Fourth grader suspended for using broken pencil sharpener


9/12/08 will be remembered as the day we finally caught one of the bad guys -- a 4th grader with a broken pencil sharpener.

A 10-year-old Hilton Head Island boy has been suspended from school for having something most students carry in their supply boxes: a pencil sharpener.

The problem was his sharpener had broken, but he decided to use it anyway.


The boy -- a fourth-grader described as a well-behaved and good student -- cried during the meeting with his mom, the deputy and the school's assistant principal.

He had no criminal intent in having the blade at school, the sheriff's report stated, but was suspended for at least two days and could face further disciplinary action.

Fourth grader suspended for using broken pencil sharpener


  1. It’s always the good kids who carry those. He probably had it in a pencil box filled with other instruments of death. Like scissors. And pens.

    I have to wonder how many other kids will figure out how to get a free two day vacay out of this. “What, mom?! It was just my pencil sharpener!”

  2. obviously, he was afraid for himself after realizing his teacher was completely insane, and now he has been proven correct.

  3. From the report, it’s not so much that he brought a broken pencil sharpener, it’s that he brought just the metal blade part. A suspension was appropriate (even if it’s just for being dumb), but I think involving the police was a little excessive.

  4. Now what were those other things we used to have in our geometry sets? Compasses could be quite nasty. Maybe they should ban kids learning geometry.

  5. I am most bothered by the “i.e., crying” sentence. I acknowledge it is highly likely I am misreading that sentence. In fact, in a sane world I MUST be misreading that sentence, but it sounds a lot as if they are suggesting you can make a child cry and then claim his tears constitute evidence of mens rea, thus justifying the entire ridiculous exercise by which you made the child cry to begin with.

  6. Well although I do understand that it was completely unreasonable for him to be suspended, I think a lot was overlooked here.

    The child was described as a good student, well in (primary) school that makes you prone to bullying too.

    I wonder if the child did intend to do some damage to a bully that may have or may in the future provoke him…

    I’m just saying it’s a possibility the kid isn’t 100% right here but bureaucracy and ignorance might have left the child suspended and still prone to bullying.

  7. Agree with #7, suspension is not appropriate unless it’s for the lame brained teacher that started the whole process of creating a mountain out of a mole hill. Is this the way actual normal adult human beings think nowdays? I hope not! Come on people use some common sense.

  8. The Police Department really should get a judge to issue an emergency search warrant of every locker and teacher’s desk in this school, and should do it Monday morning first thing. After all, they have been informed by the Assistant Principal that the school has reason to believe that there are hundreds of deadly weapons in the school in those locatons. The Police should then immediately serve the no-knock warrant while the ink is fresh (say around 9:30am?) with at least 20 or 30 officers, immediately put plastic restraints on the wrists of everyone present, and search every locker & teacher’s desk once they have secured the obviously dangerous environment in the warrant. They should then issue the school several hundred citations for possesion of a deadly weapon and child endangerment – one citation of each sort for every one of the functional pencil sharpeners in the school with a razor inside it. The DA may then offer the school a plea deal wherein the school can forego paying the citations by agreeing to provide tens of thousands of already sharpened pencils to students at all times so that they don’t have to use these dangeous pencil sharpeners themselves. A creative parent can then point out that it is easier to damage someone with a sharp pencil than a 3/4″ razor blade, and the Judge can then order the school district to not administer any standardized tests that require filling in bubbles with #2 pencils.

    Thank you, Bobby
    (PS – I’m 4th grader in Ms. Judgement’s class at Hilton Head Island Elementary School)

  9. Brandon Abell@4: “A suspension was appropriate (even if it’s just for being dumb), but I think involving the police was a little excessive.”

    You are soft on terror, my friend. Why do you hate America so much?

  10. ok, I can understand confiscating a razor blade from a student, regardless of his intent to use it. I can understand the student getting suspended for it. But the police? Seriously? what the hell?

  11. I worry about the day grade school educators realise that the pen is mightier than the sword.

    Literacy will become evidence of being skilled with a deadly weapon.

  12. I have to agree. The suspension ‘was appropriate’. HOWEVER…the zero-tolerance law is NOT an appropriate law. There is one element of the actual report that sustains my claim that this law is inappropriate. “No criminal intent”. Those three little words should have, in a just society, be MORE than enough to show that while what he did may have been ‘wrong’, it was not criminal, and therefore no suspension is required. Under the law as it stands, the suspension was appropriate. One of the articles said (IIRC) the Principal had to weigh the ‘risk’ to the children with common sense. Unfortunately, principal is talking out of their ass since the zero-tolerance law does not leave room for common sense, or interpretation. If its a knife, your out. If it’s a blade, your out….

    It really does make running a school so much easier when you don’t even have to think!

  13. Oh, sweet Jesus. None of you idiots saying this is a reasonable course of action for the school have actually been entrusted with a child recently, I hope.

    A 10-year-old boy, a good student, breaks his pencil sharpener, then keeps the good part in case his pencil needs sharpening, and you think it was appropriate to call local law enforcement, make him cry, and suspend him from school? You are precisely what is wrong with America right now.

    I’m pointing at you, Huronbob, and you, Maurik. You both make me sick — almost as sick as this story made me. My son is a 9-year-old fourth grader, and a good student, and if he were to save the sharp bit from his pencil sharpener in order to be prepared for dull pencils, I would congratulate him.

    If you were adult humans, you would do the same. Instead, you assume the child had criminal intent. You truly do not deserve to be treated as sane, and neither does this school.

    Sadly, this inane bullshit goes on all the time in America today — in our schools, in our airports, and in what passes for the halls of power. It’s why America is sliding fast down the slope. You, Huronbob and Maurik, are contributing to America’s decline.

    Doesn’t that bother you, just a little?

  14. You don’t do evil shit just because somebody orders you to. Do I need to violate Godwin’s Law?

    Second that. Was just thinking about jumping the Godwin shark as well.

  15. “Tim, what are you sharpening your pencil with? Is that just the metal blade? That’s really dangerous, you really should have asked me and I can easily let you use the one we have here in class. Were you going to hurt anyone with this? No? Okay, well, I’ll just take this and throw it out. Please don’t do this again.”

    This is what should have been said. The kid knows he screwed up. The worst part is that the teacher would have been fired if she had done this. [GWBush voice]Sometimes you’ve got to let the generals in the field make the decisions and not Monday morning quarterback them.[/GWBush voice]

    Now this kid has got a rap sheet, which is totally going in his permanent file. And we all know there’s nothing worse than the permanent file.

  16. Nice try, hoping to make this about a terrorism phobia.

    But it is in fact a result of a “zero-tolerance weapons policy” such as are so beloved by hoplophobes the world over.

  17. @20: Yeah. That’s how the teachers should respond in a situation like that. At most, throwing it into the trash would be justifiable as so that that student did not injure himself in the process of sharpening a pencil.

    This whole thing just is way too big. Why suspend a students who brought something which could be considered a “weapon” with no obvious intent to use it for anything other than a mundane task?

    I don’t get the idiocy of a lot of the adults out there.
    [/Junior in high school]

    1. “Zero tolerance” equals zero common sense.

      Zero Tolerance violates many of the underlying principles of our legal system:

      – It presumes guilt.
      – It strips intent out of the equation.
      – There’s no requirement to demonstrate damages.

      It’s awfully close to thoughtcrime.

  18. Haven’t read all.

    What about the homicidal kid who keeps his sharpener intact, knowing with a turn of the screw he can do away with his love-rival in a gory sharpener assault? Swiftly to the jugular. Or with a compass. Aren’t there 1,000 ways to use a ruler to incapacitate? How about poking out an eye?

    Poor kid is right. Napalm the buttnut who pursued this, and all their evil henchpeople who bothered to type it up.

    Welcome to the 21st century – with these treatments, the next generation can be relied on to be less capable than the last.

  19. HuronBob@8: “It looks like it was handled as best as it could be given the situation.”

    You have a bright future as people with your perspicacity are in high demand.

  20. “The Suspect also had a piece of pencil which was about 1″ in length, which appeared to have been recently sharpened.”

    I commend the kid for his frugality. He was using that pencil till he couldn’t anymore, and using that sharpener’s blade even though the plastic was gone.

  21. this is so completely stupid, that I feel I am obligated to curse:


  22. My son is a 9-year-old fourth grader, and a good student, and if he were to save the sharp bit from his pencil sharpener in order to be prepared for dull pencils, I would congratulate him. If you were adult humans, you would do the same.

    No. Adults have been trained that the answer to a broken item is not to fix it, or use it as it is, but to *buy a new one*. Maybe even a fancier one. Maybe Steve Jobs has announced the iSharpener and that’s what they’ll buy because regular sharpeners are no longer cool.

