- The Washington Times - Friday, February 13, 2009

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo.

Marie Morrow, an honors student and drill-team commander in the Young Marines, isn’t the kind of student who normally gets expelled.

But she’s now awaiting the results of Thursday’s expulsion hearing after leaving three rifle-shaped props, used for drilling, in the back of her car at Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora.

Colorado law mandates expulsion for any student found with a “dangerous weapon” on school grounds, which includes “a firearm facsimile that could reasonably be mistaken for an actual firearm.”

The case has galvanized Coloradans as the details play out on talk radio, editorial pages and even the state legislature. State Sen. Kevin Lundberg, a Republican, said he plans to introduce legislation that would provide an exception to the law for prop weapons used by military-sponsored youth groups.

“There should be exemptions to this hard-and-fast rule so this type of thing doesn’t happen again,” Mr. Lundberg said in a statement. “I am outraged that a student faces expulsion for participating in a drill team.”

Even a spokesman for one of the nation’s leading gun-control advocacy groups agreed that the punishment didn’t seem to fit the crime.

“We’re not concerned about nonoperative rifles, and the facts in this case cry out for someone to exercise common sense,” said Peter Hamm, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “While officials seem to want to send an important message, which is fine, we don’t want to see this young woman’s life severely disrupted.”

Miss Morrow’s attorney, David Lane, acknowledged that the question isn’t whether she’ll be expelled, but for how long. Colorado law says the expulsion can range from one day to one year.

At the hearing Thursday morning at the Cherry Creek Schools district office, Mr. Lane asked an independent hearing officer to limit the expulsion to time served. Miss Morrow’s expulsion began Feb. 6, the day after the prop rifles were found.

“Unfortunately, Marie’s going to be expelled because that’s the law, but hopefully it will only be for time served,” said Mr. Lane, a well-known Denver defense lawyer who also represents former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill. “Anything else would be absolutely unjust.”

Miss Morrow, 17, likely will learn her fate Friday, district officials said. The Cherry Creek Schools superintendent, Mary Chesley, will make the final decision after receiving the hearing officer’s report.

“I just hope that they give me the minimal punishment and then I can go back to school as soon as possible,” Miss Morrow told reporters after Thursday’s hearing.

Miss Morrow said that during drill routines she spins and tosses the nonoperative rifles, which are made of plastic and wood for drill use, are heavily duct-taped and never built to fire bullets. She had brought them to school Feb. 5 because she was preparing for a competition at the Air Force Academy in April and planned to attend a practice right after school.

Students who receive permission from the school or district can bring such facsimile weapons to school, but Miss Morrow said she was unfamiliar with the rule and didn’t tell anyone about the prop rifles.

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