Help Needed! Zero Tolerance Gets Third Grader & His Cool Knife Expelled

Hi krhbieksff
Readers! Here we go again – officials overreacting as if this makes them smart and proactive (rather than…overreacting). L.
Dear Free-Range Kids: My daughter’s third grade friend brought his pocket knife to school on accident.  It was just in his pants’ pocket from the weekend.  An hour after school was dismissed, he and his friends were still playing on school grounds and he showed his knife to them.
One of them was a girl and because the blade was pointing her direction, she decided he was “brandishing it” and went to tell her mom, who told the office, who told the district, who told the cops, one of whom said if he saw him with a knife again, he could shoot him.  (That’s right — preserve and protect — bully the eight-year-old.)
He’s being expelled.  I know you post stories like these, but I was wondering if you had any suggestions of where my friend could go for support.  She’s trying to find a lawyer and figure out what her options are.
I’d like to take this to the media since it’s been pretty effective in getting other districts to relent on their Zero Tolerance policies.  Anyway, do you have any suggestions of where to start? [LENORE: Yes! Here!]
The incident was at Cumberland Elementary School in Sunnyvale, CA.  The Sunnyvale School District (between San Jose and San Francisco) is in charge of punishment.  To his credit, our school principal tried to just have him suspended, but once the district got wind of it, under California’s Zero Tolerance policy, they are required to issue a mandatory recommendation of expulsion and contact law enforcement — enter the threatening policeman.
The boy is terrified.  He’s never been a troublemaker. He has a brother in kindergarten who is baffled.  – A California Mom.
Lenore here: The writer has set up an email account for any lawyers or press to contact her about the incident:

This is NOT the knife the boy showed his friends.

, , , , , ,

145 Responses to Help Needed! Zero Tolerance Gets Third Grader & His Cool Knife Expelled

  1. ChecklistMommy February 17, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    Awful. Seriously seriously terrible. That the school has no way to mitigate such a ridiculous policy despite staff’s relationship to the boy is HORRIFYING. Another (incredibly sad) reason to do my very best to keep my kids out of CA public schools — many of which are EXCELLENT but stuck in a ridiculous, unwieldy, and short-sighted larger system. This poor kid. Jeesh.

  2. Difster February 17, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    The best solution is to recognize the public school for what it is and pull your children out of that terrible institution.

  3. enyawface February 17, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    If the officer seriously stated he would shoot the boy if he ever saw him holding a knife again, I would start by addressing the Federal Felony committed by that officer. Both abuse of power and threatening the life of a minor child. It is one thing if an officer is going after an armed assailant and yells, “Stop or I’ll shoot.” But to threaten an, at the time, unarmed minor child with deadly force is quite another matter, and any officer on the force who can not unarm an 8yo with a 3 inch pocket knife, needs to turn in his badge and put away his gun.

  4. are we there yet? February 17, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    Wow. I have some questions for the parents who didn’t teach their kid to either wear clean clothes to school or at least empty his pockets. But the real villain of the piece is the mom who took her daughter’s word that he was “brandishing” a knife. Seriously? I think we have lost our collective minds when I read these stories.

    That said, I was told last week of a kid who brings a toy gun to school every day — as a “comfort object.” Has a room full of knives and guns and frankly makes people nervous. He may be the extreme that these policies are made for, not a kid with a pocket knife that probably can’t cut a shoe lace.

  5. enyawface February 17, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    I also agree with Difster, in this day and age, my children will never go to a public school, with all of the “safety” BS, they would be much safer schooled in a garbage dump, and until schools improve, mine will be home schooled.

  6. Julie February 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    Wow, I’m in San Jose (with a kid in public elementary school), and I really hate hearing that this is happening in my backyard. Have you contacted any local news stations, etc.? Is there a school mailing list you could use to get the word out to parents that this is happening? Get an article in the Merc?

    I think you’re right that public outcry would go a long ways in getting this resolved…and getting sanity restored to the system.

  7. Elizabeth February 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    I would take the younger boy out of the school. If he’s not enrolled at the school, then they won’t get as much money. And, there isn’t anything that they learn in kindergarten that they can learn at home.

  8. Elizabeth February 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    …can’t learn at home.

  9. John C. Randolph February 17, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    Any cop who threatens a child, telling him he could be shot, is clearly lacking the judgement necessary for anyone in a position of authority. That officer should be bounced off the public payroll immediately.

  10. Mike Watts February 17, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    Like I’ve always said – policies of zero tolerance, lead to actions of zero intelligence.

  11. Sera February 17, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    No. No no no no no no.


    KNIVES DO NOT BELONG IN SCHOOLS. Any knife that is sharp enough to properly stab or slash a person – and pocket knives most often fall into this category – absolutely does not belong in the hands of children at school. Ever. It should be considered a lethal weapon, and punishment should be carried out in accordance with this. What he should have done was turned it in to a teacher/whoever as soon as he noticed he had it and explained that he’d made a mistake. Instead, he was playing with the knife and showing it off to his friends after school. Not safe and not mature. In a he-said-she-said case like this, maybe he did brandish it at the girl, or threaten her or something (even if he did such a thing in jest, it’s thoroughly wrong when doing it with an actual weapon). Perhaps full-on expulsion is a bit strong, but serious punishment is in order. He brought a functional weapon to school. He played with it. He showed it to his friends.

    It’s completely reasonable for appropriate children to own and use sharp knives, but not to bring them to school. It’s completely reasonable for children to bring knives that aren’t slashy or stabby to school to use on their lunch (I had a serrated knife – great for cutting things that are somewhat firm and stationary, but would be a completely useless weapon against a living creature). Toy guns and what-have-you are harmless and therefore fine. Actual, functional weapons are not fine. Ever. While your individual child may be very much sensible, mature and restrained enough to handle their knife properly – as a tool – they will be bringing the knife into the vicinity of literally hundreds of other children, many of whom may NOT be sensible and mature enough to handle a knife, and may steal, take, or borrow it from them, then use it as a weapon – either on people or as a vandalism tool.

    No weapons in schools, thank you.

  12. Christi February 17, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

    Sera- I couldn’t agree more. I think, in the situation, expulsion is also a bit too much- I’d be with the principal on a suspension here- but quick and immediate consequences are necessary. I worked in a private school where the 3rd grade kids used hot glue guns with minimal supervision, carved wood with actual carving knives, learned to start fires outdoors with magnifying glasses and were allowed to do the monkey bars with a sandwich dangling from their mouths during recess time. It was free range kid paradise. One day a 4th grade boy, who we all knew was a little unstable though the parents would never admit it, brought a Swiss Army knife to school and showed it to the class in the morning before the teacher got there. Two girls (who didn’t speak my language, so they also found another student to translate) left the room, found the teacher on duty (who happened to be me) in the hall and explained that Student X had a pocket knife and was opening it in the classroom. In the end, these two girls were praised for having done the right thing (recognizing a dangerous situation that was against school rules and getting a teacher) and the boy received a 3 day suspension. Again, this is in a school where their teacher would have gladly handed any of those children a knife if they needed to use it, but the context is rather different.

    Similar to what Sera said- had the child realized, “Oh damn, my pocket knife is still here” and given it to a teacher, left it in his pocket or his bag or whatever that would have shown the maturity of mind that would then prove that the kid is responsible enough to be carrying the pocket knife in the first place.

  13. sue February 17, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

    christi and sera.. if the boy,as you both suggested, relized he had the knife with him by mistake and handed it to the teacher the result would have beeen the same. zero tolerance means no thought just reaction[actually over reaction]. even if he was showing that “maturity of mind” it would have changed nothing. the district like many think nothing of ruining childrens lives to teach the remaining to fear them. yes fear. if they don’t fear the teachers and the police and the other authorities[elected or not] they might start questioning all the rules and regulations. they might even start thinking and figuring things out on their own and [gasp ] trying to change the stupider ones. we can’t have that can we[sarcasm on high]. move along with the rest of the flock, you are all the same and interchangable,if we loss one or two or more we can just replace them.

  14. Christi February 17, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

    Sue- “The district, like many, think of nothing but ruining children’s lives to teach the remaining to fear them.” Do you have any idea how ignorant and reactionary a statement that is?

  15. Kenny Felder February 17, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    Can David Pimentel try to find a lawyer who could help?

    Ultimately, these things sometimes have to be changed through carefully orchestrated court action. At that point, perhaps unfortunately, the individuals involved become symbolic of a larger issue. Think “Brown v Board” or “Roe v Wade.” But behind such a campaign is never a random case that just happened to plop down in front of the Supreme Court; it’s a lawyer who set up a case and then waited for the right example. David Pimentel might be the guy, or be able to bring others in.

  16. Obi-Wandreas February 17, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

    Since I was a kid I have always carried some sort of multitool. In my youth, it was a swiss army knife. Today, I have 2 Leatherman multi-tools. One is a Leatherman Wave, which is my standard tool. The other is Leatherman’s Knifeless Fuse, which I carry at work. I carry that one for one simple reason: I don’t want to bother having to deal with lilly-livered hoplophobic nincompoops who can’t tell the difference between a weapon and a tool. This discussion has just served to enhance the wisdom of that decision.

    I shudder to think how those who wet themselves at seeing a kid with such a standard tool would respond to any sort of real threat or danger.

  17. Linda Wightman February 17, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

    Good grief. A pocket knife is not a weapon. A pocket knife is a TOOL. Sure, it can be used as a weapon; just about anything can. But making children afraid of tools, as if they were weapons, is as counterproductive as making children fear all strangers as if they were pedophiles. There was a time — and in other cultures that time is still now — when an eight-year-old without a knife in his pocket would be the oddball. Of course back then they had much more experience with knives as tools and no TV to tell them otherwise.

    “Like I’ve always said – policies of zero tolerance, lead to actions of zero intelligence.” I love this!

  18. Kim February 17, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    Agree with the above a pocket knife is NOT a weapon.

  19. sue February 17, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

    yes christi i know it is reactionary but no it is not ignorant, it has come from decades of experiance watching the school district’s handling of not only my children but entire classes. unquestioning obediance must be maintained at all costs as far as they are concerned and heaven forbid you have the intelligence of nerve to complain or question. you’re feeling seems to be that they have the best intrests of every child uppermost in the minds but that’s not true. any one you rocks the boat must be put in their place[unless your child is the teachers favorite,then you’re golden and can do no wrong]. i stand by my pervious statement. if they feel destroying one child’s hopes for the future[in the name of safety and zero tolerance], and that is what this expulsion will do, will scare the others into line they will do it. even if this punishment is overturned it will follow him for the rest of his acedemic career and possible his life. and you think this is an appropriote reaction? who here is the ignorantone? not me!

  20. Danielle F February 17, 2012 at 8:47 pm #

    ok, this is not the same, but a similar innocent event happened when I was in high school. I live in a VERY rural area, kids have been known to drive their tractors to school. And the school is closed for the county fair every year because many of the students are in the agricultural competitions (showing animals, farming exhibits, etc.) So a boy in my high school went hunting with his dad in the early hours of the morning before school. After their trip, they packed up, grabbed breakfast together and the dad headed to work, the son to school. He never went home to put away his shotgun. it was locked inside the cab of his truck locked onto his gun rack, with a chamber lock in place. Now whatever you believe about weapons in school, this was NOT in school. It was in a parking lot that is actually so far away from the actual school building that they run a shuttle for the kids in inclement weather. Now no one noticed it in the truck while he was parking, walking into school, etc. and you couldn’t even see it just scanning and passing by. He forgot it was there, and went about his day. Around lunch time officers showed up and handcuffed him and escorted him to JAIL! where he was booked and arrested for bringing a weapon to school. He was completely confused, as were the rest of us. What weapon? no one has seen a weapon?? Turns out a teacher had gone out for a smoke in the student lot, and decided to peek in some of the car windows! This teacher saw the hunting rifle (because that was the sole express purpose for that particular gun!) and called the cops and had this seventeen yr old brought up on charges!
    I understand the idea behind some of these rules, but I found this ridiculous. This boy was out with his dad hunting. It’s a sport, hobby and valuable resource for a LOT of families in my area. He had no intention of bringing his gun into the school, he had it properly locked away. It was very safe. Yes, he should have gone home and put it away, but it wasn’t endangering anyone, he wasn’t weilding it and threatening anyone. He wasn’t even showing it off. He was in class, doing his work. And if it weren’t for that nosy teacher poking around in the parking lot, looking for someone to “bust” he would have gone home after school and put it away and nothing would have happened (as it did many times before and after that with many of the students at the school, I’m sure)
    We should keep people safe, and kids should not bring weapons to school. They shouldn’t show them off, or play with them. But a pocketknife? That is not a weapon, its a tool and that child (a boyscout, perhaps?) I’m sure uses it as such. So your nine year olds not use steak knives at home?? If not, shame on you! We need to teach our children. We need to teach them the difference between a tool and a weapon. The difference between fantasy and reality. The difference between right and wrong. And once parents start teaching their kids those things, then we can be shocked and appalled when things like a kid bringing a weapon to school happen. But as far as I am concerned all these people who think a pocket knife is a weapon… they don’t know the difference themselves, so how can we possibly expect their children to? ::sigh:: I am scared for the children of these parents, and I am scared for the parents. They must all live in terror of walking out their own front doors. We are raising a generation of Agoraphobes.