  23. In our elementary school they distributed single edged razor blades for drafting class. I just used my knife, can’t remember not having a pocket knife. Though they have some cool tech toys nowadays, a kids life sucks in so many ways. I can’t imagine growing up with this totalitarian zero-tolerance BS.

  24. I am generally against “zero tolerance” rules. But this isn’t a case of some kid bringing an advil to school for a headache and getting nabbed for a no drugs rule. It’s a blade — not something else stupid like a drawing of a blade — he could hurt himself or somebody else with it, especially since we don’t let kids hurt themselves anymore to learn what’s dangerous and not. So do you let this kid go, and then if some other kid, a “problem child,” has one of these things do you let him go too? Or do you risk being accused of discriminating against the problem child for whatever reason because he was punished and the good kid wasn’t? I’d like to know at what point do some of you think we go ahead and suspend the kid? How big would a blade have to be?

    Seriously, is it that radical an idea to have a rule for kids in school that says “x is not allowed” and expect it to be followed? Do you not think a school should be able to protect itself from potential negligence lawsuits by having a formal process to enforce safety rules and following it?

    1. Brandon,

      Buy a child’s pencil sharpener, take it apart and look at the blade. It’s so thin that you can’t hold it without the blade being entirely covered by your fingers. I could do vastly more damage with a sharpened popsicle stick. Shop class is full of heavy weaponry. Home Ec class has big, sharp knives. Art class is full of sharp metal objects and flammable substances.

  25. One, the teacher needs to have an ounce of common sense here.

    Two, the administration needs to catch a clue.

    Three, the police officer needs to buck up and grow enough of a spine to tell the above two that they are morons and have already let this go quite far enough.

    These days, a lot of police officers are like automatons, and once you set them at some task, they will not deviate until someone is in jail or some sort of paperwork has been filed. It’s idiotic.

  26. great. I may as well move to Iceland now. at least they understand the difference between fear mongering and living a life.

  27. #34

    In your hypothetical advil scenario he could also hurt himself or somebody else with it.

    This was not a weapon – this was a pencil sharpener.

  28. Brandon Abell@34:

    Ain’t it the truth — It’s always preferable to cover your ass by adhering to a black-and-white worldview than it is to use your brain and judge things on a case-by-case basis. Keep at it and you might just get to be the president of the United States one day.

  29. Antinous,

    I know it’s not that dangerous, and I know there are far more dangerous things in the world. It’s like the stupidity of a fixed .08% blood alcohol limit: for some people (like me) that has next to no affect on driving ability/reflexes (especially compared to simply being tired), and for others they’ll be stumbling around at that level of intoxication. There should be some common sense applied there. But we can’t look at every case and every rule and make individual decisions as a society and determine who can and can’t do what. It’s a rule. An arbitrary rule. And those rules are sometimes unfair to people in the way they affect them.

    I also think speeding ticket fines should be determined based on momentum, not just velocity. Clearly a Miata doing 75 mph is not as dangerous as an SUV (Keep Tahoe Blue, lol) doing the same speed. Yet the fine is the same. Unfair? Yes.

    If I had my druthers I’d bring back marksmanship and archery classes in high school, the javelin in track and field, etc. But in our litigious and political society this is what we have to work with.

  30. Are these injurious items on the banned list at the airports? We don’t want the fourth graders taking over the flights by holding blades from broken pencil sharpeners against the necks of any flight attendants or tossing the pencil shavings into the eyes of the pilots, do we?

  31. I don’t get this, when I was in 3rd grade one of the other students held an exacto-knife to my temple, and he didn’t get suspended; he just got “a talking to”, and he wasn’t a “good” student (he also beat me up after, “for telling”.)

    It’s like they’ve gone from one extreme to the other.

  32. Also, if you think that everything should be determined on a case-by-case basis by “using our brain,” then why have any laws at all?

  33. The first thing that caught my eye on the police report was the cryptic handwritten stuff at the bottom. I have to give kudos to the linked site for answering my question about it so fast (that it was unrelated chicken scratch from the reporter).

    Back in my school daze, principals passed down case-by-case judgments with impunity. Some might call that excessive use of power, but I can guarantee you nothing like this would have happened back then. The kid would have had the sharpener blade confiscated and gotten a lecture about appearances and rules and the like before being sent back to his classroom. He probably still would have cried but would have been spared a police record and internet celebrity.

  34. When i was in first grade all the kids had jackknives and the teacher only took them away if you played with them in class while she was talking.

    She kept confiscated items in an unlocked drawer in her desk. If she liked you she’d return the item at the end of the day. If you were a jerk she’d wait until the end of the school year.

  35. … It was clear from the Suspects reaction, i.e., crying, that he understood it could be a problem bringing anything that might resemble a weapon onto school property.

    Well, yeah, he knows that *NOW*. That was *AFTER* he was scared half to death by the teacher, principal, his mother, got dragged to the police station, all *BEFORE* he met the “extremely friendly” deputy sheriff.

    Suppose you find yourself being tortured (sorry, enthusiastically interrogated) in Gitmo, because you brought a tyre iron in the boot of your car when you parked it at the basement of a government building. See if you cry then. See if you “understand it could be a problem bringing anything that might resemble a weapon onto government property.”

    I did exactly what this child did. Many times. But those 3/4″ blades are hard to use. Eventually, I stopped using pencil sharpeners, and instead switched to using 2″ blades. The kind stationery shops sells to sharpen pencils with. Everyone in class saw me using both kinds of blades, including the teachers. No one freaked out.

    In those days, box cutters like the kind you find today weren’t available. They are much sharper and keeps the edge much better. I would have used them instead. Kids today still bring these box cutters to school for arts class, and the blades are about 5″. Aren’t these the things they used to hijack those planes? Of course I don’t live in America, and the kids in school here do not try to kill their teachers or each other.

  36. @Antinous
    “Do I need to violate Godwin’s Law?”

    You would not be violating Godwin’s Law. Godwin’s Law relates to comparing someone/group to Nazis/Hitler out of context. However, “I was just following orders” was really first brought into being (at least, in recent history) by the Nuremburg trials.

    Thus, stating that a current instance of “just following orders” is similar to those of the trials would be accurate.

  37. When I was in the 1st grade, some 35 odd years ago, I once brought some nail clippers to school because I enjoyed pretending that the flip-out file was a small sword. The teacher took it from me although I wasn’t reprimanded. I guess my school was progressive.

  38. It really pisses me off when people go overboard with these kinds of things. We all know fourth graders can’t formulate the kinds of ideas they’re worried about. Fifth grade, on the other hand…

  39. The “BLADE” described in the report is
    3/4s of an inch long
    by 1/4 of an inch wide.

    Did any of the people defending the school stop to visualize how small that is?
    everything is metric now, so i suspect the person filling in the report rounded up.
    Do you know how dull a used pencil sharpener blade is?

    Clearly this 10 year old is more dangerous than Chucky, Chuck Norris, Macgyver, Joe Pesci, and Hannibal Lecter combined!!!

    Taking away the “BLADE” will NOT SAVE YOU!!!
    There are 719,013 other equally lethal objects within reach of his tiny arms.

  40. “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith,

    We kept Bobby after school for detention today. He shanked another little boy.


    Ms. Bratt”

  41. It’s just ridiculous. There’s nothing about this that can be construed as sensible or reasonable.

    How effective is learning in a fear based environment anyway?

  42. So it’s okay to bring a 4″ blade on an airplane, but not a tiny pencil sharpener blade to school? I wonder what they would have made of my school where teachers and students alike regularly used exacto knives to sharpen pencils ’cause the sharpeners were crappy.

  43. I was a good kid that had to deal unjust punishments growing up. It is damaging.

    There is no way I’d allow something like this to happen to a kid especially if I was the kid’s parent, teacher, or assistant principal.

  44. “But practical = preferable, right?”

    LOL, Mark. I see what you did there. Preferable from a personal standpoint is a wholly different evaluation than from a public policy standpoint. But 99% of the people are complete idiots. Am I still going to be qualified for Preznit? :-)

    To avoid this issue for me, my kids are going to be home schooled or go to a Sudbury-type school. I want my kids to be exposed to as many sharp objects and exothermic reactions as possible while they decide what the hell they want to do with themselves. But unfortunately we don’t all have the luxury of being able to do that for our children, so they get put in the mass-education system and the expeditiousness it requires with the constraints we’ve put upon it.

  45. Brandon, I think I see where you’re coming from, but it just can’t be that black and white, and surely we can agree that “the law is the law” is different from “the law making sense”. Park in a handicap spot, get a ticket, pay the ticket, no harm no foul, life goes on. Kill someone, get locked up for a long time.

