I grew up as an avid hunter and fisherman. Like many others back then, I often had a rifle, handgun and fishing tackle in my car at school. Half of the pickup trucks parked on campus had rifles or shotguns in gun racks in the back window of the truck’s cab. They were in plain sight, but I never heard of any being stolen or anyone using them on campus.
Today’s perverted world is so much different.
Cody Chitwood is a 17 years old senior at Lassiter High School in Cobb County, Georgia and loves to go fishing. Without thinking about it being a problem, he loaded his fishing gear into his car so he could go fishing after school. His timing stunk. Police showed up at the campus with drug-sniffing dogs to perform a random search. A dog hit on Chitwood’s car indicating the presence of black gun powder. That gave police probable cause to conduct a full search of his car.
It turns out that the black gun powder was residue left from a 4th of July firecracker. But during the search, the police found Chitwood’s tackle box and when they opened it, they found his fish cleaning knife. Since the school has a zero tolerance policy, Cody Chitwood was arrested and charged with a felony weapons charge. He was released on $1,000 bail. If found guilty of the offense, he could face 2-10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. It would also kill his dreams of joining the Air Force after graduation.
Chitwood commented about what happened, saying:
“It’s pretty ridiculous. I have an attorney and I’m hoping to get the felony dropped so I can still get in the Air Force.”
After what happened to Chitwood and another student at a different high school who was also arrested on felony weapons charges after a knife was found in his car after a search, several state legislators are saying the zero tolerance needs to be revised. State Rep. Ed Setzler, (R-Kennesaw) told the local media:
“The public expects the same good common sense they use every day of their lives to apply to the laws of our state, and we as legislators seek nothing less. We’ll inspect the current state of the law, but our school leaders don’t like it, our law enforcement doesn’t like it, and we’re finding out the citizens who understand the current state of the law certainly don’t like it.”
I wonder what they would find in the cars of teachers and other school faculty if they were searched? Have any of them ever put fishing tackle or a toolbox in their car and then took them to school? If so, would they face the same felony weapons charges as a student?
I understand the need to protect students, but how many students are having their lives ruined by something as innocent as throwing their tackle box in the car without thinking about the knife in the bottom used to clean fish? Just like everything else in life, there has to be some common sense used in these things, but so few educators today exercise any form of common sense that they look more like tyrants that educators.
Hopefully, Chitwood’s attorney will be able to get the felony charges dropped so he can continue on with his life and serve his country.