Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Let the Kid Back in School!

Lansingburgh Senior High School in Troy, New York has a zero tolerance policy in regards to kids bringing weapons to school. While that is obviously a great policy, the school district is catching a lot of negative press for suspending 17-year old Matthew Whalen for having a small pocket knife in his car.

UPI news service reports that the 17-year old Eagle Scout was suspended first for five days, then for an additional 15 under the school's Code of Conduct policy, after admitting that the knife was in his glove compartment. He said he had placed it there as a precaution in case of car trouble. The suspension was a rare mark against Whalen, an honor student recognized last year by the Boy Scouts of America and the city of Troy for saving a woman's life. He has also completed basic training for the Army and had hoped to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Appearing on Fox News This Morning, Whalen said he understood the district's policy and claimed to have no problem with the original five day suspension that he was given. What he didn't understand, was the decision to add the additional 15 days, because school leaders told him they knew he had no intent to use the knife improperly. To make matters worse, the state of New York doesn't consider the knife a weapon because its blade is only two inches long which makes it too small to classify. Sadly, this incident will likely destroy his chances of fulfilling his childhood dream of going to Westpoint.

What do you think? Is this a case of school district follow through about an important policy, or one of it's being totally ridiculous? A young man with an exemplary record, had a small pocket knife in his car and somehow the school found out. He admitted to having the knife, because first, he doesn't lie, and the state says it's too small to be classified as a weapon anyway. He's then kicked out of school for three weeks putting a black mark on his record, and now he may lose the one thing that has kept him motivated and hard working for his whole young life? OUTRAGEOUS!

While policies are put in place for the protection of all, schools exist to teach and prepare young people for life. This young man has gotten it right. He has strived for a goal and has lived a life that is so exemplary that many teenagers can't even imagine it. He isn't drinking or doing drugs. He isn't getting his young girlfriend pregnant. He isn't in a gang. He has been an honor student and a hero, and now some over eager administrator is trying to make him an example, risking his entire future for nothing.

Is it appropriate to ruin a kid's dreams over something that the state says is not illegal? Of course not! I hope the Whalen family sues the school district and I hope they collect big. We cannot expect our children to understand the difference between right and wrong if we have no common sense when it comes to enforcing the policies we have put in place. One wonders what was going on behind the school building when Whalen was being kicked off the property. More than likely there were a bunch of kids cutting class and doing the very things that Whalen has never gotten himself involved in.

Get real, Lansingburgh Senior High! Matthew Whalen is one of the good guys and you should let him back in school. It's just bizarre that you don't recognize that. Is this really a case of your being committed to enforcing a policy? I think it's a case of the inmates running the asylum, and I think that you have become so jaded and fearful of your students, that you can simply no longer tell the difference between right and wrong.

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