    Honestly, we’re talking about a little blade that a kid brought with no understanding of the ramifications of his actions. Were he 30 years old, one might say that ignorance is no excuse for action, but considering he’s 9, well, ignorance is completely an excuse for his actions, and that ignorance should be factored in to his punishment.

    A student who brings a weapon knows that they are bringing a weapon. A weapon becomes a weapon if it is A: Designed intentionally to hurt someone, or B: Is to be used to hurt someone. This blade was designed to sharpen pencils, was not to be used to hurt anyone, and the child in question quite simply did not understand the potential consequences of his actions (not his punishment, but the remote chance that the blade could be used as a weapon).

    So, are we to say that 9 year old children must now learn lessons through such extreme measures? This is a traumatizing event, this is not good for children. It is categorically WRONG -in my view point- to put a 9 year old through the humiliation and fear that is involved in being expelled for having made an innocent mistake. On top of the emotional trauma, what the hell kind of message does it send to children about how to behave in society? It only seeks to perpetuate the idea that people should not be given a chance to learn, only to be denied for making mistakes.

  46. The SCARY part – ?

    When the school administrators said “We’re showing the boy that we can be REASONABLE”.

    Sweet Jesus Christ. I’d hate to see UNreasonable.

  47. After reading a few more posts, I got to thinking. Even if it was just the blade he brought… it had at one point been a pencil sharpener, so, to him, it was STILL a pencil sharpener. At 9…you don’t really make the leap from pencil sharpener to dangerous weapon.

    In a way, there also were reasonable. Bringing a ‘dangerous weapon’ to school could go as far as expulsion. Teachers won’t go against the grain and risk their jobs being ‘reasonable’. “let someone else deal with it”.

    I wouldn’t be surprised since they kept the item as evidence for future meetings, that the kid gets this taken off his record. The emotional damage can’t be undone however…
    On the other hand, they may end up banning pencil sharpeners!

  48. So, wait — a 4th grader didn’t consider the repercussions of actions that confuse educated, well-read adults and then gets smacked with adult-level sanctions? This kid is 8-10yrs old. McCrum @ #20 is precisely correct. It should have been handled with constructive criticism (“hey, good idea, but a better idea would be…”) and a stern reminder, and then dropped. That a fear of repercussion for the teacher in that situation exists, that there’s even a possible way to turn this into a CYA for the teacher, is absurd.

    An unreasonable expectation has been placed on this kid (understanding the difference between a pencil sharpener and a “weapon”), he failed to meet the unreasonable expectation, and now an embarrassing punishment is provided for failing. That’s about as unfair as it gets. Poor kid.

  49. zero tolerance policies are just another way for people to avoid interaction and communication.

    the idea of suspending this kid, when the police investigated and declared there was no criminal intent is as idiotic as suspending a kid for sexual harassment because he kissed another kid on the cheek.

    american adults need to stop projecting their own f*cked up perversions onto children because that’s exactly what this incident demonstrates.

  50. Common sense is not common any more. I can’t bring a bottle of water to a Bluejays game here in Toronto because it could be used “as a dangerous weapon” (even though they SELL bottled water), but I can go buy a full sized baseball bat at the souvenir store.

    THINK before you over react people.

  51. Sweet Jumpin’ Jesus on a Popsicle Stick, why are we allowing innocent children to possess these “pencil” things that need sharpening in the first place? The very term drips with menace!

    Get those kids into their germ-free isolation bubbles, stat!

  52. I think you folks are getting all hung up here on what you think would be common sense exceptions to rules, regulations and laws when, in fact, in many jurisdictions mere possession of certain things is a per se offense. Chapter 74 of our local code makes possession of any razor in a school a Class I misdemeanor. There are no exceptions. I have pending prosecutions against students for weapons offenses right now. Invariably, the defenses consist of one or more of the following:

    “I didn’t know it was illegal to have a (fill in the blank) in school.”

    “I found it on the way to class and was going to turn it in.”

    “It belongs to (fill in the blank) and I was just holding it for him.”

    Now, I read the police report myself, and given various factors, including the child’s age and the underlying circumstances, I would have declined to proceed and file charges if such a case was presented to me. But if the school administrative rules say any child violating the weapons code gets suspended, then that’s what happens. If the school has a stated policy, and then picks and chooses when to enforce it, the school staff eventually winds up in federal court on a civil rights case.

    Like it or not, what you have here is a failure of parental supervision. Obviously, being cognizant of the local laws, I check my child’s bag and speak to her about things like this before she heads off to school.

    Now, you may not think such laws and policies are appropriate, and that’s fine- but if you don’t like them, you are free to petition the legislative or administrative body to go and change them. In this case, an age requirement built into their administrative policy would have prevented this whole embarrassing incident. They might want to consider rewriting their policies to reflect a minimum age of say, 15.

  53. First- I’m pretty sure I did the exact same thing when I was ten and nobody even blinked. This was 20 years ago apparently just before the insanities of zero tolerance and ritalin and whatever other shortcuts to actual attempts at discipline and making you class interesting enough so folks can pay attention. You know, teachers doing their job properly instead of just showing up (note: many, many teachers do a wonderful job- but if I had been five years younger or in a different school they would have tried to put me on that stuff- merely because I was ahead of the class and therefore bored)
    Second- having done the same thing I’ll tell you that “looks like a razor blade” isn’t even close to the same thing as “sharp as a razor blade” I think he could not have actually attempted what he was thinking yet as I think he would have failed.

    Finally, the school board decided to “clarify” in reaction to a vast number of people pointing out what idiots they are: He was suspended for “inappropriate behaviour” Of course no mention is made as to the specifics of said behaviour, which sounds like “we felt we had to suspend him but had nothing that would stick”.

  54. “…if you think that everything should be determined on a case-by-case basis by “using our brain,” then why have any laws at all?”

    This is the biggest dip-shit “question” I’ve seen all month.

    Maybe there’s room for both?

  55. This is so absurd!!!!!

    I used to carry a pocket knife with me ALL the time! I never thought anything of it, nor did anyone else with their pocket knives, and I moved around a LOT as a kid. Going to both rural and city schools. Things have really changed towards the stupid.

    I can tell you one thing for certain. After having worked for the Federal Bureau of Prisons for ten years, I know that if someone wants to make a weapon there is very little anyone can do to stop them except to put them in a completely empty room.

    That little pencil sharpener blade was far less dangerous than the pencils it was intended for. Stab someone with a pencil and then break it off inside them. You will have given them a very deadly wound.

  56. Crimeshark, Deleted – no, he didn’t. Yeah, it sucks that some terrorists got it together enough to crash some planes and destroy some buildings while killing a bunch of people. There isn’t anyone here who doesn’t mourn about that, who doesn’t feel the emptiness again whenever they relive it in their head.

    But how the hell do you make the leap from that to some 9 year old kid who carried a broken piece of his pencil sharpener into his school. This has nothing to do with safety, “war on terror” or anything like that. It is an over-reaction plain and simple. Fuck you people who think this reaction is in any way justified.

    Yeah, yeah, we can all petition our legislators and rule-makers to change the regulations. But who has the time to try and convince all those in power who have been swayed by (and since trapped by) this ridiculous way of thinking. Is it really worth it to scar some little kid who made a mistake? To drag him through “the system”? Does anybody really think this is doing anybody any good?

    Screw you.

  57. Give me a fucking break, Deleted. This kid didn’t do anything wrong. He was terrified and suspended and the police were called in because of inflexible, authoritarian rules that have no place in any environment that includes children.

    9/11 has not at all changed what rules we should have for fourth graders, or how we should enforce them. And anyone who claims it does deserves to be denounced as a whining coward.

  58. tecknels made the point I was going to…
    A sharpened HB pencil is a better weapon than the miserable tiny dull blade of a pencil sharpener.
    I am writing to CPS now to make sure pencils with leads harder than 6B are banned from Chicago schools.
    It is 9/12 people and your schooldays are obsolete or something.

  59. HuronBob,

    Coming back as a sock puppet was a really stupid idea. I’ve removed your comment history.

    Apologies to those who now have orphaned comments.

  60. So, what if I bring an intact pencil sharpener to school, but it breaks while I’m using it in class and the blade is now out of it’s protective plastic casing, and I decide to finish sharpening my pencil with it? Do I get suspended for being in possession of said blade?

    If a child really wanted to use a pencil sharpener blade to hurt someone, they probably knew that bringing the blade itself would cause trouble and would just break a pencil sharpener to get blade while on school grounds. Any time they wanted.

  61. OK, I found the website for the school, the contact info for the principal and wrote her an email. Now after looking closer at the comments above (and some ignorance) I think I have to post my letter here too.


    Dear Principle Mcaden,
    I read of the recent incident at Hilton Head Elementary involving a broken pencil sharpener and I feel compelled express my disappointment at the reaction of school officials, and especially the police involvement.

