Students get math lesson with new No. 2 pencils

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 19, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Not one student in Suffolk Public Schools could say last Thursday and Friday, &uot;I forgot my pencil,&uot; as they participated in Standards of Learning (SOL) testing.

Every student enrolled in public schools was presented with a brand new No. 2 pencil with which to take their test. Each pencil was an education in itself, with its highly visible &uot;Exile&uot; logo.

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More than 7,000 Exile pencils were presented to Suffolk Public Schools by Suffolk’s Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips Ferguson.

&uot;We are pleased to provide all Suffolk middle and high School students with the No. 2 pencils required for SOL testing,&uot; said Ferguson. &uot;I can not find enough words to emphasize the importance of education. I know of few people who do not recognize the necessity of having a good education in order to take full advantage of all that our highly complex society has to offer. Education is the key that will open doors to independence, responsibility and respect.&uot;

Ferguson said the pencils not only helped students take their SOL’s, but will also help educate students about the dangers of illegal guns.

&uot;Especially today, our youth must be aware of the personal and legal consequences of gun violence,&uot; he said. &uot;An important tool in the educational process is the Suffolk Exile Program. Guns and schools don’t mix… ever. Each year, national statistics show that more than 40,000 students bring guns to school.&uot;

Ferguson has served as Suffolk’s Commonwealth’s Attorney for the past 24-years, and in the courtroom, he’s seen how guns can ruin lives.

&uot;There are many potential sources of crime and tragedy in our society, but none parallel illegal guns in their capacity to inflict instant, lethal and irreparable harm to so many,&uot; said Ferguson. &uot;Designed to take illegal guns off our city’s streets, the Exile Program’s target is to break the link between guns in schools, guns and drugs, guns and felons and between guns and crime in general. Just like the slogan states; &uot;It’s Simple … You Do the Math!

Gun + School = 5 Years in Prison, Gun + Drugs = 2 to 5 Years in Prison, and Gun + Felon = 2 to 5 Years in Prison.’ We want to thank Suffolk Public Schools for partnering with us in getting this important message to our youth, and indeed our community.&uot;

The Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office participates with the other localities in Hampton Roads to establish a regional advertising program to educate the public on the consequences of carrying an illegal gun. Virginia’s Exile Program provides mandatory prison terms for gun carrying, convicted felons, and those involved in drug offenses. Working closely with neighboring jurisdictions and the U. S. Attorney’s Office, the program is meant to ensure successful and effective prosecutions of major drug dealers and other career criminals.

Exile legislation passed and took effect on July 1, 1999. A five-year without parole mandatory sentence faces anyone caught carrying a gun with a prior conviction for a violent felony such as murder, rape, robbery, felonious assault or certain types of burglary and is convicted of possessing a firearm. Also, anyone convicted of possessing a firearm on school property with the intent to use it, or displaying the weapon in a threatening manner will automatically serve five years. Anyone convicted of possession of a firearm and an illegal drug such as cocaine or heroin; or those convicted of possessing a firearm and more than a pound of marijuana with the intent to sell or distribute the substance will also face five years in prison.

&uot;Because Virginia abolished parole five years ago, people convicted of these gun crimes will be behind bars or &uot;exiled&uot; for the full five years,&uot; said Ferguson. &uot;This is in addition to any other sentence imposed upon them.&uot;

The Exile laws also mean that people charged with these specific gun crimes will not be eligible for bail while awaiting trial.

&uot;Along with these changes in state law, the Virginia Exile program helps prosecutors and police by providing financial resources, training and technical assistance so they can take full advantage of the enhanced penalties and bail restrictions,&uot; said Ferguson. &uot;Virginia Exile also helps communities create a variety of public awareness campaigns to put violent criminals on notice and enlist community support.&uot;