by: Rachel Stockman Updated:
NEWTON COUNTY, Ga. - An 8-year-old Newton County boy who says he quickly alerted his teacher when he mistakenly brought an unloaded BB gun to school is now being allowed to return to class.
Third-grader Andrew Berry, of Covington, often carries around a backpack like his father who is serving as an Army flight medic in Afghanistan.
His mother, Kristy Berry, told Channel 2’s Rachel Stockman that Andrew spent the night at his grandparents' house and took his gun to practice shooting with his grandfather, but Andrew forgot about the gun when he headed back to Newton County Theme School on Monday.
“He did the right thing. As soon as he saw there was something in the bag that didn't belong there, he took it to the teacher and showed it to her,” Berry said.
Andrew was called into the principal’s office, and then suspended for 10 days. His mother fought hard to get her son’s suspension revoked.
During a hearing at the Newton County Board of Education on Wednesday, the district revoked his suspension, and allowed him to return to classes.
“They praised Andrew for doing the right thing and they told him to always do the right thing no matter what,” said Berry.
However, Andrew already served eight days suspension before his punishment was withdrawn. The Newton County Theme School’s handbook says that elementary students have the opportunity to turn in knives unintentionally brought to school without penalty, but the policy does not apply to guns, even unloaded BB guns like the one Andrew brought to school.
Newton County Schools Superintendent Gary Matthews said many school districts across the country have similar policies.
“With these zero-tolerance policies, I personally believe there needs to be gray area,” Newton County School Board Member Abigail Coggin told Channel 2 Action News.
Coggin believes that the district should look into their policy. She also said that when it comes to guns, the district’s hands are often tied by state and federal law. For example, they were required by Georgia state law to call the police after Andrew brought the BB gun to school.
“It’s the local administrators that know the children, that know the parents, and that know what’s going on in their schools,” Coggin said. “People in Washington D.C., and Atlanta, they have no idea what is going on here in Covington, Ga.”