    It seems an opportunity be role models for students was lost. Children struggle with the grey areas where right and wrong are not clear, where thought is needed to find what is right. They need to have role models who will take the time to find a thoughtful, measured and just course of action. Summoning the authorities would be in my opinion absolutely not a thoughtful measured or just response to this situation. I certainly can’t imagine anyone gained the respect of anyone during this event.

    Perhaps the Newspaper story was not thorough, but It certainly is alarming.

    Thanks for your time,
    Isigned Myname.

  62. Two points I haven’t seen made yet:

    1) It sounds as if the child’s family is frugal — 1″ pencil and broken sharpener still being used — suggesting limited financial resources.

    2) How much effort is he going to make at school now, thanks to the PTSD?

    It is very possible that they’ve taken an educational success story — poor but academically driven — and broken him.

    In my mind, THAT’S the real crime.

  63. How about this, fck 9-11. I am so sick of hearing 9-11. Yes, it was a completely horrible, reprehensible attack. Yes, it made me sick. Yes, it made me angry. Yes. Yes. Yes. OK? Can we move on now. No? We have to stand in place and sing god Bless America instead of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, until the end of time. Bad things have happened in every age, bad things will happen again. What’s your point? Here’s a new law, mention 9-11 for any reason other than expressing sympathy for its victims and their families, and you’re disqualified for exploiting their deaths.

  64. I just now remembered something really ironic and funny —

    When I was in 2nd grade, a girl in my class brought her “broken glass collection” to school for show-and-tell! She explained to all of us that when she walked home from school each day she always looked for new pieces in different colors to add to her collection. I remember being really jealous in 2nd grade because all the pieces of glass were so pretty. I thought, “Why didn’t I ever think of collecting that!?”

    Can you even imagine if this kid showed up at school with a cookie tin full of sharp glass shards!

    Thank you Miss Patterson for not being an uptight fascist wingnut when you taught 2nd grade.

  65. This type of nonsense is the real, lasting damage done to our country by 9/11. I can only hope that we will have the courage to repair it.

  66. “District spokesman Randy Wall said school administrators are stuck in the precarious position between the district’s zero tolerance policy against having weapons at school and common sense.”

    Lemme guess, paranoid parents voted in a unenforcable measure similar to the mass freakouts out about computer porn (complete with brutal penalties for any teacher found liable).

    And here is the result, instead of common sense being allowed to prevail, the fear fueled atmosphere allows only the most extreme solution.
    Once again the United states of Amerinoia strikes again.

  67. Now c’mon people. This whole argument is completely ridiculous. Here you have a kid who’s faced with a problem (broken sharpener and pencils that will require sharpening) and comes up with a solution to his problem in order to get himself through another day in class (save the metal sharpening blade and hand sharpen). Ideal solution? As an adult, it’s easy to say “not really,” but the kid has shown an obvious sense of creativity in finding a solution to his problem, and as a result is being punished. Way to go. Stifle creativity and reward in-the-box thinking. Add that to the list of damage we’re doing to our kids such as not allowing them to play outside, not allowing them to cope with defeat or savor victory at an early age (no wins/losses in kids sports) which will only make them emotionally weak and unstable adults when reality finally catches up with them, etc.

    As a Gen X’er, I have quite a bit of cynicism directed towards the boomer generation, however, to their credit, I believe they were the last generation that actually knew how to raise children. Raising kids is full of risks and hard work. They didn’t let us be babysat by the Wiggles or Thomas the Tank Engine for hours on end. We were allowed to play outside without an adult checking up on us every two seconds, and we behaved (for the most part) while doing so because they weren’t afraid to discipline us (even if it killed them to do so) when we did misbehave. Let kids play, explore, and grow. Reward creativity, don’t stifle it. Teach them the rewards that come with victory, and teach them how to handle loss and disappointment with dignity and grace and to grow from it. Let them eat a handful of dirt once in a while. What doesn’t kill the kid will only make him or her stronger. I know I cringe every time my kid does something that scares me, but as long as she doesn’t kill or seriously injure herself in the process, it’s a learning experience.

    At this rate, we will raise a whole generation of kids who won’t know the joys of tinkering and creating things like we did. They are growing up in a PC world of things that are “safe” (the jury is still out on that, as far as I’m concerned), mentally sterile, and full of restrictions. As a tech geek and child of the 70’s and 80’s, that breaks my heart a little.

  68. okay, when I was a kid I was bullied a lot, granted for me personally I was an EASY target… one day I pulled a knife on one of the guys who was being an asshole towards me, did the teacher see it, damn RIGHT she saw it… did I get in suspended? No, I didn’t…(I should have been, it wasn’t a sharpener blade it was a steak knife from home) did I get in trouble, actually not really. Short discussion with teacher and principal. Parents weren’t even called. He didn’t get in much trouble either. Did he continue his taunts and nastiness, yes… was I a well adjusted kid at school? Hell I’m still not well adjusted.

  69. Foetusnail got me worked up enough to say: Yeah, shaving a pencil with a razor may seem innocent enough. But what gateway will that lead to? Hmm? Using graphite shavings to loosen doorlocks?

    And agreed. Can we petition the MLB to bring back “Take Me Out To The Ballgame?”

  70. When I was about 13 my dad gave me simple and explicit instruction about using a BIC Cristal ball point pen as a “weapon of protection” should anyone ever try to bother me when out on my own.

    Apparently the brittle plastic will shatter and migrate into the blood stream very quickly when you jam it into someone’s ribs (preferably the lower lung area or throat) and snap down, causing an embolism and disabling them quickly if not killing them.

    Why bother with knives and blades when you can have pens?

  71. wow, the same exact thing happened to me when I was in seventh grade. my pencil sharpener had broken, but I tried to use it anyway. a girl notified the teacher that I had a blade on me and they suspended me for two weeks. two entire weeks for cripes sake. this was even back before 9/11 (also, I’m afghan…)

    I’m annoyed for the sake of the kid.

  72. Something about terrorists…and winning. Have we (America) been doing stupid stuff like this since before 9/11? I was in high school at the time, I’ve grown up with the aftermath, so I wouldn’t know if this mass-idiocy was rampant beforehand or if it really is a complete over-reaction to fears of violence and terrorism around every bend. Can people un-learn being afraid and reactionary to everything and everybody?

    A fully sharpened pencil is more dangerous than the little razor blade in a sharpener. Why didn’t they suspend every single child with a pencil that was ‘too sharp for the safety of other children?’

  73. There is nothing reasonable about the way the teacher or the principle acted. A reasonable teacher would have complimented the kid on his frugality and given him a new sharpener. A reasonable principle, confronted by the actual teacher, would have asked the teacher to wait outside, would have complimented the kid etc. then dealt with the loopy teacher. And by far the most frightening aspect of the entire story is found, for me, in the many comments here by people who honestly think the right thing was done.

  74. sooo….what can we do to get these morons fired? or create enough internet buzz to get them to resign out of shame…if they are capable of shame?

  75. What no Taser was deployed?

    That Teacher should get a medal for successfully disarming a Weaponized 4th grader!

    God Bless America!

  76. We are being trained to be helpless, not to mention more concerned about the arbitrary letter rather than the spirit of the law. Cant have people learning by dear experience with tiny razors, we will coddle them right up to when they are hurtling along in 2 tons of glass and steel.

    Look how far we have come. 50 years ago kids could bring rifles to many a rural school and it was no big whoop, now the police are called for a pencil sharpener.

  77. but I think involving the police was a little excessive.


    There is a checklist,

    calling the police was on the checklist,

    suspending him was on the checklist,

    asking his mother if she wanted to claim “the weapon:” was on the checklist,

    … What nobody seems to realize is that in the aggregate, humiliating the little boy was on that list too. Capital S Suspect.

    Who did any thinking?

  78. In 1971,10th grade, some friends and I cut a mandatory assembly and partied in a van in the parking lot where we got busted by the vice principal. I was caught with a hunting knife w/12 inch blade. Why did I have it? To impress my friends. Why else? There was no evil intention. It wasn’t too smart to take it to school, but the police were never called and I was never suspended. I never saw the knife again. I had to stay after school and do some chores for the VP. Learned my lesson. The people that run our schools today are pathetic. It is not a crime for a kid to be a kid. Guidance does not require the police moron.

  79. “The Suspect also had a piece of pencil which was about 1″ in length, which appeared to have been recently sharpened.”

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    Take the naked blade from the kid so he doesn’t cut his damn fingers off, but suspension was not appropriate and bringing in the cops was lunacy.

    Parents should learn to tell school districts to go fuck themselves.

  80. On one final note, I would like to point out that while this poor child is being punished for having a tiny piece of sharp metal, the US government is developing laser weapons that can permanently blind us and microwave weapons that can cook us from the inside out.

