December 18, 2007

Zero Knife Tolerance

A 10-year-old girl was arrested for using a steak knife to cut her lunch at a school in Florida.

Now the girl faces a 10-day suspension along with a felony weapons charge, and school officials say they have no regrets about the way teachers handled the situation.

For some reason, some people have questioned the school’s handling of the situation. The word “overreaction” is being bandied about.

Listen, folks. If you make any sort of exception for one student, you open the floodgates. She says she needs the knife to cut her food. What are you going to do to when a student shows up with a Swiss Army Knife, a Buck knife, a switchblade, a machete, a halberd, a Thompson submachine gun, or an Uzi? What do you say when 2nd grader is spraying his art classroom with an AK-47 assault rifle, and you complain, and he yells back at you “I need the gun to cut my steak!”

You see the problem?

Posted by James at December 18, 2007 12:13 PM
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I am with the zero-tolerance folks here. Cut your food into bite-sized chunks at home. No sharp objects in school kiddies.

Heck, I have a steak knife in my desk at work, and I get paranoid stares from my officemates when I decide to use it.

Posted by: Kitten Herder at December 18, 2007 12:46 PM

I agree - if only they could give her mandatory jail time. You can't give 10 year olds an inch.

Posted by: James at December 18, 2007 1:55 PM

I used a steak knife to cut my thumb this weekend. Not on purpose, but sometimes misbehavior punishes itself.

Posted by: Julie at December 18, 2007 2:36 PM

This seems to be confusion over what's fair. A kid brings a knife to school to stab his classmates on the one hand, a kid brings a knife to school to cut her food on the other. Fair's fair, they should get the same punishment.

Phhht. Idiotic. I can understand taking the knife away from the girl, letting her parents pick it up, explaining that they can't have knives in school because, seriously, have you met some of these kids?

But to suspend her for cutting her food is absolutely absurd. Good grief.

Posted by: Maggie at December 18, 2007 2:58 PM

She was charged with a felony.

"Dr. Johnson, your treatment has cured the disease! Incidentally, it also killed the patient."

Posted by: James at December 18, 2007 3:08 PM

Context, anyone? I blame the lawyers.

Posted by: Mike at December 18, 2007 3:13 PM

Ok, so the girl was dumb. Most students by now should know that weapon-like things aren't acceptable at lunch - even if you're kid is a ninja.

But a 10 day suspension? Felony charges? A fistfight gets you 2-3 days suspension, at the most, and that's when you're actually hurting someone.

Whatever, it's the south. Let's hope they finally secede and crumble.

Posted by: Derek at December 18, 2007 3:52 PM

I think you take it away and give a warning/reminder that intention is too subjective to gauge. But a felony?!?

Posted by: briwei at December 18, 2007 4:13 PM

Anything short of stabbing the student with the knife (an eye for an eye) is too lenient!

(This sarcasm is wearing me down)

Posted by: James at December 18, 2007 4:24 PM

I think it's that "intention's too subjective to gauge" reasoning that gets people down the path that led to this punishment. But let's put intention aside and look at action -- the girl was cutting her food with the thing, right? She didn't pull it out during class and menace the kid beside her. Take it away, yes, no question. But don't decide you can't deduce intention from action -- that's all we have to go on. Intention and probability.

Derek, that's a fantasy of mine as well. I'm still wondering why we fought to keep them. Of course they're weaker without the slaves now -- maybe it's time to invade.

Posted by: Maggie at December 18, 2007 4:53 PM

Who lets a 10 year old have a steak knife in the first place? I'm finding it a little hard to believe that Beanie is going to mature SO MUCH in 2 years I could trust her with one outside of my immediate line of site.

And unfortunately, with the climate in many schools these days, you can't judge intent. It was stupid, plain and simple. And unless I miss my guess, the felony charge is to ensure that the parents don't get into the "not my preshuss angel" routine and the kid doesn't learn a lesson.

I don't have a lot of sympathy here... are there any schools these days who don't have a code of conduct kids are supposed to have read and/or signed? I no longer buy the "didn't know any better" routine.

