Gun-shy board OKs drill rifles Baltimore Co. schools to exempt ROTC from weapons regulations

August 08, 1996|By Marego Athans | Marego Athans,SUN STAFF

You don't take chances with weapons rules in Baltimore County schools -- just ask Jodie Ulrich, the honor student expelled for carrying pepper spray.

Even when you're in Junior ROTC, and drill ceremonies require you to carry a rifle, there was a problem -- or so the school board thought.

So the board wrote an exception into its discipline code Tuesday night to allow cadets to carry inactive rifles while presenting the flag and posting colors -- without getting kicked out of school.

"We had to change the policy because all these kids would be expelled," school system spokesman Donald I. Mohler III said with a grin.

The county system's unyielding weapons policy, which requires expulsion for those who carry weapons such as guns and knives, has been around for years. But as far as anyone remembers, no cadets have been banished while learning to serve their country.

But this summer -- fresh from the uproar of the Ulrich case in the spring -- the issue of the rifles was raised as school officials prepared to expand the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program from two high schools to 10.

Ulrich, who said she accidentally carried protective spray to school, missed 2 1/2 months of classes, her prom and the lacrosse season before a judge ordered the system to take her back.

To prove that his students are no menace, a uniformed Brig. Gen. Thomas C. Johnson, the school system's JROTC coordinator, assured the board that his rifles are "demilitarized in accordance with Department of Defense directive 4160.21-M1."

In other words, the firing pin is removed, the face of the bolt is welded to prevent the firing pin from being replaced, the barrel is welded to the receiver, the chamber and barrel are cut, a metal rod is inserted into the cut and welded from the outside, and so on.

Were they really worried a cadet might be expelled in the line of duty?

Better safe, school officials said with straight faces.

"We knew we were in violation without the exemption," said Elaine Gorman, director of secondary education. "We had to anticipate these kinds of questions coming up. It's taking care of business."

"Legally we want to do things the right way," Mohler said. "We don't want to have a policy and put kids in the position of having to violate that policy."

Pub Date: 8/08/96

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