  81. 1973 – Grade 8 Shop – 30 boys heating metal bars in forge, pounding on anvil, filing and grinding to make chisels.

    I guess that’s not happening any more. :-(

    No wonder there’s so little manufacturing in North America.

  82. @17 & @19 – EXACTLY. THANK YOU!

    @20 – IT IS a a terrorism phobia. What exactly do you think a zero tolerance weapons policy is?

    @29 – Thus, EMO. Kids these days whose parents don’t know how to raise them outside the boundaries of this fascist megalomaniacal politically correct phobia driven machine will be total pussies as they grow up.

    @30 – Exactly. Have you noticed too, that although our the court system in the US is to presume innocence (“innocent until proven guilty”) the police are allowed to presume guilt, and therefore hold a person for nothing for up to 48 hours?

    @32 – No. Broad spectrum things like that should not exist. Why? Because as humans we are capable of free thought. That means you should be able to logically analyze a situation and determine a LOGICAL solution. Would you like it if they used these sort of across the board methods in other areas, like medicine? I mean hell, if you’re allergic to penicillin that’s YOUR problem, right?

    @42 – You do realize people who handled things on a case by case wrote those laws? That those laws allow for a justice system that handles things on a CASE BY CASE basis?

    @66 – I heard about that. It’s called “marketing scheme”.

  83. Also, I was in junior high in 2000 and 2001 and took shop classes. I cut pieces of wood with machine saws and melted plastic in burning temperatures. Is that still allowed now?

    Our education system shouldn’t be punishing children for being curious and innocent with dangerous objects, but instead be teaching them how to use such things correctly so they don’t hurt themselves or others. And now they’ll all grow up to be cowards with no sense of how to live in the world on their own and with no way of protecting themselves when something truly dangerous happens.

  84. I work in corrections and have seen plenty of people stabbed with pens/pencils. We issue two inch pencils to assaultive inmates. I guess we should send home everyone (staff/students) who uses full length writing implements.

  85. this was like the time that i got suspended in third grade for sniffing rubber cement. completely innocent of my actions of something that was already on school property. being nine years old, the school must’ve assumed my goal was to get high.

  86. As much as I abhor the school’s decision to include the police in this sorry mess, I can’t help but wonder what kind of power-starved sherriff would seize the opportunity to intimidate a 10-year-old. What. The. Hell.

  87. #73: Noting that there is a Biblical injunction against wasting my time arguing with an idiot, I’ll try again against all the odds and use small words. I never indicated I thought any of this was justified. I specifically said that if it was my jurisdiction and the case was offered to me, I would give it a pass. I also said there is a difference between criminal prosecution and administrative review. Here, obviously, the school has a so-called “zero tolerance” policy. If you bothered actually reading my post, you would have gleaned that I don’t agree with that kind of thing.

    The so-called “gun free” and “drug free” school zones have completely different legislative histories in this country, neither tracing back to 9/11 or whatever else you’re ranting about. The policy regarding drugs traces back to the so-called “war” on drugs, which I don’t happen to agree with either; the school policies regarding zero weapons tolerance are an over-reaction to a series of school shootings here in the U.S.

    Both misguided efforts have histories that trace back decades before 9/11.

    As for your sexual suggestions, I make it a habit not to have sex with men with poor reading comprehension and diminutive penises, so you’ll have to search elsewhere.

  88. School actions like this and others we’ve heard of like the kids suspended for drawing “violent” pictures stem from a policy called “zero tolerance”. It’s a shortcut that sidesteps judgment and heads straight for lawsuit avoidance, making kids cry along the way.

    The alternative is a process called “threat assessment”, which is a fancy way of saying, “let’s look at the kid and his actions, determine the intent and proceed from there.”

    Parents can effect a shift from zero tolerance to threat assessment by applying pressure to school districts and principals. Like prisons, changes in school policy are driven most effectively by lawsuits, so there’s that as well.

  89. I’ve got a telling off for bringing a screwdriver into school when I was about 9 (christmas cracker thing). Forgot it was there, pulled out my pocket and put back – but somehow got seen, and had it confiscated.
    Had it returned at the end of school day. No fuss or records.

    Year later I was mucking about and threw a small stone in to the air. Some girl wandered past and just missed her.
    That got me into a lot of trouble – detention for weeks and lots of pressurised questioning.

    From this I learned reversed priorities and examples – not safety – is what makes the world go round.

    15 years later – I realise I made a good deduction of life to come back then!

    I also learned being (albeit repeatedly) 5 mins late in the mornings (before classes) allows the school to threaten parents with court action.
    But others who missed whole days often, had a nice social worker visit occasionally to make sure they are ok, and school isn’t being too hard on them.

    Childhood was the best days of my life… i’m told!

  90. And what is this ‘permanent record’ you US people have?

    Permanent as in – a 47yr old gets turned down for a job as they have a history of wielding an offensive sharpening object 37 years ago?

  91. Guys, this shit was going on before 9/11. The Columbine shooting started it in my school, but a great many other schools were already like this before then.

    In this particular case, at the absolute most (and mainly as a CYA measure for the teacher), the teacher should have asked the principal–or, more likely, the assistant/vice principal–to have a brief conference with the child and his parent(s). That way, the teacher has done everything s/he is required to do, the school administration has taken all sensible action, and the boy has had the rules and the reasons for them explained to him in detail so that he knows where he screwed up. No need for police or suspension.

    Zero-tolerance rules are about people bringing weapons to school. This tiny blade was so obviously not a weapon, disciplinary action is outrageous.

  92. this is pretty stupid, i’m only 23, and i remember when i was in fourth grade(not so long ago) i accidently stabbed a kid with a pencil(i went to push his hand off my desk and didn’t think about the freshly sharpened pencil in my hand) who kept messing with me while i was doing home work. we went to the principle, we both had to say we was sorry, he was sent to get stitches and i went back to class. i was a good kid, quiet and kept to my self, noone picked on me except the occasional “fatty” remark, so i see absolutely no reason for this child to have been treated in such a matter, not every one who gets made fun of is going to become a columbine shooter

    the amount of fear in the general american public is insane anymore. i remember i was actually accused of having a “prison shank” in high school, because i had a chisel in my book bag that i had just made not an hour before hand in shop class. reason for them searching me and finding it? i listen to dark music and went as far as to make a key chain out of a burnt bible after a teacher arguing with me about how i was going to die and go to hell because i refused christ and her religion, in a public school mind you

  93. I think the real issue at hand here is that there was an absurdly excessive response to a minor problem. On the other hand, we shouldn’t pretend it wasn’t a problem.

    Teachers today try to be very wary of potential violence. Sure, the blade was tiny, but it was a blade, and it was idiotic to involve police and administration, but we shouldn’t then pretend that no child on this planet would ever use a blade to hurt someone. The title and rhetoric of this post refer to it as a “broken pencil sharpener,” which I find a little misleading, because it wasn’t cracked or worn – it was without a shell, only a blade, and that’s a substantial change in context.

    I’m also a little disappointed with some of the cruel words here, such as “You are precisely what is wrong with America right now… You both make me sick” (#17). This story is about a kid, not a soapbox.

  94. In Canada, before 9/11, we also had zero-tolerance policies. I had it for the last year of high school. It didn’t really change anything…
    I do feel it’s important to note a few things here though. Firstly, in REALITY, the razor blade in a pencil sharpener is NOT a weapon. Policy wise though…it IS. So…we need to change that policy to reflect reality. That’s the crux of this arguement. What the school did was RIGHT…based on the poilicy in place (if it’s like most other zero-tolerance policies). HOWEVER…they were WRONG for having such a poorly written policy in the first place.

    Personally I believe INTENT has a lot to do with this. No intent to harm, no suspension. A day or two of detention maybe…but certainly not suspension. BTW – they could have permanently expelled him from the school…so they were ‘lenient’…

    Don’t get me wrong…what they did was an overreaction, and a stupid move…but based on the guiding principles at this time, they did nothing wrong.
    ON another dumb sorta related note…a school in Indiana (I think) has banned backpacks and purses in class rooms. The bad thing…the policy has been on the books for about 3 years and they only started to enforce it now.
    People need to take a stand and say this is stupid. I tried that back in high school (it’s nice when your parents knew teachers BEFORE you got to high school. I’ve had more meals with some of my teachers than some of my relatives. We talked about this over dinner one night (years ago) and how DUMB it was for anything to be ‘automatic’. But…what can a few teachers and a handful of students actually do…
    Bottom line is, the policy is bad…

  95. #36:

    A 16 year-old UK resident here.
    “Shop class is full of heavy weaponry.” – Didn’t exist until age 12, and we never got to use anything more dangerous than a small hammer or a fairly blunt, small, hacksaw.

