Archived Story

Editorial: USC needs new policy on weapons

Published 10:00am Wednesday, April 23, 2014

There might not be much that can be done to prevent the expulsion of United South Central High School junior Alyssa Drescher, who was found with a knife in her locker during a random drug search Tuesday.

The school board will have to treat her the same as it did other students who were expelled under the school’s no-tolerance policy for weapons. The school cannot play favorites, just because she is a popular student with academic success and has grown-ups and friends in the community willing to protest on her behalf. The other expelled students — all boys — didn’t get that community push.

But there is no doubt that what needs to be done is a revision of the policy.

What is a weapon and what is a tool?

The school itself keeps many objects on school property that serve on one hand as tools and could be viewed as weapons on the other. Industrial arts class offers everything from scratch awls to staple guns to ball peen hammers. Art classes have X-Acto knives and paper cutters. The family and consumer sciences class (a euphemism for home economics) surely has an array of kitchen utensils that could be used for harm, even while under supervision. The students handle spoons and forks each day in the cafeteria. Forks can kill.

Drescher was found with a pocket knife that she had used a few days before to cut cords around bales of hay. She forgot it in her purse.

Someone has a gun in a locker? That’s clearly a weapon. Someone waiving a knife, even jokingly? That’s clearly used as a weapon. No joke.

But what if Drescher had been found with a butter knife in her purse? Would that be considered a weapon? Or a circular saw blade, an ice pick, a two-sided letter opener, a chisel, an engraver, a dicer, a still-sharp Indian arrowhead? People have been murdered with dull screwdrivers. What if a student goes from 4-H sewing class to their locker with a pair of scissors, and they become disjointed so that each scissor could be considered a knife?

It seems fairly clear that this knife in Drescher’s locker was a mistake. It wasn’t a blood-curdling Bowie knife or some intimidating bayonet. It was a pocket knife being used as a handy cutting device.

The fact is, the school needs a policy with the option of a two-week suspension for instances where the suspected weapon was really more of a tool. That would prevent a fair share of trouble.

Yes, she brought a knife to school. State law doesn’t distinguish between which kinds of knives are allowable and which aren’t. True. And Drescher could face more serious charges in the courts for her actions. That’s true, too.

But the law and common sense don’t always see eye to eye. That’s why laws change. Common sense says there ought to be a middle ground. And considering the public outcry, the community appears to want it.

After all, schools are about preparing children for the future. Why impact a child’s future so wrongly over what seems like a simple mistake?

  1. Michael Brunner

    I agree with the opinions expressed in this editorial. Sometimes a knife is a weapon and other times a tool – like to cut hay bales. To expel a teenager for mistakenly bringing a tool to school is unreasonable.

    If we want our youth to think critically and make informed decisions, we have to demonstrate this capacity as adults – this includes school administrators and school board members. If the school policy is so rigidly written that a student unjustifiably suffers (as appears to be the case in this instance), I agree that the policy should be revised. More importantly though, the decision to expel the student should be reversed to reflect a reasonable response to an unreasonable (or poorly written?)policy.

    To suggest that this decision can not be reversed because it is a policy reflects a basic misunderstanding of why we have policies – they are there to serve our purposes, not for us to serve them. If the facts are as stated in news sources, this young woman must be readmitted to her school.

  2. B. Babb

    ZERO TOLERANCE is a buzz word used by politicians and administrators to justify their actions when they apply punishment. In this case, the teenager was not a troublemaker, did not bring the knife to school to harm others, and is a good student otherwise. CASE-BY-CASE MUST be applied. This is the same school system that also says zero tolerance for guns and look-alike guns yet they give them as prizes! School administrators are willing to ruin the academic life of a successful student for erroneously leaving a small pocket knife in her purse (still wondering how a drug dog alerts to perfume, lotion, and a pocket knife – must need retraining?) after working in a field? Common sense MUST be applied.