Ripley High School student allowed back to school & graduation after gun controversy

A crowd of hundreds cheered as they learned Riley Knotts will be able to graduate.
Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 7:05 PM EDT
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JACKSON COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - After a nearly two-hour private meeting Tuesday night regarding the status of Ripley High School senior Riley Knotts, Riley exited the Jackson County Board of Education building with a smile and triumphant demeanor.

A large crowd gathered outside cheered and then got silent as Riley announced, “We’ll see you all in school on Monday!”

Riley’s family says he had been suspended for 10 days after he drove to school in his grandfather’s truck without knowing his grandfather’s gun was in the vehicle.

His mother, Alisha Skinner, says the board ruled he could return to school Monday and walk across the stage at graduation.

“It’s a blessing,” Skinner said. “This should show everyone that prayer works. If the whole reason of this was to show people that prayer works, then it was worth going through it.”

Jackson County Schools Superintendent William P. Hosaflook released a statement Tuesday night that says in part:

“The question is simple, follow the law or do not follow the law. We are required to follow The WV School Law book, which contains roughly 962 pages of school laws. Unfortunately, we have had people, of course, not all people, belittle and berate board members, students, and administrators of our school system with false information gathered from the People’s Law book -- also known as Facebook, which is their intent to fill people’s minds with false information to get unwarranted actions. These believers want to talk about how unfair the school system is, but on the other hand, want us to totally disregard state law and policies by which we are governed, only applying the law on a case-by-case basis.”

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JACKSON COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A Ripley High School student who did not know there was a gun in the truck he took to school on April 17 will not face any charges.

Ripley Police Chief Bradley Anderson shared in a statement to Facebook Monday:

“After investigation and strong cooperation with Riley Knotts, the Ripley Police Department WV is not pursuing charges due to the criteria and intent that we believe this young man did not have in the situation he was accidentally placed in. However, along with Riley, we do ask that parents and students learn from this and pay more attention to what is in their vehicle so that the issue does not arise again.”

According to a copy of the incident report obtained by WSAZ, an officer at Ripley High School was told about the gun from a teacher.

Knotts told Ripley’s principal there was no weapon in his vehicle. Officers searched Knotts’ truck and the principal searched Knotts. Nothing was found on the student. Knotts had informed personnel his grandfather may have left a gun in the truck. The principal found the truck’s registration in the name of Knotts’ grandfather, Bill Hughart. The principal found a black pistol with a wood handle in the glove compartment with a magazine of six rounds of ammunition. The report states Knotts told personnel it was left in the glove compartment by accident. Knotts was then detained and taken to the Ripley Police Department.

According to the report, Knotts told the officers him and his grandfather run a fruit stand in Ripley and the pistol was used to protect them since they carry money for the stand. Knotts went on to tell the officer he primarily drives Hughart around because his grandfather does not drive.

The report goes on to say Knotts told police the weapon is in the vehicle frequently for protection but is usually always taken out of it. Knotts then told police he must had forgotten to take the gun out that morning because he was rushing to get to school.

Knotts then told officers he didn’t remember talking about the gun at school. A search of Knotts’ phone supported the claim. Hughart told officers he was the owner of the gun and left it in the truck by mistake.

Anderson said Tuesday that Knotts had been cooperative throughout the investigation.

“We took all evidence that we gathered statements from other students and things of that nature and we went to the Jackson County prosecutor, and after we talked to the prosecutor, and we just kind of went through what we thought criteria was met, whether it fit into the state code, or whether it didn’t,” he explained.

“We didn’t feel that the criteria nor the intent were met to where we could charge him and prosecute him.”

Though charges will not be filed, Knotts has not been at school since the incident and had to miss prom last week.

A special Board of Education meeting Tuesday will determine if he is allowed back on campus before graduation.

Hughart hopes school administrators will have compassion for a misunderstanding.

“He’s a very likable boy, respectful, he respects others if somebody needs help, he’ll help them,” Hughart said. “Wouldn’t do nothing to hurt no one.”

Anderson said he believes a lesson can be learned from all parties involved.

“Mistakes can happen,” he said. “We have a large number of hunters in this area, a large, large amount of concealed carriers in this area they just need to be aware that if their child takes their vehicle to school, they need to remember ‘ey, this is in there’, but they also had to teach their children which are at an age where they can where they now have the responsibility of driving the vehicle. They also need to know what’s in the vehicle because they can be held responsible, like in this case for what’s in the vehicle.”

“I hope that he gets able to get back in school and be able to graduate and walk across that stage like everyone else,” Hughart said.

Knotts plans to attend auctioneer school in the future