Caldwell 4th graders banned from school for rest of year after fireworks plot

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comApril 30, 2014 

A trio of 10-year-olds at Central Canyon Elementary School in Caldwell conspired during several school recesses to shoot off fireworks on the school grounds, with the goal of ending the school year early. Those students have been banned from school grounds for the rest of the year - but they'll continue their studies at another location, according to a district official.

School officials were not amused when they found out about the plot on April 11.

"Their intent was to blow up all these little devices and get out of school early for summer vacation," Vallivue School Superintendent Pat Charlton said. The kids had discussed placing them on school grounds near sprinklers, not in the school.

"With all three, there was never any intent to hurt a person," Charlton said.

There was never any real danger - the fourth-graders didn't have fireworks. They brought materials to school that they thought they would need to make fireworks, including empty cans, markers (with wicks pulled out) and paper. They planned to use the marker wicks as fuses.

"Their cognitive level wasn't such that they thought this through, and they didn't have the background experience to know what it would take to cause an explosion," Charlton said. "They didn't even have matches ... I don't think anyone had been assigned to bring matches."

But school officials found the kids' intent and ongoing planning to cause explosions on school grounds alarming.

An expulsion committee was convened to determined the appropriate punishment for the kids. Charlton said the group of at least a half-dozen included school administrators, a truancy officer, a principal and the safe schools director.

Did the group consider that the kids were getting what they wanted if they were kicked out of school?

"Yes, we had a good discussion," Charlton said. He said expulsion hearing are a rarity for kids in elementary school. That's more typical in middle school, for things such as bullying or bringing drug paraphernalia to school, he said.

The kids involved in this incident were banned from school grounds for the rest of the year, but not expelled. The committee, which met with each child separately, opted to require "home-bound instruction." That instruction is not actually in students' homes; it's at a "neutral" location, such as a library. A teacher is provided by the district, Charlton said.

The expulsion hearings were Friday. The district sent a note to parents Monday, urging them to keep tabs on what their children are carrying in their backpacks.

The conditions of the kids' reinstatement - hearings will be held before the next school year starts - include apologies and community service.

"We wanted to send that strong message that that just wouldn't be tolerated," Charlton said. "Hopefully this was a good life lesson to help steer them on the right path."

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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