A North Carolina Eagle Scout was expelled from school for a year for trying to do the right thing. David “Cole” Withrow was happily preparing for his upcoming graduation, until a totally unreasonable reaction to a simple mistake got him kicked out of Princeton High School in Johnston County, North Carolina.
When getting out of his truck at the school parking lot, Cole realized that the shotgun he had been skeet shooting with over the weekend was still inside the vehicle. The North Carolina senior thought about trying to hurry home and put the gun away, but that would make him tardy for class. Instead, Cole went to the school office and called his mother to tell her what had happened. Mom quickly agreed to come to school and retrieve the shotgun.
Unfortunately for Cole, some overzealous individual overhead the telephone conversation and alerted school officials. Due to the simple mistake that was already being easily corrected, Princeton High School officials decided that expelling the Eagle Scout for an entire school year was an appropriate course of action. Cole Withrow was also charged with a felony for having a firearm on school property.
A once extremely promising future for an honor student well-liked by both teacher and his peers is now in jeopardy. Instead of finishing high school in a few weeks and going to college, Withrow may now be spending his fall semester behind bars. Cole has been accepted at Campbell University and East Carolina University on a scholarship. The school expulsion and the felony charge could adversely impact his admittance.
The Johnston community is infuriated about what is being done to the young man. Local media outlet WTVD noted that two school officials have brought guns onto school property in the past. That revelation further outraged the close-knit North Carolina community. Withrow’s punishment seems to be extremely severe in contrast to what was levied against the school staffers.
The teacher who brought the gun to school was reportedly cited for the incident and ultimately resigned. An assistant Princeton High School principal who brought a gun to school was suspended for a total of three days and still works in the same position. Neither of the school employees faced criminal charges over the incidents.
A statement released by the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office confirmed claims that when school staffers take a weapon onto school property it is only a misdemeanor crime – but when students made the same mistake, it is a felony.
A release about the expulsion of Cole Withrow issued by the school district reads:
“Please know that with student and personnel issues, we carefully balance all factors to arrive at a fair and just outcome. Certain items are mandated and we have no choice but to follow the law.”
A “Free Cole” movement quickly sprang up on Twitter and Facebook as Cole Withrow’s story made headlines. Princeton High School students are circulating a petition pushing for the Eagle Scout to be allowed to graduate. Those in the Johnston area are eagerly awaiting the school board’s reaction to both the petition and massive nationwide support for the honor student.
Anyone can make a mistake. It is obvious that the North Carolina Eagle Scout meant no harm and was trying to do the right thing. Cole Withrow’s future should not go down the drain simply because of irrational fears spawned by an eavesdropping individual and inequitable state laws about guns on school property.
UPDATE: Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr., heard about Cole Withrow’s story on the news and decided he had to reach out and help the young man:
“When I reached out to encourage this responsible and impressive young man, I learned that he wanted to go to Liberty University, but couldn’t afford it. I told him that we would do whatever he needed so that he can attend Liberty. Anti-gun zealots tried to vilify him for doing the right thing, so Liberty has decided to award him the help he needs to attend a private Christian college. I was really impressed with Cole. He is a humble and meek Christian kid who only wants to do the right thing! We want students like Cole Withrow.”