Posted by: pippa at December 18, 2007 5:02 PM

The problem is that every time there's a school shooting or similar incident, local media runs those "how safe are your kids?" stories and parents go into a frenzy. So the school institutes some sort of rule that everyone is screaming for, and then when they actually enforce the rule everyone screams about that.

Posted by: David grenier at December 18, 2007 6:56 PM

All kids are different. My 10-year-old could certainly use a steak knife, but I wouldn't trust my 12-year-old not to cut her fingers off. I know of a girl (she was in my Girl Scout troop and we were talking about chores, that's how I know this) who was doing her own laundry and watching her younger siblings when she was 10. I was babysitting when I was 11 -- left alone with other people's kids, feeding them, etc. I can't believe it myself (what was wrong with those parents??), but it's true. I can easily imagine a 10-year-old left to her own devices to make her lunch, including the first knife she could find... children don't reason the same way adults do. I'm not saying that's what happened, I have no idea. But children are very resourceful and if that was the resource at hand, she may have used it.

She should not have been in school with a knife, but charging her with a felony strikes me as absurd. Don't we have real problems to solve?

Posted by: Maggie at December 18, 2007 9:18 PM

She's ten. I doubt that she's the person who prepared her lunch and decided to include a steak knife rather than cut the food beforehand.

Now the kid can't eat her lunch without her knife. Her parents created this situation. Either they're very stupid, or they did it on purpose in hopes of creating a situation (maybe they're from the same family as Mr. "Don't Taser Me, Bro!"). Either way, I don't blame the kid for just wanting to eat her damn lunch.

Posted by: Julie at December 18, 2007 9:34 PM

Julie, lots of ten-year-olds make their own lunch. My niece and nephew have made their lunches for a long time, and my children make their own lunch during the summer (including items that require the stove and knives). They don't make it during the school year because I figure they have enough to do already, but lots of busy parents figure it's the child's responsibility to make his/her own lunch.

That said, I have no idea if the child made her own lunch or if the parents did. If a parent made the lunch, it's possible s/he was in a hurry and rather than cut the food, figured s/he'd throw in a knife instead. I've considered salt and pepper shakers, but then seriously wondered if they'd be allowed and salt and pepper the food before I send it.

I do think there's a huge possibility this was an innocent mistake, and one I can easily see being made, based on children I know and my own experiences as a parent.

Posted by: Maggie at December 18, 2007 9:42 PM

As someone on the radio said, people should know better in this post 9-11 world.

On the other hand, if you outlaw steak knives only vegetarians will have dinner.

Posted by: James at December 18, 2007 10:06 PM

::rolleyes:: Did someone really suggest that because of 9/11, people should expect that they can't use steak knives? They probably still think we're being hailed as liberators, too.

Regarding intention: It is very easy to gauge intention here. The hard part is drawing the line. I'm trying not to engage in a slippery slope argument, but I don't think it is a giant stretch for someone to bring in a knife "for his lunch", and use it to commit a violent act. So, while it is unlikely that this girl had even an idea that someone would do that with a knife, she can't be allowed to bring it to school because of the idiots.

However, like I said before, felony and suspension were both EXTREME overkill.

Posted by: briwei at December 19, 2007 4:39 PM

Felony and suspension are definitely overboard reactions. Detention/suspension are acceptable for non-violent intent rule breaking. I know it's difficult to discern intent when a knife is in a lunch box with leftovers whether or not Jane was planning on cutting her chicken or cutting the heart out of Joey-the-Jerk. But, hey, if the kid has no previous history of misbehavior doesn't she deserve at least SOME benefit of the doubt? The police? Geesh!

Next thing you know they'll be saying that some foreign country has weapons of mass destruction, just because there were suspicious trucks driving around in the desert. Or, better still, some other country has a nuclear weapons program because a few years ago they enriched some uranium.

Jumping to the most severe conclusion is nearly as dangerous as the behavior you suspect, especially when dealing with children. How is this incident going to impact this girl's development and her opinion of other people. The heck with presumed innocence folks. We live in dangerous times. We should all teach our kids about presumed guilt instead, for their own protection.

Posted by: Kitten Herder at December 19, 2007 9:28 PM

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