Folks in the rural community of Willows remember the days, not long ago, when teenagers would go duck hunting on autumn mornings and then park their pickup trucks on the Willows High School campus with shotguns displayed in racks.
That's why many residents were upset when school officials in November expelled 16-year-old Gary Tudesko for parking his pickup on a street next to campus with shotguns in the back seat after a morning hunting waterfowl.
"This is a conservative, redneck hunting town. I'd say 99 percent of people in town support Gary," said chiropractor Eric Wunsch, a 1985 graduate of Willows High School. He remembered his school's parking lot filled with firearms.
On Tuesday, the Glenn County Board of Education will hear an appeal in Tudesko's case, with local supporters and out-of-town activists expected to attend.
A prominent gun-rights lawyer from Southern California represents the teen, and the National Rifle Association has given its support.
The case has attracted national attention, and some lawyers predict it may end up setting legal precedent.
Tudesko and his mother, Susan Parisio, call the expulsion an injustice and want it to be overturned and erased from his record.
"I'd just like to go back to school," the high school junior said.
School officials and Willows police, however, say the days when the town's students could bring guns to school are gone, a result of the post-Columbine reality in which safety is paramount.
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