  21. CWH February 17, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    There was an incident at my son’s school a few years back where a kid brought a pocket knife to school. They were 3rd or 4th graders at the time. In that case, it did appear to be deliberate and there was at least the semblance of a threat towards another kid. And though I don’t think there was ever any real possibility of violence – it was just a dumb kid showing off – he got suspended.

    So basically a worse crime than in this article, and a lesser punishment. A sane punishment.

    Overreaction, indeed.

  22. Heather G February 17, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    Should the child see some kind of disciplinary action for bringing the knife to school? Yes.

    Should that action be expulsion? No.

    Should the principal, the person of authority closest to the incident, have the ability to determine the disciplinary action? Yes.

    Should the school board or state have the right to override the principal if no malpractice has occurred? No.

    Should the cop who told an 8 year-old (assuming no criminal record and the kid wasn’t actually threatening anyone) if they are seen with a knife again they could be shot lose his badge and his weapon? No question, yes.

  23. Michelle February 17, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    Zero tolerance should be called “zero thought” because that’s what it is. A monkey could be principal under zero tolerance. I could go into any school, any classroom and find something that could be used as a weapon. That pen you’re writing with? Perfect weapon. That textbook? Could cause a nice head injury. This just shows me how stupid zero tolerance is and I’m so glad I don’t live in CA any more.

  24. Gabo February 17, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    enyawface, you have this exactly right. The child committed a mistake, and has some judgment problems that need to be addressed at home. If he found he accidentally had his pocket knife in his pocket at school, that is very much where it should have stayed.

    The officer, on the other hand, committed a felony assault of a minor. This man needs to be on desk duty immediately pending investigation, and social services should be investigating the welfare of his children. You cannot expect to threaten a child with murder and have everybody ignore it.

    My advice to the mother is to go to the press, name the officer, and make it clear to the community that threatening to murder children is and must not be acceptable. She should publicly ask the school district superintendent if she finds it acceptable to threaten children with murder, and if not what she plans to do about this having been done at her request.

    The whole incident clarified what is meant by “zero tolerance” policies. It all goes back to Weber… the state claims a monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order. The school is part of the state. Violence is allowed, by only by the state, and violence is a very real part of school. It is so normalized, however, that it may be invisible to those exercising it.

    The child gave the merest suggestion that violence might exist, by virtue of owning a knife. This was responded to with horror and severe punishment. The policeman gave the very real threat of murder of a child. This was responded to with nonchalance. It’s not that no violence is tolerated, it’s that violence is only tolerated in one direction. Welcome to school. You may be a victim of violence, and you can’t do anything about it.

  25. Elizabeth February 17, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    I think what I find the most disturbing about this story is the fact that a person who carries a gun for a living, and is charged with protecting the public, and who should be someone a child can trust and respect, thought it was appropriate to threaten the life of a third-grade boy under these circumstances. Beyond anything else that happened here, I find that inexcusable, and would think it entirely appropriate for that officer to lose his badge over this incident.

  26. Brian February 17, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    Lets also use this as a lesson in why you should not escalate your complaints about other students. When these things stay with a teacher and maybe principal they are not a problem. When you call the cops or the school district there is a whole different set of issues that gets introduced.

    It seems to me that mandatory reporting is part of the issue here. If it wasnt illegal for teachers to simply handle things themselves then some of the overreaction might be contained.

  27. Digit February 17, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    I was in high school when Zero Tolerance laws were taking over California. It was a rural school, and like a previous poster commented, hunting was a means many families used to put food on the table. One of my class hours every day was spent in the attendance office doing clerical work. One day, a class mate came into the office to explain that he had just realized he had left his rifle in the gun rack of his truck which was parked in the school parking lot.

    The vice principal was new to our town and called the principal in to confer. Finally, they told the student to put the gun behind the truck seat where it could not be seen, not mention it to anyone else and go back to class.

    Another time, a new student from an urban area came into the office with a knife disguised as a tube of lipstick. Apparently it was something she had carried at her old school “for protection.” She had shown it to some other kids and they had told her to take it to the office. The vice principal explained Zero Tolerance to her, told her she had entered a different culture where she did not need “protection,” took the knife saying he would give it back at the end of the day but if she ever brought another to school she would be expelled, and sent her back to class.

    I will give those posters who cannot tell the difference between a mistake and intent, a tool and a weapon the benefit of the doubt and assume that they have been in a situation such as the new girl’s former school where “protection” was part of the culture. My classmates and I continued to bring pocket knives to school, even after Zero Tolerance was implemented, because they were tools. I would guess most of the students were thus equipped. We also carried things like aspirin, which were also verboten under Zero Tolerance, because we realized just how ridiculous those rules were.

  28. damigiana February 17, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    Having been a bullied child, I found the he-said-she-said story worrisome, and something which needs investigating. Was he actually threatening her? It’s not impossible just because he’s young and cute.

    This said, mandatory expulsion is ridiculous. Especially since (as has been pointed out) it would apply to *any* child with a pocket knife, whether they threaten someone or not. I’ve also been a girl who *loved* Swiss Army knives.

  29. Terry February 17, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

    A kid should be expelled for accidentally bringing in a pocket knife, which could be used to stab someone? But at his disposal every day he still has scissors, sharp pencils, forks from the cafeteria, sticks and rocks from the playground, staplers, or 50 other things that could harm his classmates? Maybe the school district should perform routine psychological profiling on all the students, to find out which ones are least likely to control their impulses, and make those kids learn in a padded classroom with fingerpaints.

    Kids should not bring guns or knives to school. But not every sharp object should be classified a weapon. I think it’s fine to say you can’t bring pocket knives to school, but I don’t think it’s fine to act as if the poor kid was going to go on a murderous rampage with his Swiss Army multi-tool.

    I teach my kids to follow the rules. But I don’t want them to follow all rules blindly, either. I want them to evaluate the purpose of the rule, the behaviors it is trying to promote, and understand the tradeoffs (loss of freedom in exchange for protecting the masses). That way, when they are older, they can figure out for themselves which rules need changing.

  30. Lollipoplover February 17, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    My 8yo daughter’s best friend was stabbed with a pair of kid scissors just above her eye in school several years ago. The boy who did it had “problems” and he got help, but is still in school each day. His nickname is “the stabber”.

    But a child with a pocket knife, which is a TOOL (my son has one too, he keeps it on his bike bag for when the chain pops off and helps his friends repair their bikes as well), and has not demonstrated violent tendencies gets expelled.

    Zero tolerance should never be applied to children. Period. There are no absolutes in parenting. Each situation requires using judgement and providing teachable moments, which I thought our educational system was about.

  31. Jen February 17, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

    Ut, I’m so glad I don’t send my kids to public school here anymore. We had a similar incident in our private school last month. Child got a talking to and the parents were told not to allow him to do so again. That’s it. No other action taken. Some of the other parents freaked out and said that’s grounds for expulsion! It had to be pointed out to them that this is a private school and we don’t work like that.

    So if he does get expelled, I’ll point out there’s a private school not too far from Sunnyvale that at least has some sense about these things.

  32. Becky February 17, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    For those who complain that knives do not belong in school, I have to ask, “Why not?” Okay, yes, kids can poke each other with them, but in my time kids poked each other with pencils, and I never heard anyone suggesting those (or at least those nefarious pencil sharpeners!) should be banned from schools. To paraphrase the battle cry of gun enthusiasts, ‘Knives don’t hurt kids, kids hurt kids.’ Additionally, I used knives in Home Ec, learning to cook and bake. I used exacto knives (and saws and wood burning kits) in shop. I first used a surgical style knife to disect a fish on my 4th grade desktop. I used knives in art, to slice out sheets of colored paper. At any time some kid could easily have pocketed these useful classroom tools (okay, maybe not the hand saw) and used them to injure their fellow students, but I never heard of this happening. If it *had* ever happened I can assure you, we would not have blamed the school or the weapon itslef, but the kid involved (and probably his or her parents).

  33. Selby February 17, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    OK….mother calls school….school tells district…..disctrict calls cops.

    In my opinion, because this was a child, who is not normally a troublemaker, who made an innocent (at least) and thoughtless (at most) mistake, this should have stopped at “Mother calls school.” At that point, the parents of the kids with the knife are called and there’s a meeting with ALL parties, a discussion, consequences if necessary, and….that’s it. It would have been done. What is with all this dramatic escalation to the law?? A little perspective, people, please!!!!

  34. kiesha February 17, 2012 at 11:36 pm #

    Expulsion is ridiculous, as is suspension. This kid needs a good talking-to from his parents to learn that bringing his knife (tool or not – when do you need a pocketknife in elementary school?) and then playing around with said knife is a bad idea. If he really was threatening the girl (whether jokingly or not), then perhaps a detention is in order, but certainly not expulsion or threats from the police.

    There was a kid in my class who was either mentally disturbed in a “I want to hurt people” way or in a “I think it’s funny to pretend I want to hurt people” way. He stabbed a girl in high school with the pointy end of a compass. Right into her hand. He went away for a looong time. Several months at least to a facility. When he came back, he didn’t stab or hurt anyone else, but he did amp up his creep factor.

  35. kkozak February 17, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    way too many people gear knives mixed with children. Knives that children have are tools. That is all. Now that boy knows his knife to be a weapon by adults freaking out over it. ALso, I would like to point out that it is a POCKET knife. it’s not as if he brought (or that his family gave him), a 10 inch kitchen knife. The school should have done a better job with this particular situation. Shame on the them, they just let that boy down.

  36. emmymom February 17, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

    i think much of all this conversation reflects how little we all trust school systems and vice versa. teachers who don’t follow protocol and act on their own judgement leave themselves open to law suits. so do administrators. imagine the outcry if said sweetie pie had rec’d what we all seem to agree would be a more reasonable reprimand and (i’m sure he’s a nice boy…this is for example only) then went on to bring something bigger and more dangerous next time and hurt someone. i can hear THAT conversation. the school would be held accountable, as would the teachers. they would be scolded for not taking it seriously, etc. additionally, to speak on behalf of the schools, parents today never seem to be willing to admit that maybe their little angel was wrong. not spawn of satan, but you know, wrong, like humans so often are. i don’t think schools are AT ALL perfect – my list goes on and on – but parents and communities are in part responsible for the rigid responses schools have ham-strung themselves into.

  37. Bob February 17, 2012 at 11:47 pm #

    One more reason to be thankful my kids don’t go to school. Nanny-statism at its very worst.

    Also, the cop who threatened the little boy is a sicko who needs to be in a different line of work — one that doesn’t involve carrying a weapon or dealing with children.

    Also, the entire public school system needs to be privatized, with all possible haste. Privatization will not solve all of the problems, but I guarandamntee you that things will never improve, and will almost certainly get worse, as long as the government is in charge of running the schools.

  38. LauraL February 17, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    Honest to god, people. All that *needed* to be done was take it away from him, explain why it is being taken away, and extract a promise and understanding from him that this won’t happen again because we want all students to feel safe (although for crying out loud, I was carrying a pocket knife through high school, and I’m a girl!) Expulsion? The punishment far outweighs the crime here. Whatever happened to common sense? First offenses really should be teaching moments. It’s what we do where I work – forgot the guidelines? We’ll educate you the first time. After that, we escalate the consequences.

    This is a school – why aren’t they TEACHING? They’re KIDS! Not mini-adults with adult thought processes and reasoning!

  39. LauraL February 17, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    And don’t even get me started on the cop who has now likely scared a child into never trusting a police officer.

  40. Meggie February 18, 2012 at 12:01 am #

    Zero tolerance weapons policies are useless. One of my brother’s classmates was disciplined for having ammunition in his car (but no firearm) He had been hunting, had left the gun at home, but had missed a few shells on the floorboards. A teacher was looking in car windows in the student lot and reported it.

    Our 8th grade science class used to go to an estuary a few times a year and collect water samples for testing. The teacher recommended we bring a pocket knife. One girl who did got in trouble for having a knife. When it came out that it was a tool she had brought at the teacher’s recommendation, she was let off the hook, but only after considerable fuss and embarrassment for her.

    I was assaulted on the school bus once. a girl whacked me over the head repeatedly with a textbook. Let’s ban textbooks in schools! 😉

  41. Selby February 18, 2012 at 12:02 am #

    There is no perspective anymore. And no account for individualism. In our attempt to never single any one out negatively, we end up negating all individual personality. Every incident is treated as Columbine. Every kid, record or not, is treated as an immediate threat. Everything is a potential lawsuit.

    It sucks.

  42. Angela Brengman February 18, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    It’s really sad to see such highly educated people be so stuck in written words, they don’t see common sense practically doing a Jig in front of them. I don’t care what the “rules” say, and as for the policemen, well they must believe they way to stop “future criminals” is to try and scare the shit our of them when they’re 8!

  43. CrazyCatLady February 18, 2012 at 12:41 am #

    I am willing to bet that the boy in question figured that because school was over, it was ok to show the knife to his friends. As others in the past have pointed out, telling the school early in the day would have resulted in the same set of circumstances for this boy.

    As to the comment about not wearing clean clothes – goodness gracious! Little judgmental there? Boys, in particular, do that. Shoot, even my husband wears his pants to work more than once. I do the same, and no, none of us stink! As a kid, we had school clothes and play clothes. School clothes got hung up to be worn at least twice. Play clothes the same thing. Not washing clothing that is not dirty makes the clothing last longer (lint= lost cloth) and is wasteful of water, energy and time. Besides that, have you seen boy’s pants lately? My sons’ pants have all sorts of pockets with Velcro and zippers and stuff regularly goes through the wash and stays in the pockets. The fact that the boy had on clothing that he wore over the weekend, clean or not, really has no bearing on this discussion other than the commenter making it sound like the child had neglectful parents, which has not been brought up in the original post.

