Teacher bans pencils

An elementary school in Massachusetts prohibited sixth-grade students from carrying "any writing implements" not given to them by teachers. Those who carried their own pencils were assumed to be building "weapons." The ban has since been rescinded. [Telegram]


  1. From Ohnonichole (can’t seem to log in).

    A bit of digging turns up that some of her students had rigged their mechanical pencils to shoot needles and other projectiles (see spit wads). I think she might have just had had enough of bedlam in the classroom.

    I think the oversimplified link/summary does this little event a bit of injustice.

  2. About time people realize how stupid the anti weapons policy is, if i stab you in the neck with a pen you’re going to bleed just as much as if i did it with a knife.

    Cop : Do you have any weapons
    Me : Define weapons
    Cop : Anything you could harm me with.
    Me : I’ve got a pen
    Cop : are you going to try to stab me with it?
    Me : No
    To myself : And its not like I’m going to try it with a knife either.

    1. Man, I tried that. It went more like this, though.

      Cop : Do you have any weapons?
      Me : Define weapons.
      Cop : What are you, some kind of wise guy?
      Me : No, I’m just not sure what you mean; anything could be…
      Cop : I’ll show you some definitions!
      Me : Ow! Ouch! Stop! No! Bad touch, bad touch! OWW!
      Cop : Be sure to tell all your smart-ass friends, too.
      Me : Yes sir officer.

  3. According to the story, and others I’ve seen, the school didn’t prohibit anything. A teacher sent out a letter she didn’t have the authority to send.

    “The principal sent home a follow-up memo to the same families who received the teacher’s memo the day before stating that there would be no changes in school procedure,” Mr. Noseworthy said.

    “This was an attempt to by a fairly new sixth-grade teacher to make changes that were not warranted. The student who was found with an altered pen was suspended and as far as administrators were concerned, the matter was put to rest,” Mr. Noseworthy said.

  4. More importantly, a student was suspended for “altering a pen for use as a weapon.” Or, more accurately, taking a pen apart to use the tube to shoot paper balls. Deadly paper balls.

    Don’t schools have normal means of punishment anymore? This seems more like an offense warranting a timeout or, at worst, detention.

    1. @ lasttide – Are pea shooters like this one banned in US schools? I don’t recall having one per se as a kid in the UK, but we did make reasonably effective and only marginally (in-the-eye) dangerous ones out of the outer tube of a Biro or Bic, which sounds a bit like the offence you’re referring to. You’d use little chewed wads of paper as ammo. Or even better, some pearl barley – you could put a few in your mouth and fire them off with a semi-automatic effect using a well-coordinated tongue.

  5. I believe this article is incorrect. I seem to recall that one teacher in the school sent a letter to her student’s parents prohibiting them from bringing in their own writing instruments. This “policy” was never endorsed by the school, who immediately distanced themselves from the teacher’s position.

  6. The school is correct… a pencil is a *very* dangerous weapon!
    (The pen is mightier than the sword.)
    If you allow that, next thing you know, kids will be having ideas! :-\

    1. Nicholas Cage: Wait, wait, wait.. are you selling Penis Mightiers?

      Alex Trebek: No! No, I’m not.

      Sean Connery: Well, you’re sitting on a gold mine, Trebek!

  7. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but you only have a constitutionally-protected right to bear the latter. Hmm.

    I’m now wondering if it’s allowed in US law to confiscate a pencil only if it has not /yet/ been converted into arms. Once you’ve made it stabbitty, the teacher can claw it from your cold, fingerpaint-covered hands.

  8. I guess money to buy lunch will be banned soon too… since theoretically kids can buy weapons (and fatty foods) with money.

    Or goods of any kind… or services… all these can be used to trade/barter for weapons.

    Freaking Massachusetts… just like Vermount, but with less outwardly nutty people.

  9. Perhaps the teacher was worried about IEDs (Improvised Education Devices). Of course when used correctly, a pencil can become a Weapon of Math Instruction.

  10. I’ve seen TV shows about guys who can kill people with their bare hands. I don’t think we should be sending our kids to school with such deadly weapons. We can sew them back on when they graduate.