    “Art class is full of sharp metal objects and flammable substances.” – The inks may have been flammable, which may have been why we were prohibited from using them. We were, of course, the people they had in theory been bought for.

    “Home Ec class has big, sharp knives.” – The practical section of home ec. involved, for as long as I did it, mixing pre-weighed ingredients and placing them in an oven. Heaven forbid that the oven be on at the time, or that a *pupil* be permitted to turn them on.

  96. the lines about “Land of the free and the home of the brave” are obviously up for dibs. The sheeple of the US don’t have any justified claim to use them anymore.

  97. Another terrorist threat – neutralized!

    Seriously, though, the teacher’s a twit. Yes, the blade was potentially dangerous… but involving the administration was the wrong thing. Simply telling the kid that a broken pencil sharpener can be dangerous, asking for the blade, and then letting the parents know to buy a new one should have been the route taken.

    With that type of overreaction, imagine what could have happened if the teachers were allowed to carry guns at that school…

  98. For all of those who think that the teacher was just doing his/her job, please take a look at a hand held pencil sharpener. The blade is absolutely useless as a weapon. A sharpened pencil is far more dangerous. No matter how poorly written the rule, the teacher was an absolute idiot for handling this as a disciplinary matter.

  99. A few things:

    1. On the Web is the list of supplies for students, for this school. Had he waited until 5th grade he would have been OK; they are required to bring “a hand held sharpener”.

    2. The school presents its side of the story by saying “The student code of conduct says any person on school property carrying a weapon or what can be perceived as a weapon will be suspended and recommended for expulsion.” I think “can be perceived” is a bit broad, others above (and I agree) say anything falls in to this category.

    3. “School district spokesman Randy Wall said the district has a zero-tolerance policy on weapons, but wanted to be reasonable. He said they needed to make sure the student understood the seriousness of having the blade.” I think it would be better if he understood the seriousness of using common sense.

  100. When i was in fourth grade my teacher would have told me to throw it away and that would have been that. Hell, she might have just told me to put it away. And that wasn’t that long ago, just in 1988.

    This is crazy. Why are there so many people that think this kind of stuff is OK and normal?

  101. I don’t think most people think it’s okay. In fact, I believe most people don’t even know about things like this. Or how pervasive it is.

    If more people knew about this kind of outrage and actually did something about it, I think it has a chance of getting better. I think that most people who actually do know about things like this don’t do anything for a number of reasons. First of all, just not caring. Thinking it’s just an isolated incident, there are other things more important, it can still stop an actual threat… Then there are the people who fear what a change may do: cause reprisals against them or their children, have an incident that ‘may’ have been stopped by a policy like this happen…
    Thirdly…is the same as the first…not caring. This is a little blip on the radar. Yes, it’s stupid and demeaning to the child (and our intelligence). Besides, tomorrow there will be something else that will outrage us, and we’ll do the same thing. That being nothing.

  102. …Hey kids, someone complained that we’ve made too many posts on this thread, and need to go post on other ones. Everyone go find another thread to post on so this guy can get his panties unwa…

    No, wait. That guy was a troll. Screw’im.

    We now return you to your reguarly scheduled thread on a kid getting abused by corrupt and inept teachers for using a broken pencil sharpener to sharpen a pencil, already in progress….

  103. Clearly the liberal degenerate schools are incubators for potential terrorists. This boy may cry now, but when he grows up he’ll be glad that his fall into a life of crime and seedy despair was nipped in the bud.

    Man, and I thought the 50s was tough. I’d be serving a life sentence for my gradeschool years now.

  104. I’m doing my part by bringing an ACTUAL knife (plus scissors, an awl and a screwdriver) to my daughter’s school every single day!

  105. Hell, i brought a multi-tool (aka, knife) to school when I was in the second grade.
    It was right after the columbine shootings too.
    Teacher freaked out, but nothing was taken further than a phone call to the parentals.

    no big deal.

  106. That’s insane.

    While I am pretty sure I never carried a knife in elementary school (although I did bring a pistol to show and tell once in kindergarden: it was a starter pistol, with the firing pin ground off so that it would not fire, that had been used in a bank robbery back in the day, and a friend of the family who’d caught the bank robber gave it to me to use as my toy pistol growing up), I know I carried a knife a couple of times in middle school, and I carried one of two pocket knives throughout high school, either my Buck knife, can’t recall the model number, it was the one with green plastic handles and finger grooves, or a Swiss army knife that a friend bought for me in Germany my junior year. My German friend had a wear spot on his jeans from his pocketknife, and thought it was very odd that we were not allowed to carry them to school. I am fairly sure he carried the whole time he was over here, they’re just too handy not to have one on hand.

    I only recall one teacher that ever gave me crap about it, and at the time it was against the rules to carry a pocket knife (although we were allowed to carry scissors, which I thought was dumb that we could carry them in our backpack and not a knife in my pocket, so that’s why I carried my pocketknife). That one teacher did not believe that I used my pocket knife for pencil sharpening, till I showed him my pencils (clearly not sharpened with a sharpener), and opened the blade and you could clearly see the graphite smears.

    Heck, my Algebra 2 teacher used to borrow the Buck all the time to cut out magazine articles and such. Although now that I think about it, why would she be cutting out magazine articles in class? Maybe time has f’d up that particular memory. Oh, I think she also taught something else, maybe that was what the articles were for. Or for ransoms.

    Anyway, this is very messed up. Thank goodness back then there was no zero tolerance crap and teachers and administrators were allowed to use common sense and good judgment.

  107. In Grade 9, in the early nineties just so you know, I (for some reason) ONLY used a penknife to sharpen pencils. Seriously. I had one of those retractable box cutters in my pencilcase, and I would scrape pencils with it to sharpen them.

    Yeah, I got some odd looks, but not A TRIP TO THE POLICE STATION. And this was high school. In a fairly high-crime high school.

    The times, they have changed. And not for the better.


  108. When I was 5 my father gave me my first pocket knife. Showed me how to use it, how to sharpen it and oil it, to respect it. Yeah, I bloodied a few fingers (my own), but no serious damage, and I took the knife (3 blades: two about 1 inch, one a little over 2 inches) to school every day. I still have it, and it’s still sharp, just a bit small for my hand these days.

    I used it to sharpen pencils, tease out splinters, carve sticks, make things. I never made a secret of it, no teacher ever raised a fuss.

    I feel bad for the kid, and hope that this might illustrate the idiocy of zero tolerance.

    One problem I see is how do you precisely define “weapon” so as to cover every possible weapon, and not cover anything that is not a weapon? You can’t, so while we need laws, there must be interpretation involved. Sure, in some cases, maybe most, the interpretation will be obvious and easily disposed of.

  109. I think the origin of these “zero tolerance” policies was more in Columbine than 9/11, but, since then, the fact that official policies used by the TSA and police have also moved toward “zero tolerance”, that trickles down to the school level as well (“If the government does it that way, we should to”).

    To me (and many of the previous posters), “zero tolerance” means not having to think, not having to communicate, not having to take responsibility, and not having to apologize.

    There have been dozens of these stories over the years, like the student who couldn’t graduate because there was a kitchen knife in her car that fell out when she helped a friend move. What totally amazes me is how the officials in these cases don’t seem the least bit concerned or embarrassed by their actions. I’d like to see them try to argue their way out of a ticket if they were going 1 MPH over the speed limit.

    When I was in high school, in the early eighties (yes, I’m old) at a fairly rural school, every boy carried a pocket knife or two. I think our only rule was against fixed blade knives (but you could wear your pocket knife on your belt). The parking lot was also full of trucks with gun racks – guns included. There were plenty of fights, but I don’t remember anyone ever using a knife. I do remember one incident where someone pulled out a shotgun in a threatening manner after a football game one night, but no shots were fired.

  110. “Just as the soft rains fill the streams,
    pour into the rivers and join together in the oceans,
    so may the power of every moment of your goodness
    flow forth to awaken and heal all beings,
    Those here now, those gone before, those yet to come.

    By the power of every moment of your goodness
    May your heart’s wishes be soon fulfilled
    as completely shining as the bright full moon,
    as magically as by a wish-fulfilling gem.

    By the power of every moment of your goodness
    May all dangers be averted and all disease be gone.
    May no obstacle come across your way.
    May you enjoy fulfillment and long life.

    For all in whose heart dwells respect,
    who follow the wisdom and compassion, of the Way,
    May your life prosper in the four blessings
    of old age, beauty, happiness and strength.”

  111. Something has gone drastically wrong with our society. I went through elementary school carrying the standard three blade pocket knife. In middle shool I graduated to carrying a 2 1/2″ blade lockback Buck because the blade was a lot better at holding an edge. In high school I graduated to a stainless steel 3 1/2″ Kershaw. Graduated in ’82. All my teachers knew I carried, used it many times in plain view to open boxes, cut twine and any of the thousands of other things knives are used for daily. I couldn’t imagine going to school under the freakish paranoia that exists today.

