Rutherford Institute represents student expelled for pellet incident


After 14-year-old Spotsylvania High School student Andrew Mikel II used a pen case to spit plastic pellets at his classmates, he found himself under fire—charged with three counts of misdemeanor assault, and expelled from school. Now, the Rutherford Institute—a locally based, nonprofit law firm specializing in civil rights cases—announced that it will represent Mikel in an appeal to the state circuit court.

"School officials have developed a very dangerous mindset that allows virtually no freedom for students, while at the same time criminalizing childish behavior," says Rutherford Institute President John Whitehead in a statement. "This does not bode well for the future." Mikel recently spoke with the Washington Post about the incident, and said his classmates "flinched" and "looked annoyed" in response to his actions.

More than 900 Washington Post readers responded to a poll concerning Mikel’s punishment. Roughly 67 percent thought detention was an appropriate punishment, while 18 percent said suspension fit the act. Fewer than 10 percent thought expulsion or criminal charges were merited.

Whitehead and the Rutherford Institute have been busy during the last three months. In October, the Rutherford Institute announced that it would represent pilot Michael Roberts in a Fourth Amendment case against the Transportation Security Agency, to argue that TSA’s controversial full-body scanners violate constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Rutherford Institute also worked with a Richmond defense attorney representing Aaron Tobey, a 21-year-old local resident charged with disorderly conduct after he removed his shirt in protest to TSA’s security screening procedures at Richmond International Airport. (Tobey wrote the text of the Fourth Amendment on his chest and stomach.) The charges were ultimately dropped.