollied the case,” Whetstone said. “I filed an expungement petition, which was granted. Judge Boyd dismissed the case, expunged the records and dissolved the restraining order that he had put down keeping my client out of school.”
Whetstone added, “Now all that’s left is for my client to be allowed to go back to school and get on with his education and his life.”