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Fake-rifle student returning to school

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GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. | A Colorado high school student expelled for having fake drill-team rifles in her car was cleared Friday to return to school.

The school board limited the expulsion of Marie Morrow, 17, to time served for bringing the duct-taped "rifles" made of wood and plastic to Cherokee Trail High School in the back of her car. She was expelled immediately on Feb. 5, pending a school board decision.

Colorado´s "zero tolerance" law mandates that students who bring weapons - even facsimiles - to school, must be expelled for a period ranging from one day to one year. Marie's case has led some state lawmakers to consider legislation that would add flexibility to the law.

Marie, an honors student and member of the Douglas County Young Marines, said Friday she was looking forward to returning to class.

"I´m just ready to go back, just glad to get back to school," she told KUSA-TV, the local NBC-TV affiliate.

Marie, a member of the Young Marines drill team, brought the three fake rifles to school because she had planned to practice after class for an April competition at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Cherry Creek Schools officials agreed Friday to limit her expulsion to time served after a hearing Thursday conducted by an independent hearing officer. During the hearing, the mayor of Parker, Colo., some retired military personnel and school staff praised Marie as an outstanding student and future leader.

Cherry Creek Superintendent Mary Chesley said Friday that no further punishment was necessary.

"I do not believe that the circumstances of this situation warrant the severe calendar-year penalty that legislators intended when this statute was enacted," Mrs. Chesley said. "We understand that lawmakers will be taking another look at the statute and we look forward to any clarification to the intent of the law they may be able to provide."

Marie could return to school as early as Wednesday, the first day of school after the holiday weekend, but she had already scheduled a visit next week to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and won´t be back in class until Friday.

Marie has received a recommendation from a member of Congress to attend the academy. Her supporters, including local talk-radio hosts and politicians, worry that the expulsion could come back to haunt her in a future military career, but district officials said any records related to the case will be destroyed when she graduates in June.

Throughout the weeklong ordeal, Marie has refused to criticize school officials or others for keeping her out of school.

"I´m mainly just mad at myself," she said. "I´m not blaming anyone."

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