    If you’re going to stab someone, a screwdriver is a better weapon than a folding knife, and sorry, but the blade in a pencil sharpener needs some good finessing to make a shiv which this kid didn’t do, so the lamers that sent him down are psychotic freaks that see boogeymen in every closet and probably belong in the state psychiatric hospital before they ruin anymore children’s lives.

  112. When I was in high school only switchblades were banned. Many kids carried pocketknives, certainly my boy scout troop always did. I never remember hearing about any knife injuries. Jeez, do the boy scouts no longer get to use pocketknives anymore? Has the white hat counterterrorism hacker merit badge replaced the wood whittling merit badge?

  113. Has the white hat counterterrorism hacker merit badge replaced the wood whittling merit badge?


    Badges for everyone!

  114. I carry a pocketknife wherever I go. Hell, if I move back to the US, I have half a mind to open-carry a pistol, too, just to piss people off.

    Anyway, the point of this story is that I wish everyone on every level of this decision-making change a miserable life and painful, lonely death. People who hide behind rules and enforce them when they make no sense are no different or better than (Godwin alert) Nazis.

    Stupid bastards, the lot of them.

  115. [scm] Those billions spent in Iraq should have gone to research – we need unbreakable pencil sharpeners or the terrorists win! [/scm]

  116. When I was in 4th grade, Mr. Armitage’s class I believe, a friend and I spent our recess time putting together a plastic model of the X-1 (complete with little orange Chuck Yeager). I remember one day we were cutting plastic parts apart with an exacto knife (borrowed from the teacher actually). He was holding a part, and I was cutting. I slipped and cut him. Not badly, but plenty of blood as those things do. I then remember the two of us spending much of the remainder of the day trying to convince the teachers that:

    (1) no, we have not had a fight
    (2) yes, it was an accident
    (3) please, could we finish working on our model

    My friend, Beck, was really nice about that… repeating over and over that it was no big deal, and an accident. That was in the early 1990’s. I can’t imagine what would happen now.

  117. Kyle 135: While I have empathy for your position, ill-wishing someone is really bad for you. Lots worse than it is for them.

    This is true no matter how much they deserve it, unfortunately. I say this in all friendly kindness.

  118. I’m coming to this post late, but I might as well say:

    All of you that are chiming in as to how horrible and unjust this is. Go back and read this post:

    The teacher should have thrown the blade away and given the kid a non-broken sharpener.

    Since she didn’t, It is likely the student has done other things to give her concern.

    The Principal was supporting his teacher. He was being a good administrator. Unfortunately this required him to contact the police. Probably not because he felt it necessary, but because the community has passed laws requiring it, and he would like to keep his job.

    This was a minor thing and does not support your fears of Big Brother.

  119. Zero tolerance policies are put in place to relieve school administrators from the responsibility and possible consequences that could result from having to actually make a decision about something.

  120. Why are Americans so paranoid? Why do we vote our fears, see threat in every shadow. We are not living in Sudan or North Korea. We are some of the safest people on earth. Our biggest daily threats come from our fellow citizens. A little child with a broken pencil sharper being treated like a terrorist is insane. When all common sense goes out the window, it is hard to respect the intent of the system. Following this disjointed logic, wouldn’t a child with an intact pencil sharpener be found guity of carrying a concealed weapon? For the love of all that is sane, keep the real world in perspective.

  121. #17 – You said what I feel.

    Treat people like criminals, and they will start to feel, and then behave that way.

    Zero tolerance means no one has to be responsible for making judgements. Slap that together with a total information society, and you have totalitarianism.

  122. Calabanos,

    You just created an imaginary scenario to allow you to blame the child. Please promise me that you won’t breed.

  123. “Since she didn’t, It is likely the student has done other things to give her concern.”

    …That’s right. The teacher is *never* wrong, especially when he/she/it *IS* clearly wrong. Can’t have their authority undermined, can we? Otherwise we might find out all their other flaws, like not knowing half of what their lesson plans mean, or having that bottle of MD 20/20 in their top drawer underneat the grade book.


  124. Here in Europe this seems all very far-fetched. I have a couple of questions…:
    – since these zero-tolerance laws are in place, is crime rate significantly down?
    – are fourth graders permitted to eat with fork and knife in the presence of other children?
    – and countless others…

    One thing is sure: if I involved police here for this kind of incident, I’d probably be arrested for contempt.

  125. DSmalle 145: As far as I know, zero-tolerance policies have no positive effect on crime rates. Even if they do, you can always end crime by locking up everyone in your society, but who wants to live like that?

    The alleged “Home of the Brave” has been ruled by the cowardly and the faint of heart for long enough. People trading their (real) freedom for (fake) security! It makes me sick.

  126. *eyeroll*

    I think the assistant principal is the one who needs to be suspended. For carrying a huge stick up their arse.

  127. I remember discovering a shotgun shell and pocket knife in one of my coat pockets at recess in grade school (about twenty years ago) after forgetting to clean out my pockets after hunting with my dad and grandpa the day before. I wisely kept my discovery to myself and no one was the wiser.

    I can only imagine if this happened today and someone had informed a teacher. I’m picturing swat-team and facility lockdown…

    What has this country come to?

  128. This is a gray issue. Since Columbine schools look more closely at these issues (or make these situations into issues). As much as its painful to watch a kid go down for a stupid mistake or coincidence, its more painful to witness damage that could have been avoided. I know HIlton Head is an affluent community, and I also know the one I teach in has a 28 percent poverty rate and all the attending social problems that creates. I taught a program for kids who were deemed unfit for school but for an hour a day. I remember one of them shot his friend in the head accidentally. Another kid at school was caught loading a pistol on school grounds (both students were in middle school at the time). I teach art and I have to sign the sharps in and out every class, as much as I hate how it cuts into my time with students. I am also aware that slight tweaking of these rigid guidelines put in place in the name of safety can put the screws to students. A gray issue with no easy answer.

  129. @calabanos

    Since she didn’t, It is likely the student has done other things to give her concern.

    How can you justify something by making such a large assumption? You have incomplete information (as do I), but you leap to defend a clearly broken system.

    This was a minor thing and does not support your fears of Big Brother.

    perhaps not, but your assumption that all is well, nothing to see here, stop being paranoid does more than support those fears,

    it justifies them.

  130. Need to clarify my clumsy comment. I didn’t mean to imply that poverty was exclusively linked to school violence; it clearly isn’t.
    I meant to illustrate the difficulty in discerning threats, when some of them are just innocent kid maneuvers and some are really serious problems.

  131. What is wrong with this school system? Yes, they did take disciplinary action but what is suspending a child going to do.I would understand if they put in some study hall/detention/extra work agreement but suspension. It is not like he even threatened to abuse or hurt anybody with that blade. We should also get electric sharperners in every classroom so children would not have to bring that to school.

  132. From the report it looks like the kid was suspended pending a review, and that the AP wasn’t convinced there was any malice intended by the student. Probably some protocol was being followed even though it didn’t match the severity of the actual situation. Yeah, I don’t get the suspension part following the common-sense police report. No room for a judgement call?

  133. A population in a putative democracy that has no common social experience is an easily led herd. The destruction of public schools through denial of funding and insane zero tolerance polices is finely calculated to support a burgeoning home “schooling” industry and those bigot-factories known as “religious schools”.

  134. Meanwhile each year there are innumerable, hostile students entering public school from home environments that do not support education because the benefits are invisible to them. If you don’t believe me I encourage you to randomly pick a public school in your area and volunteer to sub for one week.
    These are students who have not been shown the value of education. Where is the proof for them?
    Takuan, where do you get your information that claims lack of public school funding is designed to support home schooling? That sounds dubious to me.
    As for which schools are worse for the child, pick your meat grinder-there’s little difference between them unless you spotlight individual schools. Charter schools have been known to make a difference in some cases, but like everything else, the system can be abused.

    1. where do you get your information that claims lack of public school funding is designed to support home schooling?

      Voucher programs take money away from public schools. That’s why it’s such a hot button ballot issue when it comes up. And some of those charter schools are terrifying. I don’t just mean the Warriors for God schools. Some of them have a distinctly separate but equal flavor to them. Universal public education is a pretty good counter to tribalism.

  135. #157 Antinous–Yeah that’s the abuse I was referring to. But some charters teach meaningful, authentic curriculum without having to answer to No Child Left Behind. And ditto on the vouchers. There’s so much potential for creative curriculum design with them!

