Wisconsin Teacher Could Face Charges Over Hunter Ed Rifle

Image by Norm_Bosworth from Pixabay

When kindergarten teacher Crystal Zastrow brought a non-working rifle to the elementary school where she works, she had no intention of causing alarm. Zastrow's in charge of the hunter safety program at the elementary school in Mosinee, Wisconsin, and she simply wanted to store the rifle, which had been donated by a local FFL, in a locked closet.

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Unfortunately, Zastrow did raise some eyebrows when she carried the rifle without a case inside the school early on January 10th, and prosecutors have been deliberating for months about whether or not to charge her with a crime.

She told police she came into school around 7:20 in the morning before students and buses would arrive, however, there were a few students and staff there during the school’s breakfast time including the principal. Nobody there was ever notified Zastrow would be bringing in a rifle.

On page 22 of the report, according to the School Resource Officer’s account of the surveillance video, several students, and a couple of staff saw Zastrow walking in with the gun. One staff member later told police she felt it was a safety issue and reported it. Zastrow then handed the rifle to the custodian.


That custodian told investigators he was caught off guard and Zastrow didn’t tell him what the gun was for, just that he should put it in a certain closet. He inspected the gun to make sure it wasn’t loaded, and put it in a locked case where other donated guns for the hunter safety program were stored.

After interviewing the people involved at the school, the officer noted, “Although I didn’t believe that Mrs. Zastrow had any intent to bring a functioning firearm into the school, no one had been able to, as of that time, confirm to me it wasn’t. "

In the report on pages 16 and 17, the officer spoke with Charlie’s Hardware which confirmed the gun was not test-fired, but the officer noted the experience and description of the work done on the gun was credible and it should be non-functioning.

Speaking with Charlie’s Hardware via phone, they stated, “Charlie’s Hardware follows all local, state, and federal regulations concerning the transfer and/or sale of firearms.”

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The District Attorney's office would have to pay to have the gun inspected and tested to make sure it's not functional, but the DA has been silent about whether or not that's been done. In the meantime, he says he expects to make a decision on filing any charges against Zastrow by the end of the week. 

NewsChannel 7 has also reached out to Zastrow and the other hunter safety program instructor, but we have not yet received a response. We’ve contacted the school to get an interview and to answer whether either teacher still works there. The district declined to talk at this time. Additionally, we have sent another record request to the school district to get more answers.

In the report, however, the district told police they are looking into whether there were school violations and considering what the future of the hunter safety program will be at the elementary school moving forward. All guns for the hunter safety program have been removed from the school.

This is utterly ridiculous. At worst Zastrow's decision to carry the uncased and non-functioning rifle into the school without informing the principal beforehand should have resulted in an admonishment from district officials and a reminder that, even at 7:20 in the morning, there may be students and staff on campus who might be alarmed at seeing a teacher toting a long gun. I'm not even sure Zastrow's actions would warrant even that level of response, but there's no way that it should result in criminal charges or the loss of her job. 

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Scrapping the school's hunter safety course is equally off-base, and would only punish students for a simple mistake made by an educator. The easiest answer here is for the school district to come up with clear procedures that are both common sense and easy to follow, allow Zastrow to continue serving as a kindergarten teacher and one of the sponsors of the hunter safety course... and for prosecutors to formally take criminal charges off the table. Anything less will be an injustice, and will do far more harm than anything Zastrow's accused of doing. 

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