Belleville West student expelled for displaying air gun; family upset with punishment

News-DemocratJune 18, 2014 

Vantezz Carter was looking forward to his senior year of high school at Belleville West -- playing football, getting his grades up, going to prom and graduating.

However, Carter, 18, of Belleville, won't be attending West this coming school year. He was expelled from Belleville School District 201 by the school board at its meeting Monday night, according to Carter and his family.

Carter's expulsion stems from an incident earlier this month when he allegedly pointed an airsoft-style handgun out the window of a vehicle parked at Belleville West High School. A parent saw Carter holding what appeared to be a weapon and called police.

The incident resulted in a brief lockdown of the campus, which had closed for summer break. Carter and other West football players were at the school picking up their helmets and shoulder pads.

"I feel it was very, very wrong," Carter said of the board's decision to expel him.

Carter admits what he did was inappropriate, but he said he feels expulsion is an extreme punishment. He said he just picked up one of five airsoft guns in a bag and showed it to one of his friends inside the vehicle.

"I just wasn't thinking, but I didn't know it was all going to come down to this," Carter said. "They blew this all out of proportion. I know what I did was wrong, but they took it too far -- expulsion. I can see if you suspended me 10 days from school and suspended me from four or five (football) games, but expulsion, that's getting too out-of-hand."

District 201 Assistant Superintendent Brian Mentzer said he can't comment on student disciplinary action. Superintendent Jeff Dosier is out of the office and unavailable for comment.

District 201 School Board President John Kasper couldn't be reached for comment.

Carter said the five airsoft-style handguns found by police were not his and were brought to the school by a friend. According to the Carter family, the friend who brought the guns received no punishment from the school board.

When asked whether any other students involved were punished, Mentzer said, "I can't speak to that either."

Vantezz Carter's mother, Juanita Carter, said only her son received punishment.

"Today that same young man who brought five look-alike pistols....is back on that field practicing. He's back at the school. He didn't receive one day of suspension, but my child who put one in his hand now has an expulsion, not a suspension, an expulsion," Juanita Carter said.

"We are teenagers. It's an airsoft gun. If your friend shows you a BB gun, you are going to want to hold it," Vantezz said. "I didn't do anything wrong at all. What I did was bad. Did I harm anybody? Did I scare anybody? Everybody knows I wouldn't hurt anybody."

Carter was arrested the day of the incident, June 5, by Belleville Police and charged with one count of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. The case is still pending, and Carter is due back in court next month.

Juanita Carter said she thought her husband, Vantress Carter, was kidding when he called her at work to let her know Vantezz had been arrested.

"It had to be a joke," Juanita Carter said. "With Vantezz, it had to be a joke. Once it sunk in, I started to panic."

Expelled students have the option of attending a Safe School operated by the St. Clair County Regional Office of Education located on West Main Street in Belleville.

However, Vantezz Carter said he doesn't want to go to school there. "I don't belong in that school," he said. "Why would a good kid like me be put in a school like that?"

Carter may have lost a potential scholarship to play football at Indiana State University. "I don't think I can play college ball any more," he said.

Juanita Carter was emotional as she talked about how much her son was looking forward to his senior year and what he's going to miss out on now.

"It's just all taken away from him," she said. "The hardest thing a mom can go through is when their child is hurting and there's nothing you can do, especially when you know your child deserves better or another chance."

Vantezz Carter said he's trying to stay strong.

"I'm going to have a good life," he said. "What happened, this is not going to knock me down. That school is going to be sad they expelled me."

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com. Follow her on Twitter @BND_JForsythe.

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