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Honor Student Suspended for Swiss Army Knife in Car

What has happened to common sense? According to WGY and Fox News, an Honor Student at upstate New York's Lansingburgh High School, Matthew Whalen, has been suspended for twenty days for having a two-inch pocket knife in a locked kit in his car.

Accoding to Fox:

Lansingburgh High has a zero-tolerance policy, and when school officials discovered that Whalen kept his knife locked in his car, he says, they suspended him for five days -- and then tacked on an additional 15 after a hearing.

Let me point some things out: one, Whalen has never been in trouble with the law. Two, he is an honor student in good standing. Three, he has gone through basic training for the military. Four, he is credited with saving a person's life. Five, he is an Eagle Scout. In other words, he is not a trouble student and there seems that nothing warranted the search of his locked car.

More from Fox:

Whalen said he doesn't know who might have said he was carrying a knife, but he was open with school officials.

"And they said, 'Do you own a knife?' I said, 'Yes, I'm a soldier and an Eagle Scout -- I own a knife.'

"And they were like, 'Well, is it in your car or anything?' And I told them, 'Yeah, it's in my car right now.'

"And they asked me to show it to them. I didn't realize it was going to be a problem. I knew it wasn't illegal -- my police chief grandfather gave the knife to me."

This sort of thing is disgusting, really. Clearly this kind of over-policing and Zero Tolerance is ridiculous. There is some good news, however, Whalen has hired a lawyer to defend him.


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Comments (45)

Hell, anything posted by th... (Below threshold)
epador:

Hell, anything posted by that right-wing arm of the Republican Party is just propaganda, right?

The only way to have Zero T... (Below threshold)

The only way to have Zero Tolerance in most schools is to start with Zero Brains.

Go after a good kid, but so... (Below threshold)
mag:

Go after a good kid, but some trouble making student (especially is he is a minority) they would be falling over backwards to make excuses and help the "poor" kid".
It's like stories you heard about child abuse, where a child is horribly abuse and yet the courts sent the child back to the abuser....but carry a pack of cigarettes in you pocket while walking with your child will get the child taken from you. It makes no sense.
How did we let these idiots get in charge?
Right about now I like to see these people in charge get the ---- kicked out of them.


I do hope this young man sues the hell out of them......

Best part is - the school d... (Below threshold)
Roy:

Best part is - the school doesn't even have a published zero tolerance policy.

What part of "zero" in "Zer... (Below threshold)
Steve Green:

What part of "zero" in "Zero Tolerance" isn't clear?

I don't get it - conservatives used to be on he side of law and order - now that's no longer the case.

In the military there is a ... (Below threshold)
JustRuss:

In the military there is a Zero Tolerance drug policy. I saw many people kicked out for it but in those cases they expected you to hold yourself to a higher standard than normal. They would not kick you out if you had traces of Marijuana that could be from second hand smoke, but if you claimed the second hand smoke theory they would tell you "That means you sat around in a closed room with a bunch of people smoking pot and you didn't get up and leave. We still don't want you."

I don't like most Zero Tolerance Policies but that one worked well.

On the other hand in schools like this Zero Tolerance seems to mean "I don't have to make a judgement based on the merit of the case" in other words they are lazy and they do not want to be sued for possibly punishing a minority more harshly than a white kid.

In fact wasn't there a story not long ago about an inner city school that was going to a policy where minorities would be punished LESS HARSHLY than white counterparts because otherwise the stats looked like racial profiling?

The time is long passed when we should allow the color of a persons skin to affect ANY decision regarding them. This country is past Racism and the only people who are interested in keeping it around, are the minorities who are benefiting from it, and the politicians who get minority votes by enacting or promoting minority entitlement programs like Affirmative Action.

Do these people not listen to MLKjr? Content of Character! Content of Character! NOT the color of their skin!

Affirmative Action is racist

Stuck on stupid thought pol... (Below threshold)
914:

Stuck on stupid thought police tactics are nanny State Obama Alinski inspired.

The real crime here isn't t... (Below threshold)

The real crime here isn't that a obviously, even to a blind person, unfair, can I say unconstitutional, policy, I wonder if is a law, was applied to an upstanding, law abiding citizen. They took advantage of the inexperience of this young man.

I hope two thing happen, this young man layers up like brick wall and the next time an authority figure asks him to show them the evidence or search his property he says no.

America's beautiful liberal... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

America's beautiful liberal education system at work. "We don't have to think, we just look in a book and read our policy".

SG: "I don't get it - conse... (Below threshold)
Drago:

SG: "I don't get it - conservatives used to be on he side of law and order - now that's no longer the case."

