This kind of story makes me indescribably angry. A 13-year old Boy Scout was suspended from his Massachusetts middle school after he showed a forgotten pocket knife to a couple of friends as they walked home from school. In addition to missing 8 days of school, he is going to have a “weapons violation” in his permanent record.
From Boston Herald:
She said her 13-year-old son, an eighth-grader at Milton’s Charles S. Pierce Middle School, was suspended for eight days following a disciplinary hearing Tuesday with the school’s principal and vice principal.
Oshun said her son on Dec. 6 showed friends a folding knife with a less than 2-inch blade he uses on camping trips with the Boy Scouts.The teen accidentally forgot the knife was in his backpack, took it to school, and on his way home showed it to his pals while they were in his neighborhood, she said.
“I confirmed with the school yesterday they intend to put this on his permanent record and use verbiage that uses the word ‘weapon,’ ” Oshun said. “He is a male of color. … My son doesn’t miss days from school. We can count the number of days since he’s missed since kindergarten on two hands.”…
…The boy’s troop leader, Jim Solomon, wrote a letter on behalf of the teen presented at the disciplinary hearing. He said the suspended teen is a dedicated Scout who wants to one day become an Eagle Scout.
Folding knives are a necessary utility, and the boy had the knife in his backpack because he intended to go camping in Manchester, N.H., but then didn’t because he was sick, Solomon said.
He added that Boy Scouts are well trained to use the knives safely. Solomon said the school is being too strict.
He should have “gotten a warning,” Solomon added. “They should have said, ‘Don’t do it again’ because he didn’t do anything wrong. … He was excited about being a Scout and wanted to show others his knife.”
This is a travesty in any case, doubly so because the boy in question looks to fit the very definition of “at risk youth”. He is a child of color, from what I gather is a single mother (no mention of the father in any piece I have read), who should be praised for being industrious instead of being punished for an innocuous act. There was no violent intent. He had a practical tool which he showed off to his friends. For this he might some day have trouble getting into an internship or college.
If this despicable action on the part of Milton Public Schools administrators.
Name and shame time. From the Milton Public Schools website:
Mary C. Gormley – Superintendent of Schools
Ms. Mary C. Gormley is the Superintendent of the Milton Public Schools. Superintendent Gormley is a life long Milton resident who attended the Milton Public Schools as a student for grades K-12. Ms. Gormley earned a Bachelors Degree in English from Emmanuel College, a Masters Degree in Education from Boston College, and is a graduate of Boston College’s Professional School Administrator Program (PSAP). Ms. Gormley was an Elementary Classroom teacher at the Glover Elementary School for 15 years prior to serving as the Principal of the Cunningham Elementary School for 10 years. In 1997, Ms. Gormley was appointed to the position of Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Personnel. Ms. Gormley was named Superintendent of Schools starting July 1, 2008.
I am proud to the be Superintendent of a school system where the administrators, teachers and support staff work collaboratively with parents and community members to enrich the educational experiences for each of our Pre-K through grade twelve students.
-Mary C. Gormley
My what an impressive resume. Too bad you were never taught compassion or common sense at any of these august institutions.
Since I began putting this piece together, more information has come to light. It turns out that the district does not even have a “Zero Tolerance” policy. Which means that Ms. Gormley and her team actually exercised a modicum of discretion in the case and decided that their actions were just. Shame on you all.
From Wicked Local Milton:
Ife Oshun’s 13-year-old son, who she asked not be named in this article, was served an eight-day suspension on Dec. 8 after he admitted he brought the two-inch blade with him to Pierce Middle School.
Oshun says the school overreached in its punishment of her son who never took the knife out of his backpack while in school and also objects to the classification of the scouting knife as a weapon.
“My grievances are that the school is claiming jurisdiction over his actions after school hours, off school grounds and outside school events,” Oshun said.
Oshun has contacted ACLU to help her fight the permanent stain she says will tarnish her son’s otherwise clean record.
A lawyer for Milton Public Schools said the school could not comment on disciplinary actions of individual students, but said Pierce Middle School’s weapons policies are consistent with state law.
“The district uses discretion and does not have a zero tolerance policy,” Paige Tobin said.
Oshun disagrees. She said the school did not take into consideration the difference between a scouting blade and weapons intended for violence.
For boy scouts like Oshun’s son, the blade isn’t a weapon, it’s a tool used to open cans, whittle wood for kindling and other odd jobs while camping.
“There was no intention to do anything wrong, in fact they wouldn’t have even known unless they’d asked him. He was honest and there’s the lesson,” Oshun said.
Oshun said her son noticed the knife in a pocket of his backpack when he was packing up at the end of the day on Dec. 6. He showed the knife to friends after the dismissal bell as he walked home with a group of friends. She said the boys stopped in Kelly Field, an athletic field next to the school. That’s where he took out the blade.
One of the other boys told their parents, who called the school to report Oshun’s son and two days later the he was handed his punishment following a disciplinary hearing before school principals and guidance counselors.
“It felt like he was being treated like a criminal,” she said.
Oshun wasn’t able to appeal her son’s suspension. Under state law, parents are only able to appeal long-term suspensions, which are defined as suspensions of at least 10 days.
The boys mother is named Ife. It is entirely possible he is from an immigrant community. This makes his uphill climb already steeper than average. To kneecap such a promising young man’s future for a nonviolent mistake is reprehensible.