Natomas Unified seeks court mandate after county board rescinds student’s expulsion

Leadership at the Natomas Unified School District is seeking a court mandate after a student’s expulsion — originally made after he brandished weapons on campus — was rescinded by the Sacramento County Board of Education.

In a statement sent out to the community, Natomas Unified said the county school board will be returning a student to Heron K-8 in North Natomas Wednesday and expunging his record after he was expelled for bringing realistic-looking airsoft handguns to school twice and displaying them to students.

The school district’s leadership said it is filing a petition for a writ of mandate from the Sacramento County Superior Court.

The school district said the student wanted others to think he had a real firearm. The airsoft guns were metal and included clips, leading several on campus to believe they were real, the district said.

Although the guns had orange tips, when kept in a waistband or backpack they looked real enough to scare others, the school district said.

During the student’s expulsion hearing, students, staff and parents testified about the incidents.

“On March 27, 2019 at approximately 2:35 p.m., I was at the front of the school monitoring traffic and supervising students, when a parent ... ran up to me and said, ‘We need your help ... there is a student with a gun.’ She looked very scared, and I immediately followed her as she led me to the student,” a Heron K-8 principal said during the hearing.

One student testified that the student brought airsoft guns on March 26 as well, only showing others the back of the guns, hiding the orange tips, and acting as if they were real. Another said he dry-fired the gun into the ground.

“I was waiting for my son to come out, and I saw the student showing two other students a gun. I walked up, told him to put backpack down. I said don’t touch it,” one parent said. “The one thing I do remember is he just keep saying, gun, gun, gun,” another said.

Two weeks ago, the county school board heard an appeal regarding the expulsion and decided to rescind the expulsion and return the student to Heron. Natomas Unified leadership said in its statement that it was seeking a court mandate to overturn the county decision to ensure safety on campus, citing an overreach of authority.

But officials from the Sacramento County Office of Education criticized the Natomas district’s community message as irresponsible and misleading.

In a statement emailed to The Sacramento Bee, the county office said the school district’s statement “selectively and misleadingly portrays information from a confidential student matter, without providing all the facts and circumstances.”

The statement went on to say that Natomas Unified did not prove what it needed to in the expulsion case and that it stands by its appeal decision.

“In light of the frightening number of shootings in schools and across the nation, including just recently in Gilroy, Natomas Unified will continue to hold students accountable for their dangerous decisions,” Natomas Unified said in its statement. “Expelling a student who made these choices is the correct decision.”

The county office said school districts need to prove students are a continuing danger to satisfy legal requirements to expel a student.

“Student safety is our primary concern,” the statement said. “At the same time, we must protect the rights and privacy of all students. We cannot discuss all of the details of this matter because it involves a juvenile and it is confidential.”

With regard to privacy, county Office of Education spokesman Tim Herrera said the district has “basically outed this kid.”

“It’s not responsible,” Herrera said.

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Vincent Moleski covers business and breaking news for The Bee and is a graduate student in literature at Sacramento State. He was born and raised in Sacramento and previously wrote for the university’s student newspaper, the State Hornet.