Shorter SG (and liberals): "Throw the honor student, never been in trouble with the law, most likely West Point bound student into suspension! And FREE MUMIA!!!!"

So now on top of Obamas mis... (Below threshold)
914:

So now on top of Obamas misery index, My kids have to endure rules for pantywaists as a school policy? Sorry boy's, this is not the world or country I thought You would grow up in.

Steve Green: "I don't get i... (Below threshold)
Drago:

Steve Green: "I don't get it - conservatives used to be on he side of law and order - now that's no longer the case."

Uh, from the article: ""They brought a cop in, who told them 'he's not breaking any laws, so I can't charge him with anything.'"

Gee Steve, what other non-lawbreaking penalties should we throw at this hardened criminal?

Steve Green: Did you bothe... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

Steve Green: Did you bother to read the whole story?

"The school district's policy lists "Possessing a weapon" under "examples of violent conduct," which "may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including suspension from school.""

A) The policy is obscure; "Possessing a weapon." Does that mean owning a weapon? Having a weapon in one's pocket? Or having a 2-inch knife locked in your car?

B) "may be subject to ..." Got that? "May be...." That means there is room for discretion - a judgment call.

So cut the sanctimonious clap-trap.

JR: "In fact wasn't there a... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

JR: "In fact wasn't there a story not long ago about an inner city school that was going to a policy where minorities would be punished LESS HARSHLY than white counterparts..."
-

That may have been the Tucson schools:

" schools create race-based system of discipline

by Doug MacEachern - Sept. 19, 2009 08:22 PM
The Arizona Republic

It has been a busy summer for our friends running the Tucson Unified School District."

---(snip)--

"The board approved creating an "Equity Team" that will oversee the plan to ensure "a commitment to social justice for all students."

The happy-face edu-speak notwithstanding, what the Tucson Unified School District board of governors has approved this summer is a race-based system of discipline.

Offenses by students will be judged, and penalties meted out, depending on the student's hue..."

Liberals inciting racial divisions. Where will it end?

This whole ZERO TOLERENCE s... (Below threshold)
Flu-Bird:

This whole ZERO TOLERENCE should be completly abolished its getting so rediculous and silly no wonder our schools are failing

"This whole ZERO TOLERENCE ... (Below threshold)
914:

"This whole ZERO TOLERENCE should be completly abolished its getting so rediculous and silly no wonder our schools are failing"

Our schools are failing because the same jizzwad liberals that are such a success in running prosperity away from blue controlled citys, are the same nutjobs in control of so called education/ indoctrination in public desecration.

I'm almost positive that in... (Below threshold)
JustRuss:

I'm almost positive that in order for it to be called a "weapon" it has to be "designed to cause serious bodily harm".

If indeed the school states that it must be a weapon then they are SoL anyway. That 2inch Pocket Knife only becomes a "Dangerous Instrument" at best and only when used to attack/harm/threaten another person.

I don't have a problem with... (Below threshold)
Steve Green:

I don't have a problem with "Zero Tolerance", in fact I think it's a good idea.

Where the problem lies is in the "one punishment fits all" approach taken by some rigid school boards.

NO weapons of any type should be allowed, but the circumstances should be taken into account when it comes to issuing the punishment.

"ZERO TOLERANCE" for knives etc does not mean "ZERO THOUGHT" should be given to the punishment.

"NO weapons of any type sho... (Below threshold)
914:

"NO weapons of any type should be allowed, but the circumstances should be taken into account when it comes to issuing the punishment."

The alledged weapon was not on the alledged offender. That being said. Where do We draw the line? Any physical material could and can be used as a weapon. Even marshmallows could be stuffed down Your throat to suffocate .

Thought intent is a dangerous road to go down.

Did I say Your? Oops, sorry.

When I was in HS, one of th... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

When I was in HS, one of the teachers was the leader of an Explorer post. Said post was also a school sponsored club. We went camping, hiking, spellunking, skiing, all kinds of stuff. And before and after trips we'd muster in the school parking lot. We had axes, knives, saws, hatchets, rock hammers and picks etc.
I can only imagine what would happen these days if someone tried to sponsor a similar group.

#18 Steve Green. Well, at l... (Below threshold)
DaveD:

#18 Steve Green. Well, at least you gave a relatively reasoned response instead of your earlier response written as just a cheap shot at conservatives. If you really believe what you wrote in #18 then it is not zero tolerance so you DO agree with many here. The problem is that what many gonadless male libs would consider a weapon might be a useful tool in the hands of a boy scout. A two inch pocket knife for example. When I was a kid almost every male friend I had owned one and actually carried it on occasion.

