Now that a Bull Run Middle School student who threatened to shoot people on the final day of classes has pleaded guilty to weapon and abduction charges, students and parents at the Haymarket school are divided about whether he should be allowed back into the school system.
Some say they think the seventh-grader, now 13, should be detained in a juvenile facility until he turns 21, the maximum punishment, and never be allowed back in. Others say he should be given a second chance and be readmitted when some time has passed.
"As far as him coming back into the school system, I don't think he's a danger anymore to others," said Kris Shellum, 44, of Gainesville. Shellum's 14-year-old son, Scott, was held hostage inside the administrative office where the boy was brandishing a high-power rifle. "He certainly wanted some attention, and he got it. Maybe I would feel differently if someone got shot, if someone ended up dying like at Columbine."
On Wednesday, the boy pleaded guilty in Prince William County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court to charges of abduction, possession of a firearm on school property and use of a firearm in commission of a felony. Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert (D) said he will likely ask Judge Janice Brice at the Sept. 29 sentencing to order the boy held until he is 21.
A second boy, also 13, was charged with conspiracy to possess firearms on school property. Ebert dropped that charge Wednesday, saying reasonable doubt existed regarding whether the two boys had made an agreement.
On June 18, the boy, then 12, took three guns, a knife, flammable liquid and more than 100 rounds of ammunition to the school. He burst into the administrative office around 8:30 a.m. and threatened to shoot people, until a teacher persuaded him not to and Prince William police arrested him.
Bull Run Middle School Principal William G. Bixby said it is unclear whether the boys will be admitted back into the school system. Bixby said he was pleased with the outcome of last week's juvenile court hearing, particularly because "we're moving toward closure."
"The firm action by the court system does send a message, and I think students will listen to that," he said.
The boy who took the guns to school will likely end up in one of two juvenile facilities near Richmond -- either Bon Air in Chesterfield County, which has about 200 children, or a detention center in Hanover County with about 140 children, said Bruce Twyman, a spokesman for the Department of Juvenile Justice.
Twyman said that a small percentage of juveniles who spend their high school years in one of the state's detention centers obtain general equivalency diplomas and advance to four-year colleges. He said the Hanover and Bon Air facilities are the only ones in the state with inmates as young as the 13-year-old boy.
Schoolmates and neighbors have said that constant bullying about the boy's weight and clothing triggered the incident, in which no shots were fired and no one was hurt.
Alex Strittmater, 14, of Haymarket, who taped construction paper on a door window while the boy with the guns was still at large in the school, said he does not want him to be allowed back into the school system.
Even if he did return, Strittmater said, "I don't think he would want to come back. People already made fun of him before; now people aren't going to like him even more."
Some parents said the boy just needs time to turn around.
"This was a cry for help. Maybe some day when he's gotten help" he can come back, said Ginger Treague, 40, a parent who was held hostage inside the school's main office with her two sons. "Not anytime soon, but I am not saying never."
Barbara Rohr, a reading specialist at the school, said she is relieved the hearing finished before the start of the school year. It would have been difficult to "carry on with business" and create a "positive environment with the incident still hanging over everyone," she said.