  11. Well I think anything will be banned then if we just we the result, not the process how it happened.Fingers will be ‘banned’ just because a student used it to hurt another student? LOL. Nobody will ‘bring’ any fingers to school then.Accordingly, the problem is not on the pencils.

  12. You want weapons? I gots ’em right here at the end o’ me arms!

    Now gimme the spinach, or I’ll turn me fists into whirling sledge hammers!

    – Popeye’s first day in school

  13. When I was in grade 8, my class went on a field trip to Avco Financial. Everyone got a pen that someone figured out could be easily turned into a spring-powered cannon. As I recall, it was the kind of pen that unscrewed in the middle. The bottom part had grooves and the top part had the bit that went into the grooves. So you’d take the spring off the part near the tip and put it into the bottom part. Then you cut off the plastic that would screw into the bottom and screw it into the bottom as a stopper for the spring. You’d prime the cannon by shoving down on the spring with the ink-filled tube. Then load it with a spitball or piece of plasticine, aim, and hit the button to fire.

    It wasn’t powerful enough to be dangerous, but it was messy having plasticine all over.

  14. Silly teacher, but it doesn’t sound like a school-wide policy. As far as anyone is able to measure
    (i.e. NAEP rather than NCLB tests), Massachusetts has the best public education system in the US, which is admittedly pretty faint praise.

  15. I remember sixth grade. It was a violent time. It was right around then that someone showed me how to assemble the components of a standard retractable ballpoint into a “gun.” Probably just like Jardine’s above (that you, Todd?), except each pen provided its own ammo. Unscrew it, remove the ink cartridge, pull the spring off the ink cartridge. Pull out the button assembly, take the small internal dingus off the inboard end of the button assembly (the dingus that engages the upper end of the ink cartridge). Turn the dingus around so it faces backwards, and place the spring between the dingus and the button. Reassemble the pen sans ink cartridge and press the button a couple of times (mostly for effect). When your enemy is in sight, unscrew the pen and take aim. Press the button. The dingus will fly most of the way across a standard 35-student classroom. It might even make someone say “Ow!” if it actually hits them in the eye.

    I guess it wasn’t a suspendable offense back in 1981. We’re fortunate any of us survived.

    Someday, if I didn’t think it would get the ATF all up in my grill, I’d love to tell y’all about how we made rockets out of matches, tinfoil, and a bent paperclip. Those probably would have led to at least a brief suspension, had any of us been caught.

    1. Pardon me, Donald, but I was unfamiliar with the word ‘dingus’ and had to look it up. As you are a gentleman, can I assume you were going for the #5 definition?

      1): another word for a spaz.
      NOTE: a dingus is NOT a stupid person, because a dingus is someone who can make you laugh by doing stupid THINGS, but they are not stupid people. a stupid person is an idiot. idiot and dingus are different.
      (your friend is rocking back and forth on their chair and it topples over, thus flinging them across the room)

      you say “dude, you’re such a DINGUS”

      2): A person who is exceptionally goofy or awkward in nature, but in an endearing and lovable way.

      3): The word “dingus” came about through the popular movie, “The Maltese Falcon” where the star, Humphrey Bogart, refers to the Maltese falcon as “The Dingus”. So, the definition of the word “dingus” is a way of referring to any noun (including people) in an offhand manner.
      –Who did you go to the movies with? Eh, some dingus.

      –Could you please pass the dingus?

      4): Something with a horrific smell.

      NOTE: Dingus is not a slow person.
      It smells like dingus in here.

      5): A gadget or tool whose name has been forgotten.

      6): A slang term describing the male penis as described in the book What’s Happening to My Body.
      Mommy theres a prarie dog in my bed!
      Dont worry Timmy, thats just your dingus growing

      1. “A gentleman”? My dear, you flatter me too much! When I fell out of the Sophistication Tree, I managed to miss every branch on the way down, and landed gently in the Bumpkin Patch.

        My meaning was, as you suspect, intended to be Number Five. I was using it in the way Paul Newman’s character refers to the Extruded Plastic Dingus in the Coen Brothers’ Hudsucker Proxy. (“You know… for kids!”)