Brain, brain, brain, brain.... (Below threshold)

Brain, brain, brain, brain...

In other words, use it. A small knife locked in a car is hardly a serious threat. A sharpened pencil held during a moment of rage on the other hand...

Need any better reasons for... (Below threshold)
Flu-Bird:

Need any better reasons for home schooling? and eliminate the DEPT OF EDUCATION

Does this mean a baseball p... (Below threshold)
J.R.:

Does this mean a baseball player for the school could get expelled for locking his bat in his car? I mean the 36 in, 32oz. Easton I use to bring to school for practice and games could most likely do a lot more damage to someone than a 2 in. pocket knife.

"The alledged weapon was... (Below threshold)
Steve Green:

"The alledged weapon was not on the alledged offender. That being said. Where do We draw the line? Any physical material could and can be used as a weapon. Even marshmallows could be stuffed down Your throat to suffocate ."

Spoken like a true idiot. You should run for school board 914 - you're as dumb and as unthinking as the school board in question.

A marshmallow is not a weapon.

As to the weapon in question - a knife - it doesn't matter that it wasn't on the alleged offender, the restriction is no weapons on school grounds. That includes cars in the parking lot, lockers, etc.

A two inch pocket knife is a weapon. If you say it isn't does a 3 inch knife qualify? A four inch knife? Any knife is a weapon.

In your (collective, apparently somewhat feeble) minds, a marshmallow is weapon and a two-inch pocket knife isn't.

Maybe some of you folks need to go back to elementary school and start over. This isn't rocket science - it's really basic stuff.

The problem isn't in the zero tolerance policy, the problem is on the non-thinking knee-jerk, rigid mindset of people who think one punishment fits all - or that you can convince people that a marshmallow is a weapon but a knife isn't.

Zero tolerance policies are... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Zero tolerance policies are up to the local school board and who sits on that board is up to the local voters. Thing is, if you are going to have zero tolerance policies then you sure don't need 90K plus talent to enforce them. Just create a detailed list of policies and hire someone for 20K to administer them. Zero tolerance means zero judgment and that means it's a minimum wage job.

The school should properly ... (Below threshold)
Matt:

The school should properly define weapon. In many states the weapon status of a knife is based solely on blade length and/or type. In some states if a folding blade knife is 2" or less, it is not a weapon. If it is 2" but fixed, it could be a weapon etc. It varies state by state. When local law enforcement was called and the officer did not see a crime, the school would of been wiser to tell him to lock the kit up and not bring it back next time. The school really, really needs to adjust their rules system to take the ambiguity out of it. May Be pusnished is open for interpetation. The original reports also seem to suggest the school added extra punishment on because he was an honor student.

"Spoken like a true idiot. ... (Below threshold)
914:

"Spoken like a true idiot. You should run for school board 914 - you're as dumb and as unthinking as the school board in question.

A marshmallow is not a weapon."

So there was no thought behind questioning and searching Matthews car?? What are You like stoned or something?

Give Me a bag of Swiss Miss mini's and I bet You I could knock somebodys block off with them. Although i'd rather eat them.

Have you all noticed that l... (Below threshold)
Michael:

Have you all noticed that little Stevie Green always takes the contrary opinion no matter what the subject is. Now either he is just plain contrary or he is just an idiot. Me thinks the latter.

Steve Green: "Spoken like a... (Below threshold)
Drago:

Steve Green: "Spoken like a true idiot. You should run for school board 914 - you're as dumb and as unthinking as the school board in question. "

Hmmm, it takes a real rocket scientist like Steve Green to call someone else a true idiot.

BTW stevie, have you cleared up your previous confusion over Iraq and Iran?

I mean, I know it can be very confusing having two countries so close together with such similar names. I mean, it's just a consonant at the end. Easy to see how you might confuse them.

"Just create a detailed ... (Below threshold)
Steve Green:

"Just create a detailed list of policies and hire someone for 20K to administer them. Zero tolerance means zero judgment and that means it's a minimum wage job."

Naw, that's how things get screwed up.

Zero Tolerance is easy. No weapons on the school grounds. Period. You're punished if you bring any weapon onto school grounds, even if it's accidental.

But Zero Tolerance requires thinking through the punishment to make sure it fits.

That whole "thinking" thing seems to trip some folks up.

s green - "The problem ... (Below threshold)
Marc:

s green - "The problem isn't in the zero tolerance policy, the problem is on the non-thinking knee-jerk, rigid mindset of people who think one punishment fits all"

Well then, you speak of this schools admin.

And NOT of any of the comments offered by the conservative/right leaning people in this thread.

