Our latest example of child abuse by school administrators comes from the state of Pennsylvania. A 10 year-old was expelled from the private Valley School last year for the incident described below. Now the local Blairsville-Saltsburg public school district has held up her enrollment, and is threatening to send her to the school for behavioral problems.
The parents of Abbigail Cunkelman of Blairsville have asked a Westmoreland County judge to reverse their daughter’s expulsion from the Valley School of Ligonier, where officials found she had a knife with a 1 1⁄4-inch blade during a May orchestra concert.
They said their daughter was using the knife to cut loose or frayed hairs from the strands that make up a violin bow.
Brian and Jennifer Cunkelman say they were surprised in July when Valley School officials notified them by letter that Abbigail had been dismissed from the school because she violated the state’s Safe Schools Act. It permits districts to expel students who bring weapons onto school property…
…The Safe Schools Act paves the way for districts to expel students for up to a year for bringing weapons onto school property.
The law, though, is vague and not applied correctly in many instances, said Deborah Gordon Klehr, executive director of the Education Law Center, based in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
“We have concerns about the use of zero-tolerance laws because it doesn’t allow for common sense or discretion,” Klehr said.
School districts should be able to decide whether an object was brought into school to cause harm or if it was for a more benign reason such as to maintain the strings of a violin bow, she said.
The law says that expelled students can be accepted by other school districts. Those students could be assigned to an alternate educational program such as a school for disruptive students, Klehr said.
I used to carry a Spyderco Endura at my private high school. It was never an issue. Its blade locked and was much longer than 1.25″.One major reason I send my children to Catholic School is precisely because if there is ever an issue, it is more likely than not that an incident involving my child would result in a phone call from the principal and not a lockdown and SWAT response (granted not what happened here).
It is our policy to name and shame administrators whose lack of critical thought is abusing our children and whose actions will seriously harm their psychological development and future prospects for no reason whatsoever.
Clair Ward – Headmistress The Valley School of Ligonier
Dr. Tammy Whitfield – Superintendent, Blairsville-Saltsburg School District – who declined to speak with TribLive reporters for the story.
Shame on you both. Abbigail deserves better than you.