    I don’t see a direct link between vouchers and home school. Home schools could potentially be a cool alternative to public school but so far the only data I’ve seen is about right wing white christian flight. I’ve looked into charter schools and from what I’ve seen the successful ones whose charters get renewed are not the scary kind. Perhaps I’m not looking in the right places, though. There have been some interesting arts and technology charters, for instance.
    Universal public education is a great idea that keeps failing. Money is one of many factors contributing to the overall collapse, as far as I’m concerned.

    1. I know a few people who home school, and their children are, basically, superhuman. But others will turn out monsters of stupidity and violence. I acknowledge that it can go extraordinarily well. But it can also go extraordinarily badly. If we were an enlightened society, which we are not, home schooling would be great. As it is, public schooling is a better option. It enforces mediocrity. But, for the United States in 2008, mediocrity would be a step up from monstrosity.

  136. To be clear, charter schools are actually public schools, not home schools. They sometimes take over public school buildings that have failed to meet AYP or other NCLB standards and have been restructured. Sometimes instead of just hiring new admin, a group will organize a charter which must have ties to local community and business. The schools are required to service the same student population as a regular public school. I think abuse of the system comes in when small groups attempt extremely localized charters with such a small enrollment that they are exclusive by design instead of limited by budget, etc.

  137. @ 158 I meant to comment on charters when I wrote about creative design. That sentence should have read:

    Some charters teach meaningful, authentic curriculum without having to answer to No Child Left Behind. There’s so much potential for creative curriculum design with them!

  138. whatever happened to wall-mounted pencil sharpeners in each classroom? We never had to bring sharpeners to school, except for the art students.

  139. Good Lord… Many, many objects CAN be used as weapons. It’s just stupid to live in fear of all these objects. I myself carried (and still do, when I’m in a situation that permits it) a useful little tool available in any hardware store: a plastic handle that holds a single-edge razor blade. Like a utility knife, but smaller. It’s great for opening packages, cutting out paper shapes when scissors aren’t there, cutting loose threads off — and sharpening pencils. It looks like a Clovis point when you’re done, but it works. I’m a teacher, and in many classrooms there are no working pencil sharpeners. I’ve been using tools like these since I was in junior high (middle) school myself and found that little “pointers” rarely do the job and don’t fit in the pocket well.

    Three facts to keep in mind:
    1. Just because a tool CAN be used as a weapon doesn’t mean it makes an effective weapon. The student in the article no doubt had a difficult time using the tiny, rectangular 3/4″ (2.5 cm for the world outside the US and Sierra Leone)-long blade as a Bowie knife on his pencil. There’s no good way to grip it with the fingers, and even if he found the correct way to sharpen a pencil with the blade, it still wouldn’t be easy. (That’s why we invented a machine for it — not out of fear of knives.) If one tried to use such a blade as a weapon, the chances of it actually doing serious harm are incredibly small. Maybe a skilled assassin could make use of it… but a kid who tried that would probably wind up getting pummelled by his intended victim for annoying him with that puny blade. Not to give pointers here, but a good shove of a desk followed by a heavy textbook to the temple would be a more effective means of hospitalizing a classmate on the fly. (Yeah, I went to some pretty rough schools.) In short, the most effective weapons are ACTUAL weapons. Anything else is on the level of rock-throwing.

    2. And this is very important: The student actually HAD a pencil and was SHARPENING it without being disruptive! Yeah, someone panicked because “He’s using a tiny, not-attached-to-a-handle blade! That could, with some stretching of the imagination, be some sort of lame excuse for a weapon!” But as a teacher, I could only wish for a classroom full of students who are prepared for class, making an effort to get the work done, and doing so quietly. Darn — I would have praised his industriousness and given him a shiny new “pointer” (those little pencil sharpeners). Or better yet (if I could afford it) a sturdy mechanical pencil and a little box of replacement points. You never have to sharpen those! I’m speaking as a teacher who has seen too much time wasted by students who never have pencils, who see a broken or dull point as an excuse to not work, and who play with electric pencil sharpeners until they have nothing left but a stub and class is over. I’d be proud to have this kid in my class.

    3. I may complain about behavior, but I maintain that kids are not stupid. Adults are stupid if they refuse to learn. Kids very quickly figure out weaknesses in adults’ systems and exploit them. They see adults overreacting to a blade that any kid can see poses no threat to a person, and you can bet someone will come up with a way to have “fun” with that fact. Because there are too many “adults” who have more power than the brains to use it properly, all too often some smug little brat succeeds in getting a student expelled or a teacher fired. As adults, we should be able to see what’s happening and fix the problem. When kids see us solving problems rationally, they’ll have better examples to follow.

  140. lets hope he doesn’t have a compass, eh?

    tho nowadays the spike is about 1mm long. I have one of my grandad’s compasses with a 10cm spike. easyly long enough to kill a man.

  141. If one eliminates everything with which a person can be killed from school property, that’s as good away as any of completely preventing education. It’s already been stated that a person can be killed with a ball-point pen or sharp pencil; you can also kill someone with a hardbound book or even a rolled-up piece of paper (though you have to be pretty strong and determined to make that one work).

    Hell, I know school-age kids who can kill someone with their bare hands. Somehow I don’t think amputation is a good prerequisite for school attendance. I know: peace-bond them! Kids only get to go to school wearing behind-the-back handcuffs! That’ll teach ’em to live in the society the right keeps denying they’re trying to build.

    CIR 160: I like it. I’ll be quoting that.

  142. Less than 10 years ago I attended a small boarding school on a remote island in the South Pacific.
    There were two things every student had to have to enroll. A uniform (white shirt, blue skirt or shorts) and a bush knife. A bush knife is like a big ol’ machete knife… around a 12″ blade, I’d say, with a sturdy wooden handle.
    It was for agriculture class, which predominately consisted of clearing out the grass and shrubs in our Agriculture teacher’s back yard.
    As far as I am aware, they are still a requirement for enrollment there.
    Man, that was a good school.

  143. I now broaden my original challenge to include all: please do go volunteer at a public high school before reporting on the ridiculousness of these policies. While it won’t take away all the stupidity of over-zealous policy, I all but guarantee you will understand why they are in place.

    This is not a guarantee.

    There are likely high schools that operate differently than the ones in my experience, but mine had pretty intense populations.

  144. Anthony, we’re talking about a fourth grader. I wouldn’t send a fourth grader into a public high school. Were the fourth graders in your experience particularly bloodthirsty? (In all seriousness I know this is possible, but certainly doesn’t appear to be the case here.)

  145. Xopher, I see your point. I get a little wound up at the end of the day. As posted earlier, though, I’ve known some alarming things happen to and as a result of middle schoolers. The story from this post does seem ridiculous. It also seems as though the persons handling the report didn’t buy into the threat. The kid got swept along by a wave of protocol, and that’s something I’ve seen plenty of as well.

  146. Hm, maybe I need to rethink my school plan. :P

    Poor kid tho this is why schools suck really bad. I mean it wasn’t his fault he must of been really confused and upset.

  147. hmm. interesting….i live in NZ and over here we get PROVIDED with razor blades in our biology class…..o and scalpels….

  148. I wish I didn’t have to do this anonymously, but I had a problem with creating an account for some reason.
    If anything such as this happened where I live, the police wouldn’t be involved. You would just get suspended and gotten a lecture. I agree with some of the other people who have replied to this story, about how he didn’t know it could’ve been a weapon. If this school has a zero-tolerance policy, which I am assuming it does due to some people’s comments, that it does, that the police shouldn’t have been involved since they describe him as a model student. If he wasn’t then they should’ve just seen what his reason was first, and if he did have an intention to hurt someone then call the police, if not, then just suspend and give a lecture like they sould’ve done in the first place.
    Now to someone else comment they said by they way he was described that he probably has been bullied and could’ve had reason to hurt the bully, this is a good assumption, but also not. The reason it is a good assumption is because people do hurt people who bully them, but this is ALMOST ALWAYS in middle school or high school. This kid is in elementary. Almost all kids in elementary probably wouldn’t think of stabbing their bully, due to the fact you are still a child in elementary, excluding 5th grade, because of the fact you are old enough to know that you can hurt someone with a pencil sharpener blade. But what people need to see, and some of you who have commented on here, when you are a child you see thing’s differently. Which most adults either forget, or think that child understands it or could understand for some stupid reason. And sadly some American’s are stupid and ignorant sometimes, giving us American’s bad names, because people are seeing the stupidest of us, due to the fact it makes a great story to talk about and watch. The teacher and principal, should’ve had common sense to see that he just intended to sharpen his pencil. What happened to this kid is really sad, and shouldn’t have had the luck of getting police involved.
    I’m from Huntington, West Virginia, and I’m 15. And I really disapprove with you people who say that what this child is going through is just, because he violated rules or laws by having the blade. You idiot who agree to that, MUST realize that he should have only been suspended, and a lecture and that’s it.

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