Arthur Avakian, 15, says his big mistake was to ditch class and hang out with two friends who were headed straight for trouble.
Arthur ducked off the Grant High School campus on April 14 and drove to a nearby house, where he and his friends entertained themselves by shooting cans with a pellet gun in the back yard. Tired of the target practice, they drove back to the Van Nuys school with the pellet gun in the back seat.
Outside the school, the boys blended in with the crowds of students, never realizing they were being watched by school police officers.
School officials were on the alert after they overheard one of the boys say: "We shot it real good."
"They approached the car and wanted to know what we were doing," Arthur said. "One officer had his gun drawn. They searched the car and found the pellet gun. I felt like I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It wasn't my car and it wasn't my gun."
Only the 18-year-old driver of the car was handcuffed and arrested. But all three occupants were suspended from school for being in possession of a weapon.
Arthur was eventually kicked out of Grant and allowed to finish the semester at Earhart High School, a continuation school for students who find it difficult to fit into a normal high school setting. He is thankful the district gave him a break by not expelling him.
Looking back, Arthur sees where he went wrong.
"Going with those guys was my biggest mistake," he said. "It was a childish thing."
The 10th-grader had no criminal record and wanted to go to medical school.
"He had what we call a dummy attack," said a school official at Grant. "Teen-agers do it all the time, especially when they get with their friends. They put themselves in precarious situations and don't think about the possible consequences."
Arthur said he never took the district's strict policy on guns too seriously because he never thought it would be applied to him.
"I guess it was ignorance on my part," he said. "I've seen the signs on campus, the ones that say 'no weapons allowed.' They do searches and that is fine with me. I don't believe guns should be brought on campuses."
Worse than the punishment of being thrown out of school is the humiliation he said he caused his parents, who came to this country 10 years ago from Armenia in search of a better life for their children.
"We are still a close family, our love doesn't change," said Arthur's mother, Iskui.
Arthur hopes to re-enter Grant, which is just a few blocks from his house, in September.
To cope with the frustration of the last few months, he has become more focused in martial arts.
"I exercise like crazy to ease the tension and aggravation," he said. "So far, it's paid off."
Even so, he is afraid he has jeopardized his future because the classes offered at the continuation school are not of the same caliber as the college preparatory courses he was taking at Grant.
"The difference is at Grant we were learning how to find absolute zero while at the continuation school we were just learning what absolute zero was," he said.
* Main story, A1