10 year old violinist expelled from school for 1.25″ bow-hair trimming blade.


A SAK Classic has a 1.5″ blade. Either the article is mistaken, or the knife in question was smaller than this.

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.

From TribLive.com:

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 14-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.


  1. S. Rone says:

    This is a perfect example of both ignorance and stupidity. I hope that the AKTI can find her an attorney.

  2. When does the “for the children” cry start to actually hurt the children? Max stupidity reached.

    1. PeterK says:

      “When does the “for the children” cry start to actually hurt the children? ”


  3. Spencer says:

    If this foolish trend continues in America we all may end up in prison for just about any reason, including “thought crimes.”

  4. CJ says:

    Went to a public high school. Used to carry a leatherman and a swiss army. Spent plenty of time fixing staplers and things like that for teachers because it was easier to let me do it than find the janitor. Fixed some shoes too. Never had an issue with someone saying something. Of course, this was 15 or so years ago. Read a post (TTAG?) that it is a tool until it is used defensively or offensively, only then is it a weapon. If they’re going to say a knife is a weapon, then what about pencils? Or bic pens? They could be used to stab somebody. A book or laptop could be used as a bludgeon. You could choke somebody with a shoelace. I’m a firm believer that intent is required as part of a description for what something is. A knife for trimming violin bow hairs? Depressing.

  5. ChuckN says:

    The only good naming “educators” like this is
    to let us know where NOT to send our kids.
    Trying to shame them if an exercise in futility.
    If they were capable of shame or even critical
    thinking these incidents would never happen.

    We are constantly besieged with propaganda
    on how great our schools and teachers are and
    how little they are paid. In my view they all need
    a serious cut in pay and benefits. When we start
    getting teachers to protest the absurdities like the
    above then we’ll talk about pay increases. Before
    anyone starts crying foul and saying how great some
    teachers are; consider the following. Many here, on
    TTAG and similar sites, have the attitude that a good
    cop that says nothing about a bad cop is by default
    no longer a good cop with the public’s interest at heart.
    Why then should we see teachers any differently?

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10 year old violinist expelled from school for 1.25″ bow-hair trimming blade.

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