    I hope that the officer involved in this is not a assigned to school duty. I would be fearful of an officer who admits that he would draw a gun on an 8 year old who was showing his friends a knife. (Teens yelling “Fight, fight” and kids circling each other with knives is a totally different situation and does call for different circumstances but I would hope that a tazer would be first resort, not a gun.)

  44. KD February 18, 2012 at 12:48 am #

    My question is were the children simply playing on the playground after school hours or were they part of an after-school program? Why you ask? In our area, the school playgrounds become public property after the last bell. If this was an incident of kids playing on the playground, not participating in any school-related activity then the child was expelled for admitting he had the knife during the school day, not for showing it off. If the explusion if for opening the knife AFTER SCHOOL while just being on the property, then why the heck was the school involved? This was a problem that needed to be handled by the parents, not the school. I am seeing more and more where schools feel they have the right to dictate what happens at home or after school hours, which I find both frightening and ridiculous. Case-in-point, the letter we got this year letting parents know that they would “question” parents who allowed their children to be on social media, or be involved in “dangerous or violent” activities such as karate or certain sports. Personally, I have taught my children to walk away if they are playing and something makes them uncomfortable and involve parents if needed.

  45. Jenny Islander February 18, 2012 at 12:55 am #

    If he had turned it in, I suspect that he would have been treated exactly the same way. Remember the incident with the boy who found somebody else’s k nife by the toilets, turned it in, and got slammed?

  46. Susan February 18, 2012 at 1:18 am #

    This is very extreme. The child is so young and needs to be taught, not terrified by adults in authority.
    If this is what happens with zero tolerance it is very wrong.

  47. EricS February 18, 2012 at 1:19 am #

    Sera and Christi – if you read the article, you would know that the boy only showed it (as many kids would) an HOUR AFTER the school was dismissed. NOT during lunch. Keyword SHOWED, not waived, not “brandished” with the intent of stabbing, SHOWED. By law, a pocket knife is not considered a deadly weapon, so long as the blade is no longer than width of your palm (relative to the person holding it). And yes, this is what I’ve been told by police officers. At 8-9 years old, a “deadly weapon” sized pocket knife would have been pretty big, and would have been noticeable in the boy’s pocket. But considering, he didn’t even know it was in there till later in the day, one can easily speculate that the pocket knife was pretty small. Back when I was in elementary school, there were a number of kids who carried pocket knives. I still have mine. And it’s really small (blade is a little under 2 inches long). And back then EVERYONE used common sense. I showed mine in class one day. Teacher saw, told me I shouldn’t be taking it out in school. Confiscated it for the day, and returned to me after school. Told me to leave in my backpack when I’m in school. Done. No expulsion, no suspension, no detention, no principle and no parents got involved. And guess what, that talking to was all I needed. And never brought it back it school. I was a kid, and didn’t know any better. We as parents and teachers are suppose to TEACH students. If they make a mistake, we TEACH them how to NOT make it again. We can’t do this when we punish the right off the bat, when they don’t even understand WHY. Let’s put it this way, what if ZERO tolerance applied to adults workplace, stores, community centers. They pull out a pocket knife, and get hauled off to jail. You think that would ever fly in the adult world? I don’t think so. It’s a freaking POCKET KNIFE. People just don’t think anymore, and are to engross in their holier than thou attitude.

    As Mike Watts said…”policies of zero tolerance, lead to actions of zero intelligence.” So true.

  48. Bill February 18, 2012 at 1:36 am #

    @Sera: “No. No no no no no no.


    KNIVES DO NOT BELONG IN SCHOOLS. Any knife that is sharp enough to properly stab or slash a person – and pocket knives most often fall into this category – absolutely does not belong in the hands of children at school. Ever.”

    Prime example of the obscene panic that is clouding our judgment today. Funny thing, but it used to be that almost every boy carried a pocket knife everywhere, including to school, and most amazingly there were not rivers of blood in the halls.

    What has changed is not the actual level of risk, but the bureaucracy’s obsession with zero risk, zero opportunity to use (or learn) judgment, and the drive for total control over the subjects.

  49. bmax February 18, 2012 at 1:51 am #

    I question the validity of this statement

    “One of them was a girl and because the blade was pointing her direction, she decided he was “brandishing it” and went to tell her mom, who told the office, who told the district, who told the cops, one of whom said if he saw him with a knife again, he could shoot him.

    Sound too much like “Friend of a Friend….” stories where the words get so twisted because of 6 degrees of separation.

    At any rate… punishment yes absolutely. Expulsion.. a bit too extreme

  50. Donna February 18, 2012 at 2:16 am #

    Apparently Sera and some others didn’t actually read the letter and got reactionary at the word “knife.” The boy DID act responsibly at school. He left the knife in his pocket all day. He didn’t show it to his classmates. He didn’t waive it around. An hour AFTER school was when this incident occurred – after the boy had carried it quietly all day.

    Being of the mind that the school has no business whatsoever sticking its nose in anything that occurs outside school hours, unless at a school event (and independently playing on the school playground after hours is not a school event), this should have been left for the parents to deal with.

  51. C. S. P. Schofield February 18, 2012 at 2:19 am #


    The position of schoolteacher has always attracted, in addition to genuine teachers with a calling, small minded petty tyrants who like to bully children … because they are at least dimly aware that if they tried it on adults somebody would shoot them. As the “Education System” has calcified and rotted these vermin have gravitated to the administrative positions they crave. The shift in authority from local school-boards to State and federal bureaucracies has been a godsend to them; before they couldn’t go too far before getting brought up short by parents, and possibly horsewhipped.

    There are good people in the education system, but the system is run by and for swine.

  52. Bill February 18, 2012 at 2:21 am #

    Does anyone else feel that reactions like these fit right in with the war-on-drugs mentality that so much of the country has been dragged into? Mandatory minimum sentences remove the role of the judge from “criminal” disputes. Our collective knee has jerked so hard it’s killed off common sense.

  53. K February 18, 2012 at 2:33 am #

    Zero tolerance means that no judgment is allowed.

    Zero tolerance also suggests that NO level of risk is appropriate. Ever.

    Heaven forbid when these little angels get off on their own and have to handle screwdrivers, drills, kitchen knives, pots and pans, hammers and other potentially deadly weapons. They might get cut, bruised, or injured. Just so no one gets hurt… as they age, let’s just grandfather out of use all items that could be potentially dangerous. Because, really, at any age, with no experience, someone is likely to get hurt.

    I sure learned the hard way how not to close my pocketknife. I can promise you that in the nearly forty years since, I’ve never tried to close the knife by pushing on the sharp side of the blade. I was about 8 years old and at Girl Scout Camp. We were expected to have them with us at all times.

  54. Cynthia February 18, 2012 at 2:59 am #

    KD, that school showed some unbelievable cheek with that letter. I thin I would have pulled my kids.

    I had my first run in with the police yesterday. A cop showed up at the door and said they had received a call that kids were playing outside inadequately dressed. It was over 50 degrees, sunny, and no wind. My son was in shorts and a T-shirt, which he cannot wait to get into every day after being forced to wear long pants to school. It took me a while to realize that the reason I was so shaken up by it is that it means there is some crazy busybody in our neighborhood who will call the police.

  55. sunflwrmoonbeam February 18, 2012 at 3:15 am #

    In my experience, these rules are enforced only depending on who the kid is. I was in high school during Columbine, and my school had the zero tolerance + cameras freak out afterwards. A friend of mine got suspended (though not expelled) for having a pocket knife in his car. However, I worked in the theatre, and like many of my friends carried the master key to the school and 2 multitools on me at all times. My theatre supervisors, both English teachers, were well aware of this, and I’m 90% certain the principal knew we had knives, she certainly knew we had the master key. It was no big deal for us.

  56. KarenW February 18, 2012 at 3:16 am #

    Sera/Christi: as I’ve mentioned other times when the subject came up, I brought a razor-sharp “deadly weapon” with me every day to high school (about 25 years ago). It was an exacto knive, a required tool for every art class. The blade was less than an inch, but extremely sharp and I’m sure could cut someone really bad. So when I hear of a kid simply “having” a knife in school, my thought is “who freaking cares?” Not even grounds for suspension as far as I’m concerned, unless it was actually being USED AS A WEAPON.

  57. Ann In L.A. February 18, 2012 at 3:41 am #

    When zero-tolerance policies began taking hold, they had nothing to do with child safety, and everything to do with schools not wanting to get sued for discrimination. It was the way that schools could make sure that majority and minority students were always treated equally, by taking thought, rationality, common sense, and the human factor out of the equation.

    All schools have good kids who generally follow the rules (or try to) and who an administration will often let slide if they make a mistake or a slip-up. Schools also have problem kids who don’t care much about the rules, and naturally administrations are much less likely to let even minor infraction slide by with these kids. The problem is, if racism is at work, you’re going to find more black kids in the latter category and more whites in the former. By saying that all infractions, no matter how minor, are always dealt with strongly and in the same way, it protects school systems from both actual racism, and the appearance of it.

    So zero-tolerance started as lawsuit protection, not child protection.

  58. usually-silent February 18, 2012 at 3:50 am #

    A pocket knife? Give me a break! Not every kid with a sharp object is a criminal and not every bully needs to bring anything classified as a weapon to their dirty work. Banning anything is not an effective preventative; it only makes life harder for everyone else.

    There is real violence in some schools out there. This does not sound like it. The kid with the knife has no history of trouble. He didn’t corner the girl after school. He just pulled the knife out and showed it to her in front of pint-sized playmate/witnesses and supposedly they were all friends, the girl included.

    This kind of absolute thinking doesn’t stop at graduation and it’s impacting us all. I like to carry a pocket knife so that I have it as a tool when I need it. I stopped carrying it in my purse awhile back because it was too much bother trying to remember to remove it before I went through airline security – which allowed the wooden knives used for the 9/11 attacks through the gates. I didn’t want to have to replace it if it was confiscated at the gate before. Heaven help me if I should forget it is in my purse at an airport now!

    I was a bullied kid. Bullies do not need sharp, pointy objects to hit their mark. In elementary school, any object that can be hurled through the air will suffice with a half-decent pitching arm. Not to mention good, old fists. Shall we cut them all off at the wrists to avoid malice? My neighborhood bullies would have used their elbows instead.

    In my high school violence was not an everyday thing, but it happened. The weapons of choice were blunt instruments – fists, mostly. One teacher actually kept a real weapon in his desk after he was beaten severely in the building during school hours by two former students with baseball bats. Obviously, the perpetrators were not concerned about getting caught. There are many ways I can think of to have prevented the incident. Expelling anyone who plays baseball is not one of them.

    That district is now famous for expelling an elementary-schooler over a butter knife with a birthday cake. How is that helping?

    We do not live in that district now. My own kids go to school in a much safer environment – not because of Zero Tolerance and such, but because the culture of the school is one of mutual respect. Discipline is strictly the teachers’ and parents’ job. Though even symbolic weapons are not generally welcome as they strive to teach peaceful ways to handle conflicts, they have enough lee-way to allow kids to do choreographed nun-chuck demonstrations in the talent show as an “art form.” Nor will anyone be expelled for bringing a sharp knife to school to cut a birthday cake. They are not needed, though. There are plenty of sharp knives in easy reach of anyone in any classroom for making snacks. If a child brings in something questionable, it simply finds its way to the kid’s locker until the end of the day. Common sense.

    Sometimes it doesn’t work. There are still occasional bullies here as anywhere. They are much more subtle, preferring verbal abuse, pulling chairs out from under someone as they sit down or being a little too “careless” or “over-enthusiastic” in PE. So far, no harm has resulted beyond a slightly bloody nose here and there and some hurt feelings.

    I have no love lost over the schools I attended. However, Zero Tolerance is not going prevent real harm and will very effectively hurt the innocent. Ban something and those who really intend harm can find a million other ways to go about it or else carry out the infraction not caring about the consequences. In order to curb the real violence in those places where it is a problem, we have to be more creative and not blindly punish the innocent everywhere.

  59. Virginia February 18, 2012 at 3:52 am #

    All you anti-public-school ranters really need to settle down. Yes, the public schools have problems. No, they are not the spawn of Satan. I live in the Sunnyvale School District and my children went to an elementary school very close to the one mentioned in the post. These are basically good schools. The solution is not to pull our kids out of them or shut down the public education system; the solution is to work together to solve the problem of ridiculous zero-tolerance laws. Who’s with me?

    –Virginia, who carried a pocket knife in her purse from age 12 until it became too inconvenient to have to remember to take it out before going anywhere that might have a metal detector.

  60. Lollipoplover February 18, 2012 at 3:58 am #

    What else are we going to determine doesn’t belong in the hands of children? If you think about it, most household can turn into weapons. A lighter and a can of ant spray, a tube sock and a few rolls of quarters….
    A 10 yo at our elementary school punched another kid in the face. This was not his first violent offense. He was suspended. A fist can be a deadly weapon, should we ban them as well? I can see it now:
    “Class, because fists can be used dangerously, we are going to bubble wrap them behind your back, and you will now learn to write with your feet.”
    Oh, but I’m forgeting that feet can deliver kung fu kicks and also be dangerous….
    The idiocracy keeps going and going…

  61. MayorB February 18, 2012 at 4:38 am #

    How sad that it is easier to get a kid expelled from school for questionable behavior than it is to fire teachers accused of criminal behavior.

