Teen may be expelled over alleged threat

Published 12:17 pm Thursday, March 15, 2018

A 15-year-old student at Prince Edward County High School will likely face expulsion this week for an offense he is adamant he did not commit.

The teen, whose name The Herald is withholding because of his age, stands accused of threatening to bring a weapon to school, and allegedly uttering some version of the phrase, “We are all going to die.” The incident took place Feb. 28.

The teen and his father shared their version of the events during two interviews at The Herald office. The teen’s father provided The Herald with a copy of the Discipline Referral form signed by Principal Gwendolyn McQuaige-Hicks and a separate document signed by McQuaige-Hicks in which she recommends “further disciplinary action.” That’s likely to be expulsion, kicking the teen out of the school system permanently.

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While the teen’s suspension was set to expire Wednesday, the recent snow day that canceled school for one day should push any referral back to at least March 15.

McQuaige-Hicks did not respond to a voicemail left Wednesday morning.

“If an expulsion shows up on his records he’ll never get into college,” said the teen’s father, his voice rising as he shook his head at the thought of the scenario.

The school’s evidence, at least what is available, is less than damning.

“It was reported to me that (the teen) made the following statement on February 28, 2018,” according to a hand-written discipline referral form signed by McQuaige-Hicks: ‘We are all going to die.’ McQuaige-Hicks adds that “it was later reported to me by Deputy Mercer that (the teen) said, ‘If I said it, I was joking. But I didn’t say it.’”

McQuaige-Hicks wrote that Mercer related that information to her about 9:40 p.m. on the Feb. 28. She acted on the information some time the following day, but apparently waited until after 3 p.m. on March 1 to contact the teen’s father.

During the interview with the teen and his father, The Herald asked what steps McQuaige-Hicks took on March 1. “She had me put in the detention classroom,” the teen responded.

When asked if that meant he was with other students, the teen shook his head in the affirmative. The Herald also asked what happened when the school day was over.

“I got on the bus and rode home,” he said.

“A school bus? With other students aboard?” The Herald asked. The teen’s reply? “Yes.”

Those responses suggest the school failed to properly monitor the teen once he was placed in the detention classroom. It also raises key questions, including whether there was a staff member in charge of the detention room and whether that person was aware of the allegations against the teen.