Earlier this month, a Delaware first-grader was facing 45 days in an alternative school as punishment for taking his favorite camping utensil to school, a Cub Scout tool which includes a knife, fork, and spoon built into a Swiss Army-style implement.
To the six year old boy, it is his favorite gadget, and his parents report that he eats breakfast and dinner with it every day. School officials, however, saw it as a weapon and took what they considered to be appropriate action under the school’s zero tolerance policy on bringing weapons onto school grounds. The youngster was suspended and became the center of a debate over just where we draw the line in the need to keep children safe. Calmer heads prevailed and the school board reversed its decision and allowed him to return to class.
Did the school overreact? I think so. But where should they start reacting?
I can remember Show and Tell when I was in grade school, and one of my classmates brought in a surplus World War II bayonet that his father kept in the garage. I don’t know if he was disciplined for it, but I don’t think so. I don’t remember a SWAT team being called in.
Back when I was a youngster every boy I knew, and most of the men too, carried a pocket knife. Mine lived in the pocket of my blue jeans and went with me to school, church, and everywhere else I went. Nobody expected me to whip it out and disembowel my teacher or go on a rampage in my classroom.
In fact, I can remember one favorite teacher, Mr. King, who was always borrowing one of the boys’ knives for one thing or another. At Christmas, the fifth grade class pooled our money and we presented him with a nice three bladed Old Timer pocket knife. I remember the brand, because I was the one selected to go to the hardware store and purchase it. While I was there I picked up a couple of boxes of .22 Long Rifle ammunition for my single shot Stevens. The store clerk didn’t reach for the phone to call 911, he just rang up my purchase and turned to the next customer.
In today’s post-Columbine world, I understand that we have to have different rules. We’ve all seen enough news coverage of school shootings to know we must take the threat to our children seriously. But where do we draw the line? Somewhere between a Cub Scout with his camping knife and a punk with an AR-15 under his trench coat, there has to be a place where reasonable caution and common sense cross paths. Where is that place?
Tags: .22 Long Rifle ammunition, alternative school, AR-15, camping knife, church, classmates, classroom rampage, Columbine school shooting, Cub Scout, Cub Scout knife, Delaware, favorite teacher, fifth grade class, grade school, keep children safe, Old Timer pocket knife, pocketknife, punishment, school, school board, School officials, school safety, school security, SWAT team, Swiss Army knife, weapon, weapons on school grounds, World War II bayonet, zero tolerance policy