  62. Bill February 18, 2012 at 5:17 am #

    Ann In L.A., your comment on discrimination is spot-on. I just read Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow”, and she comes to the same conclusions, that our collective colorblindness has resulted in wholesale incarceration of black and brown Americans, as the courts go by laws that are designed to avoid accusations of discrimination. In her last chapter she suggests that blacks should drop programs like affirmative action if that’s what it takes to restore justice.

    My earlier comment is informed by this book — I wouldn’t have thought that two weeks ago. I highly recommend this book for anyone trying to understand how and why America has become a nation of prisons and knee-jerk laws.

  63. Max February 18, 2012 at 8:10 am #

    Does anyone have any links to other zero tolerance policies getting changed after media reports?

  64. Sarah February 18, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    There’s a number of zero-tolerance stories here:

    Including quite a number where policies have been changed.

    as the author of that site says:
    “I’ve been pointing out the stupidity of zero tolerance since 1995, and I’ve gotten a feel for what actually works to fight back against it.

    What works is for you to watch your local media for such stories — of examples of ZT near you. And when you do hear about them, I want you to stand behind those kids. Sending nasty e-mails from your den isn’t the answer: showing up at school board meetings and saying “This is wrong!” is the answer, and demanding a more measured approach. And when school officials make boneheaded decisions and then hide behind “policy” to say they “had no choice”? Well, then you should point out they are being paid professional wages, and if they’re simply acting as a clerk, they should be paid as one.”

  65. CrazyCatLady February 18, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    10 years ago when I was in Bozeman Montana, kids regularly brought guns to school after a morning of hunting and left them in their trucks. The school administration did have something to say about it, as I recall.

    “Lock your truck doors. Guns have been stolen out of trucks while students are in class.”

    The guns were in the trucks in the typical hunter fashion, on a rack in the back window so that that there was no question that there was a concealed weapon if the driver was stopped by the police for a traffic violation. (All of this was pre and post Columbine.)

    Now, while this was an unheard of level of sanity, I do recall that about the time of Columbine there were some bomb threats, with bombs supposedly in back-packs. So the high school banned back packs and made the kids use school issued straps to hold their books. Girls, boys in sports (cups,) complained about the lack of privacy for necessary items, and after a couple of weeks sanity returned and kids were allowed backpacks again.

    So yes, school administrations CAN change their minds over what is considered “safe.” I hope they do so with this boy too.

  66. Sarah February 18, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    Also, try here:

    I’d try to argue this on the definition of “brandishing a knife”, which seems to be reason for the automatic expellation.

    Who are the witnesses, and what do they believe “brandishing” means?

  67. Puzzled February 18, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    How on earth did we get to the point where people think a child shouldn’t have a pocketknife in school? Why are we such a safe yet panicked society? What are we so afraid of? Seriously.

    Moreover, let’s think of what happens when this generation grows up. We’ll have a bunch of adults running around who are used to being watched, judged, and punished at all times. They’ll be even more panicky than our current crop of adults.

  68. Eliza February 18, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    Has anybody started an antiexpullsion facebook page on this boy’s behalf? It worked with James Tate, a high school kid who was suspended and banned from prom after he taped cardboard letters to the side of the school spelling out a prom invitation to his girlfriend. The school thought he was endangering himself when he climbed up a ladder to put up the letters.

  69. MK February 18, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    The question is, what should we actually do about this! Should be all be contacting the Sunnyvale School District? Let’s get some action going here. Commenting to this self selected group doesn’t achieve much.

  70. mollie February 18, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    “Moreover, let’s think of what happens when this generation grows up. We’ll have a bunch of adults running around who are used to being watched, judged, and punished at all times. They’ll be even more panicky than our current crop of adults.”

    Regardless of what the circumstances are, any human being can find their own power to have understanding, peace, and wisdom. They just have to learn how.

    Whenever my kids come home complaining of some draconian measure that’s been taken at school (global punishment of the class for one child’s purported “cheating,” global ban on football because one parent complained that it looked “dangerous”), I first empathize with them about why they’re mad (“because you want to be seen as you are, someone who isn’t cheating, and you don’t like the idea of writing an essay on the subject as a punishment?” or “because you got the sense that all of the kids playing football that day were feeling safe and happy, and you just wanted to be able to choose to play the way you wanted to play?”), then I encourage them to guess what mattered to the “policymakers.”

    “Maybe they were feeling totally overwhelmed and a bit panicky, and angry too, and wanted to be sure that kids learn about honesty and responsibility, does that seem close?” Or, “Maybe the principal felt embarrassed and wanted to be seen as someone who cares about kids and safety, do you think that might be what was going on?”

    And I teach them how to stand up for what matters to them, to express it in a way that can be heard… and I also explain that the “authorities” are much more likely to be interested in what matters to them if they first show some empathy around what matters to the authorities.

    A lot of very tense conflict situations can be de-escalated with empathy. Imagine, for instance, if the mother had had enough wisdom in that moment to reflect back to her daughter with empathy: “Why are you telling me this? Are you scared, and concerned about safety? Are you angry, and wanting to be sure that everyone is following the rules at school?” Or perhaps failing that, if the school administrator had been able to reflect back to the mother with empathy: “Sounds like you’re really concerned and alarmed, wanting to be sure your daughter, and all the children, are safe at school, is that right?” And even failing that, if the police had been able to receive the call from the administrator with empathy: “I see. So there was a child who had a pocket knife, and after school, a girl saw him showing it to others and reported that he was pointing it at her. Sounds like you’re particularly concerned about what the school’s role in something like this is, that you have some clarity about what to do next to provide reassurance to the parent but also be sure that there is some kind of learning for the child with the knife, and protection for you from liability… is that what’s going on for you?”

    Go ahead and call me Pollyanna, I don’t mind. All I know is that when I end up in a situation where I can be the one to bring in a little empathy, I have a chance to contribute to peace. My kids are learning to bring empathy to themselves and others. They can’t ignore or wish away the judgement and reactivity and “zero tolerance” policies they encounter in school, in the world. They *can* be taught to see anything any human being says or does as an (at times quite tragic) attempt to meet a need that they themselves also have. People will be reactive, rules will be created that don’t work. And then what? Complain? Fight? Rail? Seethe? Or empathize? Which has an iota of a chance that it will bring peace?

    Sure, it seems utterly ridiculous that there was this rule in the first place, and that the chain reaction occurred to enforce it with such mindless zeal. To me, though, the problem is not a preponderance of idiocy, but a lack of empathy.

  71. mollie February 18, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    And don’t worry, I’m not some kind of self-deluded pseudo-guru who never has a judgemental thought in her head. I feel just as desperate as any of you when I first hear about anything that triggers outrage around well-being for kids, and I usually want to just march right in and raise holy hell. It might intimidate someone into caving in, but it doesn’t bring the lasting change that can only come from true connection and understanding, agreements brought about by a collaborative effort to create a world that works for everyone.

    Sometimes I just follow my rage and go with the “raise holy hell” stuff. Only rarely these days. But any time I do, I see how inefficient it really is. It feels good for a moment, maybe, but there’s a price to pay.

    And empathy does NOT mean being a doormat, or ignoring your own values. Quite the opposite, really. But intimidation means ignoring others’ values and needs, a sure-fire recipe for long-term conflict, even if there’s a short-term “victory.” This goes both ways, as the authorities who have imposed “zero-tolerance” laws throughout history always find out…

  72. Jenny Islander February 18, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    Oh, hey, just remembered something from my senior year. A classmate had a genuine Civil War sword that had been passed down in his family. It had verifiably been used to kill people. We happened to be studying something warlike in British Lit, so he got permission from the teacher and brought in the sword to show. He removed it from the scabbard, let us lean in a few at a time for a close look, made sure that we were well back and swung it slowly a couple of times to demonstrate the reach of the blade, then made sure the scabbard was firmly in place and let us try. The teacher read one of the battle scenes–oh, I remember, it was Macbeth–and had an athlete keep moving around with the scabbarded sword in play through the whole thing to give us a feel for (a) staged sword fights (there wasn’t anybody local who knew how to stage one at the time) and (b) the real combat that the staged fight was supposed to represent. So we spent an entire class in the presence of a deadly weapon and it was carried in the halls to and from the class. IIRC it was stored in the main office for the day instead of in the guy’s locker, not because of some stupid zero tolerance policy, but because it was expensive.

    Would that even be possible in many high schools today?

  73. Lafe February 18, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    Can we set up an ‘alternative public school system’ please? Give the government-run school systems some competition? I’m not talking about ‘private schools’ that let you into a better school if you can pay enough green. I’m talking about a network of schools that anyone can attend, run on free-range principles (and run by free-range principals!) at which kids are taught to be capable, independent, sensible, confident, non-afraid citizens of a normally-functioning society.

    Not all public schools are bad, and not all home-schooling is heavenly (or possible for many of us). We need some alternative that shows how it should be done, and prompts the existing schools to shift their thinking and improve. Competition would be good for them, like in the business world, no?

  74. Lafe February 18, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    I forgot to say that Sera and Christy (I think I got those names right. Sorry if I muffed one.) are off-base in suggesting that no helpful pocketknives belong in school under any circumstances. I suggest we experiment by having a school at which every kid is required to carry a pocketknife, and sees them (and other tools) used normally day in and day out.

    After a year, let’s compare my ‘competent young people” school to the one that expelled this kid, and see which one has more kids who are actually being educated in a way that will make them normal, competent adults. That’s the point of education, or it should be: not to raise a generation of compliant sheep-adults, stewed in fear for 13 years, but people who can function in industry, as entrepreneurs, as medical professionals, as astronauts, as explorers, as journalists….

  75. SKL February 18, 2012 at 10:01 pm #

    I think the only way to get educators to understand the stupidity of zero tolerance is to impose it on them.

    Lose it and holler at one kid? Fired, no mercy.

    Make a mistake on one grade? Gone.

    Look at the crap we put up with from teachers because everything has to be loosey-goosey when it comes to the teachers’ union. They can have mass cheating sessions on important tests and not only do they keep their jobs, but people make excuses for them. They can berate a child to the point of sending him to a shrink, and nothing is done about it. They can fall asleep in class and still collect their salary, health insurance and pension. Tolerance is lovely, isn’t it? Yet a little boy who forgets, has a little accident, or acts on impulse is expected to be more accountable than any adult who has done anything similar. No more double standards. Zero tolerance all the way, baby.

  76. SKL February 18, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    As for whether the child act in a mature manner:

    1) I have heard of a case where a child realized he had accidentally left his knife in his backpack and brought the backpack to school. He realized his mistake while at school. He immediately told the teacher and handed over the knife. The zero tolerance policy applied and he was given the same punishment as if he had deliberately brought the knife. So much for mature, responsible behavior under a no-tolerance policy. The only responsible thing to do in that case would be to hide the knife so you could continue your education without interruption and avoid a permanent black mark on your slate. Zero tolerance undermines normal moral development.

    2) Even assuming (1) would not apply, some are holding a 3rd-grade boy to an awfully high maturity standard. Especially considering that the school system doesn’t even trust experienced teachers and administrators to exercise sound judgment.

    3) I tend to agree the child should not have had the knife in school. I think he should have been allowed to have it on the playground an hour after school, but the facts are that this boy brought his knife to school. That was a rule violation. However, consequences should be based on the facts of the individual case. If it was an accident, confiscate the knife for a week to help him remember better in the future. If it was on purpose just to show off, a little bigger penalty. If he was using it like a weapon (brandishing, threatening, etc.) then something more. If the facts are unclear, that also is something adults ought to be able to deal with – it happens all the time in school – he hit me first, etc. Let the adults act like [sane] adults and children act like children.

    And let’s fire the idiot who came up with the zero tolerance policy.

  77. Kimberly February 18, 2012 at 11:00 pm #


    When I was in 7th grade the principal did ban a Textbook. The textbook was useless as a textbook. It was more like a coffee table book with lots of pretty pictures and very little text. It was great for slapping people upside the head. Because it was oversized you could get a good swing going. We were ordered to leave it in our lockers. We used the out of adoption previous textbook in the classroom.

  78. pentamom February 18, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    “Wow. I have some questions for the parents who didn’t teach their kid to either wear clean clothes to school or at least empty his pockets.”

    Oh, please. Pants do not need to get washed after every wearing if they do not get dirty, and maybe they did “teach” him to empty his pockets, but he’s an eight-year-old-fuhgoodnesssake-boy!!!!! There is NO FAULT in a kid forgetting to take a knife out of a pocket, except the minor one of being just a little bit careless.

    There is NO BLAME here except to the school officials and police, and it’s ridiculous to make an issue out of a little boy wearing a pair of pants twice and forgetting to take something out of his pocket. And not even “some questions” about perfectly appropriate, normal behavior.

  79. SKL February 18, 2012 at 11:59 pm #

    About the clean clothes thing: once upon a time I was Supermom. My kids had a bath every day and wore jammies to bed and fresh clothes every morning. Yippie ki yay!

    As my kids have gotten older, there are so many more meaningful things to do in the little bit of time we get in the evenings. There have been times when my kids put on clean clothes after swimmng Thursday night and wore them until bathtime Saturday. Oh well! I promise we’ll get back to daily bathing/changing by the time the kids start getting BO.

