Last semester, Eli Mohone found himself kicked out of his Morgan County school, depressed and labeled dangerous after accidentally bringing a fishing knife – which he reported to authorities – to school.
Now, he is the namesake of a new Georgia law.
The House voted 156-0 to pass SB 299, a bill authored by Sen. Emanuel Jones that changes the state’s policy on “Zero Tolerance” discipline in schools. Jones has dubbed the bill the Eli Mohone Act. It passed the Senate earlier in the session 47-0. The senate, on Thursday, agreed to the House substitute 49-0.
“I am ecstatic about it. It has been a long-hard fight,” Jones said. “This is a tremendous accomplishment for all the kids of Georgia who were subject to harsh zero tolerance rules.”
Jones’ bill gives principals and school systems more discretion in how they handle disciplinary cases in their schools. Jones said the previous use of zero tolerance criminalized students for minor, accidental, or sometimes insignificant offenses.
The bill would ban the charging of a student as a designated felon unless he used a weapon in an assault or brought a gun to school, and it would give judges more discretion in how they handle cases.
Jones drafted what he called his signature legislation after he heard about Mohone’s story. Although Mohone turned himself in for accidentally bringing a fishing knife to school, he was arrested and sent to a youth detention center. He was kicked out of school and had to spend the rest of the semester in an alternative school.