Is shooting a spitwad in school 'violent criminal conduct?'

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A Virginia teenager's long-term suspension for shooting plastic "spit wads" at school has reached the Virginia Supreme Court.

Rutherford Institute attorney Rita Dunaway asked the court Tuesday during oral arguments to reverse 14-year-old Spotsylvania High School student Andrew Mikel's suspension. The Charlottesville-based constitutional rights group contends that school officials violated Mikel's due process rights.

School officials said Mikel shot small, hollow plastic pellets at other students during lunch, which constituted "violent criminal conduct" and possession of a weapon. He was suspended in December 2010 for the rest of the school year.

The Rutherford Institute says Mikel didn't intend to hurt anyone and the pellets don't meet the school code's definition of weapons.