  80. Trey February 19, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    Which is more dangerous a 3 inch blade? Or a 6 inch (or longer) flat head screw driver?

    It boils down to the only difference between tools and weapons is intent.

  81. Puzzled February 19, 2012 at 12:29 am #

    @SKL – I actually think we’re holding our kids to a bizarre level of immaturity. We’re saying “you are incapable of handling any object that may be misused.” Question – at what age do we roll back such blanket policies? High schools have the same rules. So, basically, you are incapable until graduation day, at which point you can use whatever you want, without any experience, opportunity to fail, or ways to learn from adults around you.

    @Mollie – I’m totally with you. But not all parents are like you. And I do think, regardless of what the parents do, 6 hour a day exposure to this kind of thing tends to seep in. Heck, it’s not 6 hours a day anymore. Kids are being expelled for what they write on facebook or, in this case, what they do in public places after school. There was a school I remember that issued laptops, then suspended a kid after seeing something he did at home with the built-in camera! I don’t want a population that, during their formative years, got used to a total police state.

  82. Bill February 19, 2012 at 1:13 am #

    Here’s a new one fresh off the press — applying ZT to teachers as well:

    Arizona SB-1467 would require all instructors in public schools to adhere to (notoriously vague) FCC decency guidelines. The bill gives three-strikes-style punishments (One week unpaid suspension/Two week unpaid suspension/Termination) for anyone who

    provides classroom instruction in a public school engages in speech or conduct that would violate the standards adopted by the federal communications commission concerning obscenity, indecency and profanity if that speech or conduct were broadcast on television or radio…

    Can we apply ZT and 3-strike rules to legislators themselves?

    The 3-strike metaphor is awful. Baseball players get a whole new at-bat later in the game after they strike out. And when basketball players foul out of a game, they start the next one with a clean slate.

    What I’d really like to hear is about a successful political campaign where the winner ran on a “Reasonable With Crime” stand.

  83. Donna February 19, 2012 at 2:05 am #

    I agree that the child should have had the knife at school. But is having a knife at school that stayed nicely in your pocket only to be shown to someone an hour after school and not reported until sometime later – when I assume the knife was no longer at school – something we want children punished by the school for at all? At some point the school needs to step out of its students’ lives and let parents handle discipline matters.

    This is a borderline case as the alleged brandishing was on school grounds and there does not appear to have been a break between school and home. But where do we draw the line because I have little doubt that the same thing would have occurred had the knife brandishing happened on Sunday afternoon and the school was notified? In the area where I worked in the States, kids were suspended and forced into alternative school for a month if they spent a night in juvenile detention regardless of the reason. Stealing lipstick from a store on Saturday night should not result in a school penalty. Nor should the school have any say over how you get to and fro school or what you do after school.

  84. pentamom February 19, 2012 at 3:28 am #

    Right, Donna — it’s fine to have a school rule that says “no knives,” and some appropriate punishment commensurate with technically but not harmfully violating a rule. But giving the same punishment to a kid who essentially did nothing objectively wrong despite breaking a rule, as would be given a kid who did something seriously wrong (actually bringing the knife out during school and using it in some inappropriate fashion) is something I have zero tolerance for.

    And it seems like this whole zero-tolerance/cya method of school discipline results in the situation where the hysterical/overly rules-oriented person who for whatever reason claims the knife was threatening her gets believed implicitly, and the testimony of everyone who claims a lesser level of misbehavior occurred is discounted. Because it’s pretty hard to sue the district for over-reaching once a “rule” is in place, but it’s a lot more likely there’ll be a suit because someone was “threatened” and “nothing was done about it” — and we all know that the main purpose of discipline (in some school administrators’ eyes) is to keep the schools out of court.

  85. Donna February 19, 2012 at 5:55 am #

    Ahh Pentamom, you have now discovered the major failing of the police, prosecutors and apparently anyone enforcing rules – the reporter of the crime is always believed to be telling the truth regardless of how absurd the story. Crime is extremely incestuous. Today’s criminals are just tomorrows victims. It makes sense – criminals tend to live around, near and with other criminals and, as such, frequently end up victims of crime too. It is amazing to me how, in the eyes of the police and prosecutors, the exact same person can be a saint who wouldn’t dream of lying to the police when a victim and a lying piece of crap when suspected of a crime. You’d be amazed at the number of times I’ve had the following conversation with a DA:

    Me: Your victim claims to have been beaten with a stick in the head 60 times but didn’t lose consciousness, refused to go to the hospital though pregnant (because high as a kite) and had only a bruise on her shin and one on her face. You believe this story?

    DA: Yes, why would she lie?

    Me. Because her husband said that he was going to call DFACS (CPS) to report that she was smoking crack while pregnant, she’s already had one child taken away by CPS in Texas and she doesn’t want to lose this one too. The rumor also is that it isn’t her husband’s bun in the oven (a fact later proved to be true) and she wanted to run to Cali before the bun is fully cooked.

    DA: Where’d she get the bruises then?

    Me: My client claims that she got the one on her face when the stick popped back into her face when he blocked a strike from her and he has no idea about the one on the leg but from the pictures it appears to come from where she broke the stick in 2.

    DA: Well your client is clearly lying.

    Me: Why?

    DA: blank stare that translates into “he’s the defendant.”

    Me: What evidence do you have that your victim is telling the truth? Because it’s not the physical evidence. It’s not the witness you can’t find. It’s not my client’s alibi for much of the time he was allegedly holding her against her will in the house.

    DA: Another blank stare that translates into “she’s the victim.”

    Me: Last year you didn’t believe her when she told the police that she didn’t steal her neighbor’s jewelry that she pawned for crack but instead her neighbor gave it to her (I didn’t believe her either but that’s not the point). Why is she suddenly so trustworthy?

    DA: Another blank stare that translates into “she’s the victim.”

    Me: Looks around for a gun to blow my brains out.

  86. Tara February 19, 2012 at 6:39 am #

    I have zero tolerance for the zero tolerance policy. It is ludicrous and indeed over-reracting to an innocent situation. The kid does not deserve expulsion. I hope the media storm forces the school district to reverse it’s [ridiculous] decision.

  87. Christi February 19, 2012 at 6:48 am #

    SKL- It already exists–

    Is this the kind of accountability you guys are suggesting for teachers? Or does your sense of injustice at least swing both ways?

  88. sue February 19, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    christi, this is whathappens when political correctness is embraced to the extent all rational thought is abandoned. kind of what is taught by, um what’s the word’oh yes teachers. you can not really believe that this little boy deserved expulsion and yet be outraged a teacher got caught by the same type of zero tolerance can you? either it’s good for both or good for none. yes i agree the teacher was trying to make an excellent teaching point. but, in the pc atmosphere of today he had to know this would happen. common sense not only isn’t common any more it is close to non-existant. and this IS what the schools teach..if offends anyone at all ban and punish. is it right ? no. but if banned for one group it should be banned by ALL and forALL.

  89. Donna February 19, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    Actually, Christi, this is completely different. That teacher was suspended after a full hearing into the matter in which the teacher was allowed to present evidence that he was using the word to educate his students. You may or may not agree with the results of the hearing (I wouldn’t know as I don’t know what was said), but the teacher was not automatically fired (or fired at all) for simply saying the “n” word. He was allowed to justify it’s use before punishment was handed down. There is no rule that “n” word equals 5 day suspension regardless of situation.

    Children, on the other hand, are expelled instantly for having a knife. It doesn’t matter why they had it. The rules allows for no arguments as to whether the presence of the knife is valid or whether it was an accident. Knife simply equals expulsion.

    That said, a white teacher who has been teaching in majority black inner city schools for 21 years should know better than to ever use the “n” word. It is going to offend someone regardless of how you use it. My coworker was upset when I used the full “n” in quoting a report. I thought it was idiotic but some are very sensitive to the term.

  90. Puzzled February 19, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    Yes, schools can have rules. But I question a society where such a rule is seen as a good idea. That is, I question a society where a pocketknife has not only assumed scary-weapon status, but lost its status as a tool, or a reasonable thing for people to carry.

  91. Sera February 19, 2012 at 9:10 am #


    “I don’t want to bother having to deal with lilly-livered hoplophobic nincompoops who can’t tell the difference between a weapon and a tool.”

    “A pocket knife is not a weapon. A pocket knife is a TOOL.”

    Yes. It is a tool. It is a tool that can be used as a lethal weapon.

    Y’know something? Pretty much every time I’ve wished I had a tool on me, and didn’t have that tool, it’s been a screwdriver. The times it wasn’t a screwdriver, it was pliers. I’ve never, to my recollection, been out and about and thought “gee, I really wish I was carrying a knife”. (If I’m going to need a knife, I take one especially for the purpose).

    If you really think that children need to be carrying around tools, why not a pair of needlenose pliers? Why not a set of allen keys? A shifting spanner? A set of screwdrivers, or, even better, one ‘o them screwdrivers with interchangeable heads, so s/he can unscrew ALL the screws. No, you want them to be carrying around the tool designed to cut and pierce things, including meat. The most dangerous one. The one most widely regarded as a weapon. No. Children having knives in their pockets at school is not necessary.

    Which is more dangerous a 3 inch blade? Or a 6 inch (or longer) flat head screw driver?”

    A flat head screwdriver tapers to a point, but is not sharp. You cannot pierce yourself with one the same way you can with a knife. You need to use considerably more strength to stab someone with a screwdriver (or with scissors, or something similar) than you do to stab someone with a knife. Screwdrivers don’t have bladed edges at all, so you can’t slash someone with a screwdriver. You can do so with a knife.

    “For those who complain that knives do not belong in school, I have to ask, “Why not?” Okay, yes, kids can poke each other with them, but in my time kids poked each other with pencils”

    Again, pencils and pens taper to a point, but are not sharp. Pencils and pens will also generally break if you try to stab someone with them – a cloth shirt will mitigate most or all of the piercing power of a pencil or pen. You can do far more than “poke” someone with a knife. You can stab someone through a shirt or even a leather jacket with a knife. The knife won’t give or break, because metal is stronger than flesh. Also, again, you cannot slash someone with a pencil or pen.

    “If you think about it, most household [objects] can turn into weapons.”

    Yes. However, it becomes ridiculously impractical very fast to ban all common household objects that may be used as weapons. Much like how driving is more dangerous to people’s children than children going places alone is, yet people do drive places with their kids but won’t let them go to places alone – driving is a necessity to our lives, so we accept or ignore the risk. Similarly, schools cannot, to any degree of practicality, ban all objects that can possibly be used as weapons, but children do NOT need knives at school. Dangerous AND unnecessary? Yeah, no thanks.

    Also, the vast majority of your household objects are things that are large and heavy, yes? Bludgeoning weapons? A blunt, bludgeoning weapon is far less dangerous than a knife because:

    – The deadliness of a blunt object is directly proportional to the strength of the person wielding it. Slashing or stabbing someone with a sharp knife is very little dependent on the strength of the assailant.

    – Concealability. Any blunt object large and heavy enough to seriously hurt someone is too large and heavy to carry around all the time without somebody noticing. A baseball bat etc. does not fit in someone’s pocket. A knife is far smaller and lighter and CAN be hidden in a pocket.

    “Funny thing, but it used to be that almost every boy carried a pocket knife everywhere, including to school, and most amazingly there were not rivers of blood in the halls”

    Funny thing, but times have changed since then. It is no longer common, or assumed, that a child always has a knife in his or her pocket. Children now are far less often in situations where a knife may be required. Children are far more infantised now – a child at 8 back then was far more responsible and mature than a child at 8 now. Also, I believe that schools are now far more high-stress than they were back then.

    “Keyword SHOWED, not waived, not “brandished” with the intent of stabbing,”

    No. The boy’s side of the story is that he did not wave, brandish, or threaten with the knife. The girl’s side of the story is that he did. Whether or not the girl is telling the truth, there IS an accusation that he DID use the knife as a weapon – there is no clear-cut case that he did NOT at any point use it as a weapon.

    “Lets also use this as a lesson in why you should not escalate your complaints about other students. When these things stay with a teacher and maybe principal they are not a problem.”

    Yes. Sure. You shouldn’t escalate your complaint that your ~8-year-old daughter was threatened with a knife after school on school property. Yes, she may be lying, or have freaked out over nothing, but the accusation still stands. I’d damn well hope that there is a thorough and serious investigation into ANY child’s claims that they were threatened with a weapon. And yes, threatening someone with a lethal weapon IS a criminal matter. Again, the boy may have done nothing wrong at all, but that needs to be investigated and found out for sure, NOT assumed that he didn’t do it because he says he didn’t.

    “Not even grounds for suspension as far as I’m concerned, unless it was actually being USED AS A WEAPON.”

    Right. Because you need to wait until the dangerous, unnecessary item that the child is carrying around hidden in his pockets is actually used to hurt or threaten someone, then take action. Y’know, rather than banning them from bringing it to school in the first place.

    I’d just like to ask the pro-knife-at-school people the following things:

    – Why is it necessary, or even desirable, for your child to have a knife at school? I’m certainly not saying that children should never be allowed to use, own, or carry sharp knives, just that they should never be taken to school.

    – How would you feel if your child or his classmates were habitually carrying around at school, say, one of those foot-long monkey wrenches (read: a foot of heavy steel club) to school? You know, to wrestle with those tough large-size nuts and bolts, as every child does from time to time. Obviously.