        But funny you should mention #1. I was just thinking about the word “spaz” this morning, after following a BB link to a discussion from eight months ago that I wish I’d commented on back then. I’d tellya all about the interesting train of thought, but I shrink from going that far OT in this thread. Suffice to say, it made me smile to hear you use it.

        Honestly, I had no idea “dingus” could have so many meanings. Who knew one could say, “That dingus has a dingus that smells like dingus, but he’s such a dingus he forgot his dingus beneath the dingus. Dingus.” and have it make perfect sense?

        1. Bumpkin, you say?
          Then I may as well ask you. Perhaps you could clarify for me: what the relation, if any, betwixt dingus and doofus?

          1. Could be a doofus falls somewhere on the spectrum between dingus and dipstick. In my own personal lexicon, if you’re gonna apply the term “dingus” to a person, he’s going to be sort of lovably awkward and maybe not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but not someone who’s primarily recognized for his dingushood. A doofus, on the other hand, while still lovable, is actually kind of stupid. Elmer Fudd is a bit of a dingus. Goofy is a doofus.

            And a dipstick is actually kind of irritatingly stupid. Like Lonesome Lenny and Hugo the Abominable Snowman and all the countless other “call-him-George” Of-Mice-And-Men-Lenny-clones from yesteryear’s cartoons.

            Otherwise, it could be this.

        2. I read your story and was trying to reconstruct your weapon in my imagination, and got hung up on the word ‘dingus’. Fairly certain that’s a nonsense word . . . but then I thought, what if it isn’t? I could say something to that effect, lightly teasing, only to have you cite an exploding parts chart of a pen, with an arrow pointing firmly to ’the dingus’. Oh, the shame of it. Best to do a Google search first and make inquiries.

          Funny you should mention Abominable. I sat and transcribed the dialogue of ‘Daffy and the Abominable Snowman’ about a month ago. The line I was after was: ‘Oh sure, I’m a louse, but I’m a live louse’.

          1. Although the terminology is my own informal jargon, I guess I’ll be That Guy and display the exploded view of the retractable ballpoint pen in question. The “Button” would be the chrome-tipped-but-otherwise-white plastic thingamajig on the far right. The Dingus would be the white plastic dingus immediately to the left of the Button, just above the upper (rightmost) end of the ink cartridge. Of course, I’d never be so boorish as to point an arrow to the dingus. Not only would pointing to a dingus be unseemly in and of itself, but I know that you know where to look without a big fat arrow to guide you.

            And now I gotta ask, what moved you to sit and actually transcribe the dialogue of a Daffy Duck cartoon? I might have to envy your free time and admire your usage of same, though if you had an open can of Almond Roca next to you at the time, I’m not sure I would have wanted to be there.

            Also that line was definitely in character for a duck who was known to say, “I may be a craven little coward, but I’m a greedy craven little coward!”

        3. Oh, and Donald, I don’t really think of you as a gentleman. That was one of those preemptive compliments, in case the dingus inquiry came back to bite me in the tookus. Sometimes I go too far . . .but of course you were cool. Thanks.

          1. but of course you were cool. Thanks.

            Oops. Posted the above before I read this.

            I do hope you take the exploded diagram in the spirit in which it is offered: helpful illustration, rather than “this is what I meant, dummy!” You certainly didn’t go too far in your “dingus inquiry.”

            Heh. “Dingus inquiry.” Anyway, nobody should be expected to possess an intimate familiarity with ballpoint pen components unless they’d spent time in the grade-school trenches as a lad (or as a fairly aggro tomboy) constructing small-caliber munitions out of office supplies. Your comments and questions have been fair and fun throughout.

            And now I’ll shut up before someone hollers “Get a room!”

          2. I’m considering a disposable g-mail account . . . need to think about this some more and solicit advice. Our modern lives are so complicated. Thank goodness for the ‘convenience’ of computers.

          3. FWIW, I do recommend it. Gimme a holler if you do.

            As for the tuchis, I’ve also seen it spelled tochis (by Harlan Ellison, in fact, unless he was thereby the victim of a loose-cannon copy editor). There’s a word that cries for more frequent usage.

          4. “came back to bite me in the tookus.”

