‘Free Cole’ movement going viral in support of Cole Withrow, student arrested for having gun in truck
A Johnston County high school student has been expelled for bringing a gun onto school property, but the school’s student body is coming to his defense.
David “Cole” Withrow is a senior at Princeton High School. He was set to graduate in just a few weeks, until his arrest Monday for bringing a gun to school.
WRAL detailed how Cole, who is an Eagle Scout and an honors student, said he forgot to take his gun out of his truck after skeet shooting. When he got to school and realized the gun was in his car, he went into school to call his mom so he could leave and take the gun home.
School officials overheard the conversation and called the police.
“To have him arrested and expelled from school is excessive,” family friend Kim Boykin said. “He locks his vehicle, goes inside and tries to do the right thing.”
Johnston County schools spokeswoman Tracey Peedin Jones said the school system has to follow state law regarding weapons on campus.
“Please know that with student and personnel issues, we carefully balance all factors to arrive at a fair and just outcome,” she said in a statement Wednesday. “Certain items are mandated and we have no choice but to follow the law.”
Boykin said Winthow’s family isn’t upset with school administrators, but believes the law is too strict.
“With no areas for mistakes or human error or gray area in there, that just can’t apply to everything,” she said.
Students have been painting “Free Cole” on their cars and a local printer even designed a “Free Cole for Doing the Right Thing” bumper sticker.
#FreeCole has gone viral across twitter.
“I believe he did the right thing by being truthful and being honest,” said Joseph Canzaniello of Express Signs. “His integrity will be held intact no matter what happens to him.”
An assistant principal at Cole’s school was suspended for three days, but never criminally charged. She still works in the same position at the school.
“I think it’s wrong, if an assistant principal can bring a loaded handgun and doesn’t get punished? No, unacceptable,” parent Nancy Terry said.
A teacher at another high school in the school district was cited and resigned.
The students and parents in the community are outraged that Cole has received such harsh punishment for what he said was an accident.
“I don’t have any problems with the assistant principal, but it’s still not fair. Students and teachers should get treated the same,” one student said.