  92. In the Trenches February 19, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    I seem to recall that the APA has recommended dropping zero-tolerance laws, mostly because they actually serve to INCREASE violence in schools. Honest to God, are schools not supposed to be places where thoughtfulness is encouraged? Why are regulations which eliminate any possibility of this even given the time of day?

  93. Jon February 19, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    Well, I was going to just repost Sera’s original comment and replace every instance of “knife” with “scissors”, to show how ridiculous this all is, but I see that Sera has already not only beaten me to the punch, but has decisively clinched the All-Internet “Missing the Point”, “Dramatic Overreaction” and “Can’t Tell If Serious Or Sarcastic” and “abandon Common Sense in favor of Complete Inability to Understand Cost-Benefit Based Risk Analysis” titles *simultaneously.*
    Well done!

    PS Can you possibly be serious?

  94. sue February 19, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    sera…if you think it takes that much more force to stab someone with a screwdriver or a pencil you live in a world with different phisics than i do.. just ask [or experiance ]putting a screwdriver through yourhand when i slips…doesn’t take much force at all. i personally saw the results when one of my son’s friends was stabed in the hand with a pencil by
    his sister.. i admit it broke..splintering in his hand and requiring for blunt objects needing to be heavy to do damage..not really. a typical school text book can easiliy be swung hard enough so do some pretty severe head damage by quite a small and petite child and you are fooling yourself if you don’t think so.also try having a kid swing a backpack ful of them..very easy to build up a nice amount of velocity before contact. as for the he said she said..why do you automatically believe the school and assume since it was open it was being used as a “weapon”? shouldn’t you give as much doubt to the boy”? or are you of the opinion that all males are bullying terrorists until proven otherwise? quite the insult to half the race. i can just a easily say all girls are whinny little whiners and liars, it makes just as much sense! should he have had the knife at school,no but accidents do happen and generally do not require a death penalty. i suggest you go read “the giver” and imagine the results of the type of society you seem to want.

  95. sue February 19, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    ps sera as for the point where you stated there is no evidence he did not use the knife as a weapon,have we now gotten rid of innocent until proven guilty if favor of if you can be proven innocent immediantly you’re guilty?

  96. sue February 19, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    pps sorry ment can’t be proven innocent

  97. Sera February 19, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    @ Jon

    … uh, yeah? I’m completely serious? Are you trying to tell me that knives are not dangerous weapons?

    I grew up in a rural area. At the primary school and both high schools I went to, a COMMON pasttime for many, if not most, boys of my age, was torturing, hurting and/or killing small animals. No, I’m not talking about one or two disturbed little boys. I mean I grew up thinking (with lots of perfectly reasonable and valid evidence at hand) that little boys like to hurt and kill things. I am now 21 and I have yet to be shown strong evidence to the contrary.

    At my first high school, the one that I left, an eight-foot, razor wire fence was built around the agriculture plot because local youths were sneaking in at night with their dogs and killing the sheep. I mean the humans and the dogs were physically attacking and murdering the sheep. For fun. Same with the chickens. The cattle, it seems, were too big.

    When I was about 15 or 16, one of the girls in my year had (so the story goes) stolen the boyfriend of another girl, also in my year. The girl and her friends caught up with her after school. They ripped out half of her hair, burned her books, and threw her bag into a tree. That’s a more extreme example, but I think you get the general idea.

    Now, imagine all that but with knives. Lighters is bad enough. It doesn’t matter if your kid is in a good school or a good area (it wouldn’t be hard to be in a better area than my old school zonings), knives do NOT need to be in that environment.

    No, I’m not generally in favour of zero tolerance policies, but we’re talking about dangerous weapons in the hands of children, while around other children. Despite the parent’s judgement on their OWN child’s maturity and behaviour, that knife is going to be accessible to a wide variety of other children who are NOT mature or stable enough to have knives at school. Schoolchildren are stressed. Schoolchildren are bullies or being bullied. Schoolchildren do NOT have an adult’s wisdom, an adult’s understanding of the consequences, or an adult’s control over their temper. Again, we’re talking about weapons that can be used to kill people, in situations where the weapon does not need to be present at all. There is no real positive to children having knives at school, and a hell of a LOT of negative. I would never have felt safe during my school days had I had reason to suspect that any given other child was carrying a knife around in their pockets.

    It’s far too easy for a child found carrying a knife to say that they “forgot” it was in their pocket or “accidentally” brought it to school. Or claim that they need it to use as a tool. I’ve never found that I had the need to use a pocket knife as a tool at school. Never. Not once. On the days I brought a cake, I brought a rounded-end, serrated knife to cut it – you can’t stab or slash anyone with a knife like that.

    Why is it so hard for you to comprehend that knives truly are dangerous, and knives truly are unnecessary in childrens’ pockets at school? Knives are weapons. No weapons in our schools.

    Again, please provide me with an explanation as to why a child SHOULD be carrying a knife to school.

  98. Jenny Islander February 19, 2012 at 10:38 am #

    Because just like an adult, I loaded my pockets in the morning and unloaded them at night. I used my pocketknife mainly after school to whittle and such, but I never knew whether I might need it to cut an icky brown spot out of my apple or start a difficult-to-peel banana at lunch, or discreetly sharpen a pencil because the line at the pencil sharpener was so darn long, or just whittle at recess (you could grab sticks out of the nearby woods because there was no fence in the way). It’s a tool. Should we also ban two knives connected in such a way that both blades can be used simultaneously (scissors), tiny stilettos (compasses), endlessly renewable little wooden spears that have been known to tattoo their victims (pencils), and spring-guns that fire tiny bent wire contraptions that can impale their victims’ sensitive fingertips with considerable force (staplers)? Should the paper cutter be locked up in a central location instead of just being put away in the cupboard that kids are not to touch? After all it’s basically a cleaver. Who knows when somebody will grab it and go nuts?

    And if school actually do all this, what the hell happened to teaching competence?

  99. Taradlion February 19, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    @ Sera: When I was in elementary school, I had girl scouts after school. I did not go home between school and scouts, and….I brought my pocket knife. I kept in in my bag while at school, but I had it. These days, I carry a very small pocket knife and I do use it as a tool. I could probably use scissors for most of the things I use my pocket knife for, but it is more compact. You are right, a kid probably doesn’t need their own knife at school. They do (at least potentially) have access to TOOLS at school that could be used effectively as a weapon. For kids who don’t go straight home on a school bus, maybe they want/need a pocket knife for after school stuff. It would not have dawned on me to use my pocket knife as a weapon because I was taught to use it for other purposes.

    I was disappointed last year when my 10 year old daughter was going off to sleep away camp for the first time. The camp had a “no drugs, no alcohol, no weapons” policy, but I didn’t consider my old pocket knife (the very one I was required to bring to camp and had used at scouts) to be a weapon. I asked if she should bring it. I was told, they preferred she not bring it, but if she did, the counselor would have to keep it because, “of course she couldn’t have it in the bunk”….why? why “of course?”….I wanted her to learn to use a pocket knife.

    I taught her to use a box cutter and wire-stripper last weekend. At first, she was afraid. She asked if I had ever cut myself with a box cutter. I told her, “sure.” I also told her I was using table saws at 11 in school shop class and teaching other kids to use circular saws and box cutters for set construction (with almost no adult supervision) by the time I was 15.

  100. KarenW February 19, 2012 at 10:45 am #

    Good lord, Sera, I’ve already given you a true example of why I needed a knife in school. Now, this kid had no reason to bring the knife to school. I’m fine with the school having a rule against such things. I also think that any type of threat, real or imagined, to another student should be investigated. But, I’m standing firm that simply HAVING a particular object should not, not, not! get a child the exact same punishment he would get for threatening or hurting another student. Your stories do nothing more than to prove our point: violent BEHAVIOR is what schools should be looking at, not an object that may or may not be used as a weapon. And by the way, I’m glad that I’m not from a rural area because my son, nor any of his friends that I’ve met, would ever hurt an animal for fun. Sorry that your town was so full of psychos. Once you get out more you’ll see that your experience was far from normal.

  101. KD February 19, 2012 at 10:48 am #


    I would love to pull my kids out of our local schools based on what we have experienced the last couple of years unfortunately until there is a better system in place we are stuck. My homeschooling would fail based on my responsibility to my disabled husband who needs constant care. I barely get through the homework hours as it is. And our private schools are also just as bad :(. I have been racking my brain for other ideas for schooling without any success so far.

    I did send a letter back to the school letting them know that one, what happens in my home and with my children in regards to social media and activities is up to me and my husband. And two, I do volunteer work by phone and email for CASA and know the law regarding what is abuse or neglect in and out. Any questioning of my children would be greeted with serious legal consequences….I still haven’t figured out what to do about the 4th grade teacher who has made it her mission to violate our home policies in regards to censorship and religion. My favorite so far as been her accusation that me allowing my daughter to explore her fascination with movie monsters (think vampires) is going to violate her “Christian Heart” and that me allowing the same daughter to wear boys clothing id going to turn her into a lesbian…..yep, public school at its finest and in a very liberal area???? I think there is something in the chocolate milk…

  102. Taradlion February 19, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    Exactly Jenny I. Kids will use scissors, staplers, compasses, and paper cutters (as well as pocket knives, box cutters, linoleum cutters, clay tools, etc) as tools if they are taught to use them as tools. There will be a few kids who are violent and might use a knife to threaten (even hurt) another child, but those same kids will creatively use anything at their disposal at school.

    A pocket knife and a hand gun are not the same thing.

  103. pentamom February 19, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    ‘It’s far too easy for a child found carrying a knife to say that they “forgot” it was in their pocket or “accidentally” brought it to school.”

    Yes, and heaven forbid that credible grounds for actual intent should need to be established before punishing someone for something that “we don’t know whether they might have wanted to do and they could be lying about not having wanted to do it.” If they forgot it was in their pocket, then clearly they weren’t threatening anyone with it. If they were threatening anyone with it, then there’s *evidence* that they didn’t just “forget” — and there’s something to actually punish them for besides having a wrongly shaped piece of metal in their pockets. I’ll buy the argument that “by then, it might be too late” if you can establish some kind of prevalent problem of eight year olds in that area doing real harm to other kids, such that treating kids who forget to put their tools away like actually violent people is justified.

    When there becomes a widespread problem with little boys hurting or threatening other children with tool-type sharp objects in a local area, I’ll consider whether your ideas have merit. Unless that’s a case in a specific place, treating this child like the equivalent of a kid in some place where kids are regularly brandishing weapons to hurt people and other creatures is nothing but COWARDICE on the part of the school officials that would rather screw up a family’s lives than deal with problems as they actually do, or do not, present themselves.

  104. velobaby February 19, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    Julie here, and it’s my daughter whose friend is the boy in question. Thank you all for your comments, ideas, encouragement, and even misinterpretations. I have no problem with a rule against bringing pocket knives to school, but expulsion is obvious overkill in this situation. I have researched the CA Ed Code as well as the ACLU’s Guide to Discipline in CA Schools,

    It is clear that neither the school nor the district understood the legal definition for “brandishing” in this case.

    According to Penal Code 417PC:

    Simply drawing or exhibiting a weapon isn’t enough to justify a conviction for Penal Code 417 PC. In order for prosecutors to convict you of brandishing a weapon or firearm, you must do so in a rude, angry, or threatening manner.

    This means that if you are merely joking, “showing off”, or even educating another person about your weapon, you aren’t guilty of brandishing a weapon.

    I have also researched the legal definition of who is responsible for kids on campus after school is out. The National Policy and Legal Analysis Network pamphlet on this subject says:

    There is no mandatory duty imposed on schools for injuries or other damages that occur to people who use school property outside of official school activities or the school day. Provided that the activity occurs before or after school, and not as part of organized school or extracurricular activities, a school has no mandatory duty to supervise—and no statutory liability under the Act. (This refers to the Tort Claims Act)

    So the school had no responsibility or even authority to take action. This was just kids playing after school

    Hopefully these will result in a speedy exoneration. But if not, I’m hoping to solicit more media to bring attention and sanity to the case.

  105. Donna February 19, 2012 at 1:51 pm #


    I hate to say it but I think this is one instance where you may need a little life experience behind you other than 21 years, no parenting and what appears to be a rural upbringing.

    8 year olds forget all sorts of things in their pockets. It is par for the course. If a child has a pocket knife, there is a likelihood that he will eventually accidentally carry it somewhere it’s not supposed to be. My office has represented dozens of cases in which nobody believes the bringing of the object to school was anything other than a pure accident. Such is life with children. Accidentally carrying a knife to school and then doing nothing with it should not be treated the same as bringing a knife to school and threatening others with it. Something this boy did not do under any reading of the facts during school hours.

    The kid didn’t bring a machete to school nor do I expect that an 8 year old’s pocket knife is in pristine condition and razor sharp. A 3 inch pocket knife in the hands of an 8 year old is not going to kill anyone. I suppose a Navy Seal could strike in a major artery dead on with it but an 8 year old boy would need to be damn lucky to do such a thing. Kids don’t get 5 seconds of peace without an adult in school anymore and this is a young child. This kid would have to be MacGyver (80s US tv show) to even cause stitches before he was disarmed.

    And, yes, a harsh penalty deserves a showing of intent. Quietly keeping a pocket knife in your pocket all school day doesn’t match the punishment of refusing to educate the child for a whole year. There is no indication that this boy was a troublemaker, was picked on or had any desire to threaten other students, and he did not do so with the knife during school hours. Nobody even knew the knife was on school property until an hour after school. There is also no indication that this boy had issues with this girl such that brandishing a knife at her makes sense. In fact, “brandishing” is a big word for an 8 year old so I imagine it came from Mom who was not even present during the alleged “brandishing.” And he showed it to a GROUP of friends, only one of which claims a “brandishing.” There is ample evidence to believe the word of the boy as to what happened.

