Zero tolerance: pocket knife bad, tire iron just fine

The zero tolerance crap in the education system is totally out of control. A high school senior  – who is on the honor roll, taking AP classes and is an Eagle Scout – has been suspended from school for 20 days for having a pocket knife in his locked car while on school property.

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Come on now. From WTEN

High school senior Matthew Whalen is the kind of student any parent would want.

He’s an Eagle Scout, on the honor roll, taking Advanced Placement classes, and never been in trouble with the law.  He’s received commendations from the City of Troy and the Boy Scouts of America for saving a woman’s life, and this past summer, he completed Army basic training.  All of it was accomplished before the age of 17.

But the [Matthew Whalen’s] dream [to go into the Army] could be in jeopardy, thanks to a two-inch pocket knife that officials at Lansingburgh Senior High School found in Matthew’s locked car last month.  The pocket knife was a gift from his grandfather, Robert Whalen, who’s the Hoosick Falls Police Chief.  Matthew says he kept the knife in a side compartment and never tried showing it off or threatening anyone with it.  Instead it was a part of the survival kit that was his car.

“My car is designed in a way that if I ever broke down, I’d be OK,” Whalen explains.  “I have a sleeping bag.  I have bottled water.  I have an MRE.  I believe it’s better to be prepared and not need it than need it and not have it.”

Legal expert Thomas Carr, of Tully Rinckey PLLC, says school districts are within their rights to impose and enforce safety policies, even if a pocket knife is not considered a weapon under New York State penal law. But he also says such school rules can quickly become so-called “gray areas” that leave the meaning of what’s considered a weapon open ended.

“If this 17-year-old is driving his car to school,” Carr says, “let’s face it, the tire iron in the trunk to change the wheel is much more of a deadly weapon than a one-and-a-half inch blade knife.”

What can you do? How about making a phone call to Principal Angelina Bergin and politely ask her and the superintendent to let Matt go back to school. Her number is (518) 233-6806.

4 replies
  1. phil
    phil says:

    Why do we allow 'zero tolerance', a device whereby our educators are mandated to use 'zero intelligence', to deny our children their basic Constitutional rights?

  2. Dimsdale
    Dimsdale says:

    This is more SOS's expertise, but I have two questions: 1) why were they searching his car, particularly as he seems to be an exemplary student.  What happened to his presumption of innocence?; and 2) does a student's car become the property of the school when a student parks there?  Will I have to worry about the school rifling through my trunk if I park in their lot while voting?  It is one thing to search a student's locker, which is actually the property of the school, but his locked vehicle?  As the article states, a tire iron is quite effective on human skulls.  What about screwdrivers?  Stanley knives?   Maybe he has a black belt in karate!


    I bet, as a good Scout, he could McGuyver a rocket launcher out of his muffler….

  3. pauldow
    pauldow says:

    Once "zero tolerance" rules are in place, the person making the decisions should be fired. There's no need to pay for the highly trained decision-making skills of a Superintendent of Schools when the job can now be performed by a clerical position.

    • lolleypop
      lolleypop says:

      Tolerant policies can allow for mismanagement and biased outcomes but only if the people involved in making the decisions are there with that inappropriate intent.


      Zero Tolerance Policies are made to protect weak leaders from having to make difficult decisions and if they can’t make those decisions, then they aren't really considered leaders at all.

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