            That’s “tuchis” with the ‘ch’ sound like you’re hawking up a lugey. the ‘u’ or ‘oo’ sound is short, like ‘book’. But then again, being pedantic about the spelling of a transliterated word is pretty much mishigos…

          5. Thanks lectroid . . . transliterated indeed. I see this is also spelled ‘tuchus’. All the same definition, but I will use ‘tuchis’ in the future.

  16. See? If you’d had your pencil taken away from you when you were in sixth grade, you’d probably know how to spell “Masssachusetts” now.

  17. I got sent to the principals office for unfolding a nail clipper into a gun-like shape – and that was about 1970. I guess Mr. Arterburn was ahead of his time.

  18. my school banned “chain wallets” because one of the wannabe “thugs” in the school wore a LOG CHAIN as a necklace one day and was swinging it at his brother.

    all us sk8ter fags staged a protest in the principals office explaining that yes the pencils and pens could be equally effective weapons. not to mention the TIE he had on could be used to choke him as he wore it.

    we never stopped wearing our wallets with chains but they never said anything to us really. i think it was more of a “we have to say this” than a “we have to enforce this” thing. i’m sure they knew we were the farthest thing from troublemakers ;)

  19. When I was in school kids just used rubber bands to fire folded paper darts at each other. Or, for more accuracy and greater effect, folded bits of aluminum foil.

    I’m certain you could get far more accuracy and distance out of those than you could get from of any modified pen. I could hit targets the size of a quarter from across the room, and the darts could easily punch through several layers of paper at that distance. Even so, actually hurting someone with something like that could pretty much only happen through a freak accident.

    I suppose they could have caused quite a bit of damage in the wrong situation, but it would have been interesting to see the administration attempt to ban rubber bands, paper, foil, and gum wrappers.

  20. at least they are being consistent. A pen can be a poke pretty easily. People get killed in prison quite often with crude approximations of a stiletto.

  21. Rubber band.

    paperclip unfolded to this shape:

    If the rubberband is thick enough you can make these stick into a cork board from the back of the chemistry lab, or into the accoustic tiles in the ceiling. They could easily get through a few layers of paper, and would stick into your average cardboard box.

    Put out an eye? No problem, though I have thankfully never seen it happen.

    They do leave a nasty bruise at close enough range. A classmate *claimed* he got one to stick into his little brother’s buttcheek like a dart, but we didn’t believe him. He was always kind of a dick.

  22. When I was in college, the student rathskeller had a cork ceiling and sandwiches were served with those fancy toothpicks with a bit of curly cellophane around one end. Must I elaborate further?

  23. Did anyone look closely at the picture of “Noseworthy”? You heard it here first: Leslie Nielsen lives.

  24. Am I the only one that noticed the line in the reply letter
    “there were occasions when invisible pens (purchased at the book fair) went missing”

    Were did I put that invisible pen…? dang it.

    1. Good Lord. Now there’s a career low for the Chairman of the Board. I did enjoy a 5th-grader’s giggle at the beginning of the IMDB summary “Ass-breaker Dingus Magee is looking for a gold train…” “Could be how this dingus got dirty,” sniggered my inner 10-year-old.

      And the trailer just added a fourth locus to my dingus-doofus-dipstick spectrum, right there at 1:09–“He’s kind of a ding-a-ling.”

      I would categorize the font as “groovy” rather than “boss,” but otherwise I believe you nailed it. That’s gotta be a stinker and a half. The day-for-night photography alone is unbelievable.

  25. I bet that the teacher watched The Dark Knight the day before sending this out and was paranoid that one of her students would show her a “magic trick.”

  26. *sigh* When I was five, my father gave me my first pocket knife. Taught me how to care for it, use it safely, and I carried it everywhere, every day, till it was too small for my hand and I bought a larger one.

    One day in school my pencil (one of those big fat ones we had in first and second grade) needed to be sharpened, but the sharpener bolted to the table in class was broken.

    I took out my knife and started sharpening my pencil, carefully aiming the shavings into a waste basket. The teacher asked me what I was doing, I told her, didn’t even raise an eyebrow.

    I still have that knife. It was a tool, never a weapon.

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