    Further, nobody is arguing that a child needs a pocket knife at school! I don’t think anyone has said that a rule against pocket knives is stupid, wrong, invalid or overprotective. I don’t want kids at my child’s school having knives, not because they are weapons, but because kids are prone to doing stupid things when in groups of other kids (and kids around here DO carry machetes). But that doesn’t mean that a child who does nothing with a pocket knife should be expelled from school, just like a kid who brings a gun and points it at his teacher. It does not mean that a parent should be forced to quit a job to homeschool the child for a year or end up in jail themselves – because the child is REQUIRED to still be educated in some fashion although not allowed in school. It does not mean that the child should be a year behind and be required to redo 3rd grade if his parents, who don’t want to homeschool, didn’t adequate educate him. People are outraged by the PUNISHMENT not the RULE.

  106. Jenny Islander February 19, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    Appropriate punishment;

    Girl who was taught to be so afraid of blades that she reported another kid for showing her his pocket knife: A talking-to over milk and cookies about what is and is not dangerous and a plain explanation that sharp pieces of metal do not take over people’s minds and make them do stuff. If she has a phobia, desensitization therapy.

    Parents or whoever taught her to be so scared, assuming that she doesn’t have a phobia: Ditto.

    Boy who brought knife to school: “The next time you bring that knife to school, don’t take it out or we will put it in the office and your parent can come get it when s/he has the time.” This was the rule later on in my primary school career because of the epidemic of people sprinkling the floor with pencil shavings (guilty) and carving on desks (not guilty). I still brought my pocket knife, I just ate around the apple spots and gave up if my banana squooshed before I could open it.

    Cop: Fire him. Somebody who would threaten a little kid with death has no business holding a firearm. Or put him on desk duty forever.

    School authorities who enacted zero tolerance policy: Make up some cockamamie rule and enforce it on THEM with zero tolerance. Coffee is dangerous to small children. You must have NO COFFEE in the presence of children! Coffee on your breath counts! Three strikes and yer OUT!

  107. sue February 19, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    oh you brought a round ended serrated knife to school becaise you can’t stab or slash with it? wanna bet? and if the boy say had brought a cake to school[the next item to be banned ] with such a knife the same crap would have fallen on him. i grew up in the 70’s on long island ,there were race riots at the high school the jh had a razor wire fence around it and still “tools” were not banned,of course there was always the danger but teachers and aides monitered instead of just standing there. any cofrontation[or attempted mugging]would immediatly been stopped. and yes we had moniters in the bathrooms.sorry you grew up in such a school,but i have to ask why the parents and teachers didn’t do more to prevent the psycho behavior of a minority. since it apparently has left you so scarred you can not think rationally i will try to take this into consideration.

  108. CrazyCatLady February 20, 2012 at 12:46 am #

    Granted, I am not in CA, which has its own set of interesting laws, but my kids are enrolled in an ALE here in WA (like a charter school) and they attend classes one day a week there.

    Currently my daughter in 6th grade is taking a cooking class. They are in the kitchen and have access to lots of large knives and use said knives on occasion. My son, 1st grade, was in a class about different cultures last semester. The kids made soup, and goodness gracious, cut up some herbs and vegetables with knives that were about 12 inches long. There was one parent, and one teacher. The adults could not be with every kid every second.

    Now my worry….my kids do have pockets knives that I got for them for (gasp) school. They used them to carve items out of soap, and will be moving to other things as well. (I would like to make some flutes, but we will see.) My youngest has taken to putting his knife in those Velcro pants pockets and I only find them when I am doing the wash and they clunk on the machine. I THINK that the principal at our school would not overreact – would hand said knife to me and tell me to put it in the car. In the past when my son and a friend were doing Star Wars style shooting of each other in the hall with “guns” made from counting blocks, he just smiled at them and told them to stop running. I am pretty sure he would take intent into consideration. The school where we do speech therapy…. that is a different issue and I think that they would throw the book at us. As homeschoolers they didn’t like it that we were there, and it took a while just to get some seats at a table so that the kids not doing therapy could do their school work. If the knife accidentally came into view, the proverbial shit could hit the fan.

  109. Sarah February 20, 2012 at 12:48 am #

    Julie, I quite agree with your brandishing comment, and had posted earlier about it. Note that it may come down to a “he said/she said” issue, if the little girl did feel threatened by it (which she may have done, after all).

    I’m not so sure about the school’s responsibility or authority to take action for kids playing after school.

    I think they do have the *authority* to take action for kids playing on the school ground, after school, and would urge caution if you’re trying to argue that.

    Basically: what is the burden of proof should they wish to expel an 8 year old for “brandishing” a knife? It’s not whether or not he’s caught with you – acknowledge and apologize for him bringing the knife. It’s whether or not he was threatening some one with it.

  110. Lollipoplover February 20, 2012 at 2:09 am #

    “Again, please provide me with an explanation as to why a child SHOULD be carrying a to school.”

    My son bikes to school every day. He is the “fixer” of his group of friends, and very mechanically inclined. Probably once a week, someone pops a chain (usually riding over a curb to avoid a crash). He can use his hands and ruin his gloves with grease, OR he can use the swiss army knife to put the chain back on quite nicely. He leaves it in the bike bag that holds his bike lock. But if he were to accidentally bring it into school, do you honestly think he should be expelled?

  111. Puzzled February 20, 2012 at 2:14 am #

    The way we treat our kids is a miniature of the type of society we envision. I am horrified at the Sera-like reaction of “ooh, that’s dangerous – ban it!” That is not how a free people behaves – and can we teach our kids about freedom in schools that are run more like totalitarian countries?

    Furthermore, not allowing knives in school just means that when they graduate, they are unprepared for yet another real-world situation.

  112. danvitaleDan Vitale February 20, 2012 at 6:12 am #

    Back in the old days practically every man, and most boys, carried a pocket knife. But that was before television, video games, child worship, and absentee parenting. We live in a stupid society, expect stupid things to happen.

  113. J.T. Wenting February 20, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    ” Prime example of the obscene panic that is clouding our judgment today. Funny thing, but it used to be that almost every boy carried a pocket knife everywhere, including to school, and most amazingly there were not rivers of blood in the halls. ”

    Only time I got hurt in school by a blade was when I accidentally cut myself with a pencil sharpener I’d disassembled to remove a blockage (disassembled with the tip of my Swiss Army knife I always carried with me from the age of about 7 to this day except where legally barred (like airliners)).

    Pretty much everyone had one, noone ever thought to use it for something more serious than cleaning his fingernails or cutting a piece of cardboard.

    If a school (district) has such serious problems with kids assaulting each other and staff they have to institute such blanket bans and file criminal charges against any kids who as as much as a fruit knife with him, they should reconsider their existence and install metal detectors with armed guards at every door and in every classroom, ban kids from having pencils and pens (which can be used to poke at people, causing horrific wounds).
    Any school like that I’d also automatically disqualify as a suitable location to get my kids an education.

  114. Diane S. February 21, 2012 at 6:50 am #

    Re: a tool – a pencil can be lethal – this happened in Houston – “girl stabbed through heart survives”.. .what happened? she fell on a sharpened pencil.

    Growing up, think most of us had pocketknives, and we ranged in age from 6 to 10. The worst thing that happened was someone had to use theirs to get the big splinter out of my leg from sliding down a big plank of plywood up against someone’s house. They do come in handy.

  115. Diane S. February 21, 2012 at 6:51 am #

    Oh – and Sera – YES a flathead screwdriver WILL break skin. Along with pens, pencils and anything that remotely comes to anything close to a point. I know this from life.

  116. Diane S. February 21, 2012 at 6:53 am #

    oh. by the way, a plain table knife (without serrations WILL pierce skin. I found this out the hard way …and called my mother, who promptly started laughing and telling me “I was right – you should not have licked the peanut butter off the knife like I told you”. took 2 stitches 😐

  117. MissJean February 21, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    I’m not sure why you all have ganged up on Sera about the reality of the day.
    In my father’s hometown, kids carried their BB guns to school and checked them into the office. That was true until the ’70s. Now they can’t carry them into town BECAUSE SOME IDIOTS SHOT AT CHURCH WINDOWS AND CARS on their way to school.

    Yes, I’m all-capping.

    In the ’80s and ’90s, my hometown school still had open campus because students walked to other buildings for automotive, botany, and work-training at nearby businesses. It went closed-campus after the increase in skipping, lunchtime vandalism and parents freaking out that the “school wasn’t watching my kids” when the kids were caught shoplifting and/or reckless driving during school hours.

    I think if the vast majority of the students are responsible, you get schools like mine: Our principal used to say that the students enforced their own discipline and came up with great ideas for assemblies, “spirit” events, and field trips. But it reaches a tipping point after the first or second incident of bad behavior, particularly when the responsibility gets pushed back on the teacher or the principal. For example, just off the top of my head:

    – My youngest nephews never had a class trip to Disney World because the school could no longer sanction it after incidents in which 1) students went off on their own and got involved in illegal activities and 2) chaperoning PARENTS supplied teens with alcohol.

    – My old high school biology teacher stopped keeping animals for observation after 1) a “disturbed” student used a pencil to blind a turtle and 2) a couple “good” kids tortured chicks to death while he was helping a sick student get to the office.

    As for Sue’s comment about racerioting in the ’70s: If a student stabbed a teacher back then in the ’70s, would he/she have been allowed to return to that school? That’s what’s really messed up about today’s society, and school along with it. Despite there being zero-tolerance of weapons and such, there’s a high tolerance for unrepentant thugs who are underaged. There’s also a whole other set of rules for special ed students, making them very hard to expell despite threats and violence. The kid who jumped my neighbor’s son (who suffered brain damage) is still attending the same middle school and there’s no chance of compensation for medical bills, since the kid’s family (such as it is) is one of those multi-generation screw-up sorts.

  118. Mombo February 21, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    I’m less worried about the pocketknife than I am the demise of the adverb. Could we all please start putting -ly at the end of our adverbs again? And please, please, enough with the “on accident” phrase. How did it happen? It happened accidentally, not on accident. Thank you. I feel better now.

  119. sue February 21, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    miss jean..if a student had stabbed a teacher ,no they would not be back in school. are you suggesting that the boy stabbed the girl or that showing the knife is the same as stabbing? both are equally ridiculous. punishment needs to fit the crime,not be one size fits all. in your nephew’s case one size fits all was applied,instead of punishing the guilty parties[because everyone in guilty til proven innocent?]. in the animal cruelty case what happened to the students? were they punished[ suspension, expulsion, criminal prosecution, mental health help] be cause that is not by any definition normal behavior. again all are denied interation with those animals because of the assumption that they all will act that way[one size fits all, etc]. if society had as a whole such zero tolerance rules any infringement would be probably death or a life sentence[ great for population control but a perfect way to end a society within a generation].

  120. Douglas John Bowen February 21, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    My son made the mistake of carrying his pocketknife to school one day. Fortunately, he discovered same as we were both walking to school/work (he wanted the company). If I had thought more quickly or thoroughly, I would have taken the knife off his hands; as it was, I simply instructed, “Do NOT show this to your friends while in school. Keep it IN YOUR POCKET.” He did, and all went well. Later on, inquiring, I found that the school faculty, while probably not happy with the prospect, would have asked my son to surrender the knife for the day, returned it at day’s end, and contacted the parents just to close the loop (and, perhaps, offer a gentle reminder to discourage the action). Still cautious, but more reasonable than the situation above, which I hope can be resolved with some rationality.

  121. a_random_guy February 22, 2012 at 2:31 am #

    Any knife that is sharp enough to properly stab or slash a person – and pocket knives most often fall into this category – absolutely does not belong in the hands of children at school.

    Why not? I have carried a pocket knife as long as I can remember – probably starting out in the cub scouts. A pocket knife is a tool, not a weapon. It’s no more a weapon than a hammer, a screwdriver, an eating knife, or for that matter a rock.

    This sort of ridiculous paranoia is destroying our society.

    The key question here is this: did the kid truly threaten or attack the girl? If so, his behavior deserved a reprimand or punishment. If not, there is no problem. Whether he had a pocket knife, a rock, or only a fist is irrelevant – the behavior is decisive.

  122. MissJean February 22, 2012 at 3:32 am #

    Sue, I’m not suggesting that the boy stabbed the girl AT ALL. What I will re-iterate is that the pendulum has shifted to the point that schools are more concerned with preventing incidents than in being flexible when incidents arrive. In the animal cruelty cases, the former student was removed from class and sent to counseling. In the latter, the “good” students’ were suspended and then the parents hired lawyers to challenge it being on their records, started a smear campaign against the biology teacher (who had left his first wife for a former co-worker), and generally made the teachers and administration in that school take the path of least resistance.

    By the way, how did you get from suspension/expulsion to death sentences? I think a much better analogy would be this: Schools used to have a fairly basic restrictions on personal dress; e.g. no short shorts or tank tops in the hot months, no T-shirts with beer, drugs or lewd slogans on them. Now they have lengthly, specific dresscodes that include everything from no pajamas to no tube tops. Why is that? One of my best friends attended an Arizona high school in the late ’90s and they had “no tube tops” at any school events – and specifically mentioned not only for students but parents, too.

