CLARKSVILLE, TN — A teen’s future is in jeopardy after police officers decided to troll through a high school parking lot searching students’ parked cars for contraband. When they cops found a fishing knife during their warrantless mass search, they slapped him with weapons charges and saw that he was suspended from school.
David Duren-Sanner, age 18, is a high school senior only months from graduation. He’s a member of the JROTC and had plans to go to prom. He was applying to go to college. But life took an unexpected turn when sheriff’s deputies came to his school to look for reasons to imprison students.
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m completely innocent, and I should have my normal life back.”
On February 20th, during what is called a routine, random lockdown, officers combed through the school searching students’ property without probable cause or a warrant. Officers snooped through students’ backpacks, purses, lockers — even their parked vehicles. The 4th amendment is utterly disregarded as a matter of policy.
Duren-Sanner had driven his father’s car to school that day. His father had left some of his work tools in the car, namely a fishing knife he uses for his job as a commercial fisherman. Unfortunately for the young man, his father’s car was selected by police for a warrantless search.
Deputies opened up the parked vehicle and searched its contents. The fishing knife was discovered wedged between the seats. Durren-Sanner was now in serious trouble.
Tennessee law makes all schools into weapon-free zones. Regardless of violent intentions, possession of numerous arbitrarily banned items can make a person into a felon for life. As Tennessee Code 39-17-1309 (b) states:
(1) It is an offense for any person to possess or carry, whether openly or concealed, with the intent to go armed, any firearm, explosive, explosive weapon, bowie knife, hawk bill knife, ice pick, dagger, slingshot, leaded cane, switchblade knife, blackjack, knuckles or any other weapon of like kind, not used solely for instructional or school-sanctioned ceremonial purposes, in any public or private school building or bus, on any public or private school campus, grounds, recreation area, athletic field or any other property owned, used or operated by any board of education, school, college or university board of trustees, regents or directors for the administration of any public or private educational institution.
(2) A violation of this subsection (b) is a Class E felony.
The same section prescribes the following punishment:
FELONY. STATE LAW PRESCRIBES A MAXIMUM PENALTY OF SIX (6) YEARS IMPRISONMENT AND A FINE NOT TO EXCEED THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS ($3,000) FOR CARRYING WEAPONS ON SCHOOL PROPERTY.
He had never been in trouble with police or the school before. But forgiveness was too much to ask — this was a matter of zero tolerance.
A person can literally have their life ruined based on something that was done harmlessly, without malice, without aggression, without a victim — without even being aware of the offense. A trivial, harmless accident can turn a person into a felon. “It’s unfortunate that the school system and sheriff may ruin this boy’s future because he borrowed his dad’s truck to go to school.”
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department followed through to make sure the kid felt the full force of the law. They charged him with possessing a weapon on school property and turned the matter into the school, which punished him further with a prolonged suspension from school — endangering his graduation and future plans.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” said Duren-Sanner to WSMV. ”I’m completely innocent, and I should have my normal life back.”
“The student code of conduct clearly states that cars are subject to search; that searches will be conducted; and that students are responsible for the contents in the vehicles they drive to campus,” said a statement issued by the school system, condoning the situation. “We want our students to have a safe environment and feel secure at school.”
The penalties imposed on Duren-Sanner have sparked outrage from the community, and many who heard his story.