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Plastic pellet incident at Va. school ends in expulsion, assault charges

In December, the apparent suicide of Nick Stuban, who had been expelled from Fairfax County's W.T. Woodson High School weeks before his death, sparked concern about the district's disciplinary policy, which some parents called overly punitive.

Virginia officials say 3,557 students were expelled in the state in the 2008-09 school year, but most of those expulsions were later modified to suspensions.

The three Spotsylvania school board members who rejected Mikel's appeal did not return phone messages. Amanda Blalock, a board member not on the disciplinary committee, said that Spotsylvania officials have latitude in implementing state and federal disciplinary regulations, despite claims by some administrators that they are hamstrung by such policies.

"There's still plenty of flexibility at the local level," Blalock said. "Sometimes we're just dealing with a stupid mistake a kid makes, not a criminal action."

Mikel will be cleared of the misdemeanor criminal charges if he participates in a year-long diversion program, he said. The county sheriff's office did not return messages seeking comment.

Some residents and Spotsylvania officials are questioning the school district's handling of the case.

"More and more school districts apply these zero-tolerance policies, and common sense goes out the window," said Del. Mark L. Cole (R-Fredericksburg). "Something like this can haunt a kid for the rest of his life, just for a little mischief."

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