A Newton County Theme School 8-year-old student is back in class, after being suspended last week for bringing to attention a BB gun he had inadvertently left in his book bag after a weekend with his grandfather.
Andrew Berry was suspended for no less than 10 days and appeared before a tribunal on Oct. 31. According to his grandfather Stevie Holt the principal requested that he be returned to school immediately, and his teacher commented about Andrew's character, saying he was a pleasure to have the third grader in class, a hard worker and a child who does the right thing.
His decision to do the right thing was initially what sparked his suspension. According to school rules and the federal zero tolerance law and according to county policy, the principal is required to immediately report the incident and the child's name to the superintendent and to the proper authorities; to not do so would be considered a misdemeanor crime.
Andrew's grandfather was concerned mainly in the scar a felony charge would leave on the third-grader's record, since it could prevent him from entering university in the future. He said the juvenile counts were taken away and Andrew was dealt with by a school tribunal, not the juvenile court system.
It was also agreed that, although the incident would remain on his record, there would be a text of the tribunal, as well as a statement noting that no violence was used, no harm was intended and that it was simply an accident and protocol was just being followed.
"We feel really good with the outcome," said Holt. "Considering the whole situation, we had to follow protocol. We praised [Andrew] for doing the right thing and told him to be sure to do it the rest of his life. We wanted him to understand he never was in trouble, period. The teachers and the principals had rules to go by and they had to follow them."
Andrew's family is concerned that something positive come from this incident and are hoping to work something out that will benefit other students and help them learn that doing the right thing is always the best policy.