In that case, you've stated it.

Now piss-off!

Does this mean a basebal... (Below threshold)
Brock Samson:

Does this mean a baseball player for the school could get expelled for locking his bat in his car? I mean the 36 in, 32oz. Easton I use to bring to school for practice and games could most likely do a lot more damage to someone than a 2 in. pocket knife.

I challenge you to prove that! I nominate Steve Green as your test subject.

Steve, It still com... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Steve,
It still comes down to the definition of weapon. How many people would call a Swiss army knife a weapon? My Leatherman, which is properly defined as a tool, has a blade nearly twice as long as the standard SAK. Even the Gerber folding knife I carry is defined in most states as a tool, not a weapon. Aside from using it once as deterrence in the Philly subway system, opening boxes and the occasional bag of chips (I hate when they explode, I'd rather slice off the tops) is its main job.

I've seen knives and guns..... (Below threshold)
Joe Miller:

I've seen knives and guns...on TV...and I had a dream once about holding a butter knife...

Am I in trouble?

"Have you all noticed that ... (Below threshold)
John S:

"Have you all noticed that little Stevie Green always takes the contrary opinion no matter what the subject is..."

Stevie is a paid Obama troll. He's just new to the job.

It wasn't just the fact tha... (Below threshold)
Stan25:

It wasn't just the fact that this young man had a small knife in his possession and was in a locked survival kit that was locked in the trunk of his car, it was the fact that he was an eagle scout and a West Point candidate, that got him in hot water. We all know how much the liberal establishment loathes anything that teaches self reliance. Being an eagle scout does that in spades. That is what he is being punished for.

I don't get it - conserv... (Below threshold)
James Cloninger:

I don't get it - conservatives used to be on he side of law and order - now that's no longer the case.

I don't call an illegal search in a car on the side of "law and order". Next time, call a cop.

Jesus, all this for a Swiss Knife...locked in a car, in a glove compartment, in a parking lot.

You, sir, are a fucking idiot.

Brain, brain, brain, bra... (Below threshold)
James Cloninger:

Brain, brain, brain, brain...

...What is BRAIN?

/sorry, cheap Star Trek reference...

We all know how much the... (Below threshold)
James Cloninger:

We all know how much the liberal establishment loathes anything that teaches self reliance.

Or some fucking judgement or common sense.

I remember back in school when a kid got severely beaten with a loaded backpack...Time to ban the backpacks now, eh? Hope you can balance all those books on your two hands.

Ever poke yourself with a sharpen pencil? Now imagine intentionally driving it into someone's chest. No more pencils! Crayons only!

Stupid soft-headed, feel-good, do-nothing "adults". No judgement, common sense or discretion.

No wonder we have Obama.

And while were at it, all m... (Below threshold)
914:

And while were at it, all mechanics and auto classes as well as cooking 101 will have to be eliminated.. To many forged instruments to count in these classes.

Stevie Greenbonr, You consi... (Below threshold)
914:

Stevie Greenbonr, You consistently score in the low -s.. Give it up already.

""ZERO TOLERANCE" for kn... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

""ZERO TOLERANCE" for knives etc does not mean "ZERO THOUGHT" should be given to the punishment."

So "ZERO THOUGHT" is basically what went into your post at #5.

Now you want to try and be all "thoughtful." When in fact the biggest complaint here wasn't about whether a 2" knife can be construed as a weapon. It was about the lack of thought that went into the over-reactive punishment, which you apparently agree with most of us about.

So cram it, clown.

"When in fact the bigges... (Below threshold)
Steve Green:

"When in fact the biggest complaint here wasn't about whether a 2" knife can be construed as a weapon."

Of course it is a weapon. Ask the airport screeners.

And likewise on the cram thing.

"When in fact ... (Below threshold)
"When in fact the biggest complaint here wasn't about whether a 2" knife can be construed as a weapon.

Of course it is a weapon. Ask the airport screeners."

No, it isn't. New York state law doesn't consider it a weapon. I've been following this story pretty closely at my blog, Infinite Monkeys. Visit the blog and search for "Matthew Whalen." There are five or six posts. The Lansingburgh school authorities initially decided on a 5-day suspension. The superintendent, who judged the case after listening to the audiotape of an appeal hearing he couldn't be bothered to attend, added 15 days. So he had discretion and that's how he exercised it.

By the way, school zero-tolerance policies are a legacy of the 1994 Gun-Free Schools Act. Does anyone really believe that the states needed a federal law telling them there is no difference between a 14-year-old thug with a handgun in his backpack and an Eagle Scout with a two-inch Swiss Army knife in the glovebox of his car?




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