    “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen Grandma attending graduation with her apendix operation scar showing,” she told me.

    So the tipping point in her school was basically that grown adults had no sense of decorum or decent behavior was no longer the norm, so then the school (or the state/federal government for the “zero tolerance” and tobacco-on-school-grounds laws) is basing the rules on the lowest common denominator.

    I’m not saying I like it. I wish my nephews could have enjoyed a trip with all their classmates, working together at fundraising and anticipating it all year, the way their older siblings did.

  123. sue February 22, 2012 at 6:51 am #

    i lead to death sentance or life imprisonment as a point to show how stupid zero tolerance is and where it leads little by little. slowly rights are being taken away
    ” for the common good”
    since apparently non government people are too stupid to live their own lives[sarcasm on high]
    years agao there was a show on tv,i think it was called max headroom or soimething. the thing was it showed survalence cameras in every room of every home and buisness. we all laughed at how impossible such a thing was. but now i’m very afraid that is where we are heading.

  124. Jane W. February 22, 2012 at 7:50 am #

    @MissJean, How do the stupid actions of some people translate into punishments and new rules for everyone? How about we just deal with the offenders, and let everyone else live their lives? What you are citing is, again, zero tolerance in action. So someone dresses badly – deal with the individuals making a poor choice. So several people behave badly on a class trip – punish them, not the people who come after who have done nothing wrong. You talk about a “first or second incident of bad behavior” – how about punishing those responsible? Make the culprits accountable for their behavior, not the rest of society. All that, “What if?” And, “But someone else did it one time!” – if you let these thoughts take the place of common sense, society becomes a rigid and – to my mind – miserable place to live.

  125. tm February 22, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    You know, clearly, there isn’t enough security in this situation. You see, the school and its district should be doing much, much more, and the district leaders should set the example:
    Every district board member needs to go through a TSA style security checkpoint, governed by whatever rules the TSA actually enforces at nearby San Jose Airport when they enter the district buildings for their meetings. After all, we’re talking about our children! That’s much more important than mere aviation safety, or heaven forbid that boring automotive safety stuff.
    That’s right, district board members must remove their coats and shoes, walk through at least a metal detector or full body scanner, and for the love of Pete must not have any weapons (or anything the TSA deems a threat). And yes, Mr/Mrs Board Member, that includes your Starbucks tall skinny tall latte. Have you tasted that stuff? Into the trash that goes, it’s for your own good. And your hand sanitizer too. Never can be too careful, highly educated board members might know how to turn that into a high explosive in the sink when combined with the liquid soap. You remember “Fight Club”, right? Anyone who talks back or complains also gets to experience the Constitution-free zone nature of the TSA checkpoint. But that’s ok, giving the screening agent lip could send you on an all expenses trip to any number of undisclosed locations around the world, where one can witness firsthand the fine work of our best intelligence agents using their best enhanced conversation techniques.
    I think a few bake sales should be able fund this valuable security initiative, since, you can never be too careful!

    Yeah. Expelling a kid over a he-said/she-said thing and the cop threatening to shoot him? I’d say good luck fighting these institutions, because that’s a big fight to pick, even with the help of the media. It’s probably time for this mom to consider some sort of homeschooling for her children, because if she starts something with this district, they’ll mark her and her kids as troublemakers and they’ll never get a fair shake.

  126. CrazyCatLady February 23, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    Today, I had to get the tiny little disk out of my cell phone. I was wishing I had my husband’s pocket knife with the tweezers so I could easily do this. Or even the small knife to pick at the end of the disk with.

    Right, all knives are dangerous. They have no use – my husband needed photos for work and the only way I could get them to him was by removing that disc and emailing as we live in a no cell tower area.

  127. Jan February 23, 2012 at 7:03 pm #

    I just read the story. Where did this happen? Does CA stand for Communist Affiliates? Americans do not go that way.

  128. Mombo February 24, 2012 at 2:27 am #

    I work in an elementary school that serves preschool through 1st grade students. One day a first grader came to school and realized too late he had his pocket knife with him. He gave it to his teacher who turned it over to the principal who called the dad and asked him to come to school to pick up the knife. Dad did and apologized. His son had been out with him when they were feeding cattle and they were using their knives to open hay bales. His son had left his knife in his jeans pocket and forgot to take it out before school. Our principal’s husband used to raise cattle – she understood. There was never another incident of forgetting with this student and the way our principal handled it was good PR with that family. Obviously these parents have done a good job of raising an honest, responsible young man. We all forget sometimes. A little common sense goes a long way.

  129. hineata February 24, 2012 at 2:59 am #

    Sorry, I still don’t see a big issue with carrying pocket knives around. Whittling, among other things, is great fun, and they are marvellous tools. We were always taught not to try to use them as weapons anyway, because it is easy to misjudge the strength of your opponent and have them turned against you.

    I can see the point of banning them if you have a major violence issue at your high school, or of banning them for certain pupils at primary school, but really as I’ve said before, anything can be made into a weapon. At the school my son now goes to, a bunch of boys terrorised the junior high for about a month at the end of one year, and among other things they took a cheese grater to one boy’s legs.(This particular school got nationwide bad press, and over a number of years has implemented a bunch of policies that now make it a relatively bully-free environment….). No knives involved.

    Donna I was interested to hear the Samoan kids still carry around machetes. Is that for bushwhacking? My husband carried one around in Malaysia on a semi-regular basis as a kid – it made it easier to get through the jungle to visit his mates.

  130. Jack February 24, 2012 at 3:45 am #

    Seems like the kid showed good judgement in keeping it in his pocket all day. A lot of adults with decent judgement could even make the mistake of thinking that something that is banned in school would not be banned in the schoolyard after school has been dismissed. An 8 year old? That’s an honest, reasonable mistake.

  131. Donna February 24, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    Hineata – Kids in Samoa don’t usually carry machetes around the streets but you definitely see kids with them. Machetes and bush knives are extremely common tools here. Every Samoan household will have at least one. They are used for yard upkeep (the whole island is a rain forest) and harvesting taro, pineapples, bananas and mangos and probably a million other things that I have no idea about. Since kids here do ample chores, kids learn to use the machete. I’m sure kids from plantation families learn how to wield them from birth. In many ways this island is very americanized (and not all good ways) and in others it’s a totally different culture. I can’t imagine parents in the states sending their kids out to do yard work with a machete.

  132. concerned_citizen February 26, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    This is all ‘he said, she said’. The original poster, whose daughter’s friend was accused, may not have the full story. I am familiar with the school and community and I have actually heard (and this is also he said, she said) that the child with the pocket knife actually told another child to give him something and threatened with the pocket knife. So whose ‘he said, she said’ story is correct? And how do we really know that a police officer threatened the boy with the pocket knife? Again, this is a story that has been posted by a mother who has a daughter (who was not at the scene with the pocket knife) whose friend has been expelled. Does this mother have the complete story? Many of the posters are laying blame on the school system and jumping to the conclusion that what the mother posted here is 100% correct – but do we really know for sure what happened? Isn’t this all a bunch of ‘he said, she said’?

  133. velobaby February 26, 2012 at 2:39 pm #


    It’s always a risk to rely on what kids say. This group of kids was scared once the mom sounded the alarm. Some of them have already admitted to lying. I am horrified that a child would be expelled and prosecuted on the basis of he-said/she-said heresay. That wouldn’t stand up in a regular court, but our district is willing to trust it. That should bother all of us.

  134. velobaby February 26, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    For anyone interested in petitioning CA to modify their Zero Tolerance policy, I’ve started a petition on (Thanks to a Free Range suggestion.)

    Every signature sends an email to our school board and representatives. Sorry the URL is so long. You can sign it here:

    Much appreciated.

  135. oli February 27, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    i am one of the boy’s best freind, he is a kind hearted fellow!

  136. Jp Merzetti February 27, 2012 at 7:32 am #

    oh my. An 8 year-old, with a pocketknife.
    Years from now he’ll get to try to explain to his grandchildren….

    – that a boy scout (cubs as preparation) used to carry one, in order to aid and assist in all the things taught to be prepared for.
    – that generations of kids who used to carve initials in venerable desks, are gone and forgotten, and never replaced. (the desks aren’t wood anymore, anyhow.)
    – that since time immemorial, dashing young courtiers would carve the name of their beloved, in a heart, on a tree trunk.

    And that these things were done to preserve memories…in the world of childhood, and passed on to those who would come after. And that human wisdom decided this wasn’t important, anymore.

  137. 20sd February 27, 2012 at 8:48 am #

    How many more of these stories do we need before schools finally stop with the zero-tolerance idiocy? Innocent kids who would otherwise never hae gotten in serious trouble in their lives keep having their lives derailed over idiocy.

  138. name whose u do not need to know February 27, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    everything in articles are always over exaggerated and he said what happened and is one of the sweetest little boys i know.

  139. Ron Fedkiw February 28, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    Welcome to the nanny state.

    “The elite think they can manage your life better than you can… What we find that when the government tells you they’re going to give you rights, they’re going to tell you how to exercise those rights.”

    Keep voting Democrat, you deserve what you get!

  140. Steve February 29, 2012 at 1:13 am #

    My kids go to Cumberland and I have 2 issues with this whole situation:

    1)Zero Tolerance= Zero Thought. A boy forgets about something banned at school and accidentally brings it to school because it was left in his pants or backpack. I know my boy wears the same pants for many days and never checks his pockets. It is a boy thing. He gets expelled. It does not matter if he threatened someone, said hmm what is this in my pocket and pulls it out to see what it is and gets caught by a teacher or if he discovers it and gives it to a teacher. In all 3 situations the result is the same. The first situation deserves severe punishment, the second very little if any punishment and the third situation the boy should be commended, not expelled. There is no way to do the right thing with Zero Tolerance.

    2)The action happened after school. What happens after school while not at a school activity or function is NOT a school issue. Period. I don’t care if it happened on school grounds, it is after school and not an issue for the school. If the boy did not get caught with it during school hours, then there should be no repercussions from school. (see point 1 – there is no good way out of the mistake – turning it in means expulsion). The principal could have notified the police if the girl’s mom pushed it, but it was after school and his only role should be mediation. Question: At what time do school rules and punishments end? Zero tolerance enforcement implies school rules are enforced 24/7 for the entire school year and in some cases year round. I read about kids getting expelled from school for activities on weekends away from school properties/activities. A kid throws a party at his parent’s house and gets expelled. NO! Away from school, after school hours means the school has no rights to punish. The only exception is if the boy broke a team rule and it is understood what the team rules are. Then he can be kicked off the team, but not from school.

    Zero Tolerance does not allow those involved to review the situation and intent. There is a big difference between bringing something to school with the intent to threaten or scare someone vs. discovering something and turning it in. The first should be punished, the second should be commended. With Zero Tolerance the results are the same.

  141. Dan June 2, 2012 at 3:56 am #

    Ridiculous, ignorant, liberal pundits and conservative demigods; these elitist groups believe that the average American lacks common sense and thus needs someone a group or organization to make decisions for our own good.They have an agenda! My daughter wore a shirt with an image of a revolver the school made her turn it inside out, a SHIRT! However, turn on the TV or any other media device and look at the violence that completely in gulfs every sense of our beings. Freedom only comes from ethical leaders using common sense to make desisions.

  142. LaserCutter June 3, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

    Sera is an IDIOT and a collectivist statist FOOL! Generations of American children carried pocket knives to school and used them responsibly. Then the fools like Sera began to embrace collectivism and attack individualism and throw the Bible out of school, and teach the lies of Evolutionism, which naturally create violent kids who hate everyone and abuse their rights. Sera you are a low life and an idiot.

    Here is a REAL intelligent response

    ” I grew up in rural northern Michigan in the 1940’s. In our one-room school (Kindergarten thru 9th Grade), every boy was required to have a knife on him: he was not allowed to use the pencil sharpener (which was for Girls). The teacher would say sarcastically, “Oh sure, when your lead breaks while you are out in the field, you just use the pencil sharpener you find on every fence-post!” Schools are different today.

    My wife and I lived (and worked) in Mexico for almost a decade. She tried to deal with Mexicans as though they were Americans. So every time we were invited to somebody’s home for dinner (very often, and delicious), we took a bottle of wine. Of course, nobody (wine had not really entered the Mexican culture yet) ever had a corkscrew! Mexicans, famously inventive, would go get a screw, screwdriver and Vicegrip pliers, and the cork was extracted, albeit laboriously. So I took to carrying a Swiss Army Knife (Victorinox) with a corkscrew. (I lost that knife in an airport last year, in the way described in the essay; I was heartbroken.)”

    To read this comment and more go to:

  143. Tawana Rhoney January 23, 2013 at 5:12 am #

    Greetings, can any one highly recommend a way to stop this webpage from displaying a javascript error in IE9? Thanks


  1. School Insanity: A Warning From Canada… | Ethics Alarms - February 26, 2012

    […] yet, perhaps, but this did: in Cumberland Elementary School in Sunnyvale, California, a third grader  accidentally brought his pocket knife to school, having left it in his pants  […]

  2. Unsympathetic Public School Burns Two Girls Alive, Pathetically Hides Behind Liberal-Based Law « The Neosecularist - June 25, 2012

    […] to their skin to prevent being burnt alive by the intense heat of the sun; or otherwise have a zero tolerance policy towards anything they deem to be a threat to their overall control and manipulation over the students, without […]