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A Blaine teenager has been suspended from school for 10 days and faces possible expulsion Monday after a box cutter was spotted in his car in the high school parking lot. Administrators invoked the school's zero-tolerance weapons policy, which allows little disciplinary leeway.

Blaine High School senior Tony Richard, 17, admits the box cutter was sitting in plain sight in the cup holder in his car in the parking lot Sept. 5. It was spotted by a security guard checking parking passes. But Richard contends that the cutter was for his after-school job on a Cub Foods clean-up crew, where his duties include cutting up cardboard boxes.

School officials didn't budge. They suspended Richard and recommended to the Anoka-Hennepin school board that he be expelled. The board will decide his fate Monday.

"I pretty much said, 'Are you kidding?'" said Richard, who said his disciplinary record is limited to a few tardies. "I didn't know how to react. I didn't want to get angry and stuff. I didn't want to make it any worse."

Charlie Kyte, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators, says weapons policies present dilemmas for school districts but are necessary, particularly following bursts of school violence across the country.

"While schools have zero-tolerance policies, you must also allow judgment to come into play," Kyte said. "The board's gotta look at this and say, 'Hmmm, did this kid really create a horrible act?' The second thing they have to ask themselves is, by giving a less rigorous punishment, are they also opening the door to kids thinking they can get away with this stuff?"

School officials won't speak directly about Richard's case, citing data privacy laws, but district communications specialist Sarah Schwartz referred to the high school handbook, which clearly prohibits weapons of any kind on school grounds, including knives and toy guns and pepper spray. Box cutters are explicitly listed. The 10-day suspension and expulsion recommendation are what the policy book calls for. Schwartz added that students and parents sign a document each fall acknowledging they have read and understand the policies in the handbook.

"We try to apply these policies in a uniform way to all students. It isn't fair to them if we don't," Schwartz said. "We try to be consistent and take all incidents very seriously. We think our district parents expect that from us."

Michael Sullivan, chairman of the Anoka-Hennepin school board, said Monday's hearing won't be the first he's seen in the district. He wouldn't speak specifically about Richard's case, but he said the scenario is familiar. He recalled one student suspended for possessing a similar tool after working on the set of the school play. He didn't remember whether that student was expelled.

But a number of students have been expelled, he said, and allowed back later on probation. There's limited sympathy for the work argument, he said, when such tools can be easily left at work.

Zero-tolerance policies also have come into play in other districts.

In April, two high school students in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan district were expelled for the remainder of the school year after they bought souvenir swords during a spring break choir trip to Britain.

The students, a sophomore and a senior, were caught when the weapons were being taped up to be shipped home.

In 2003, Shakopee High School senior Travis Kohlrusch was told he would be expelled after he was caught with two shotguns, unloaded and cased, in his pickup in a school parking lot. Kohlrusch, who had been goose hunting that morning, instead withdrew from Shakopee High School and attended an alternative high school.

The same year, 16-year-old Jake Trembath was threatened with expulsion from Maple Grove High School after school officials spotted a toy cap gun poking from the backseat of his car. The Osseo school board did not approve a recommendation for expulsion, and Trembath was allowed to return to school.

"We should try to assure parents that we protect their kids while they're in their schools. That's job one as a school district," Sullivan said. "The way you do that is to make sure weapons are not there and are not available."

But Richard's mother, Michelle Richard, maintains that her son should not have to pay for his forgetfulness by not being able to graduate with his senior class.

"My son is a student in a district where my kids have always gone, and the punishment isn't fitting the crime," she said. "He did not come with any intention to harm anyone. This is used as a utility for his job. I understand there are policies and procedures, but there are gray areas to all policies and procedures."

Kyte, who spent a dozen years as superintendent for the Northfield schools, said it wasn't unheard of for a student there to show up to school after a night of work at the local market with a cutter in his pocket. It was clear the student had no intentions to harm anyone.

"No matter what the policy was, the kid would have gotten from me a one-day suspension and a pretty good lecture about being forgetful," Kyte said. "Now, if that kid pulled that razor knife out and threatened another student in the lunchroom, he never would have seen the inside of my school again."

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921
 

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God forbid he had a hammer in the car... it could also be used as a weapon.

Pretty sad.

We all had guns in our cars at school. We went to the woods EVERYDAY after classes. We would never dream of pulling a gun on someone - that would have been what wussies did.
 

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Zero tolerance usually means zero common sense. It's the easy way out, each case needs to be individually reviewed. There is a difference between a kid who has an after school job with a box cutter in his car for work and a gang banger with a box cutter, but, in the politically correct mentality today, that would be "profiling". Total BS.
 

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And my woman wants to make a baby and bring it up in this type of world? WTF!
 

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I remember when I was a yougn boy riding on a school bus thay my dad was operating as a substitute. This particular day it being in October he had a shotgun on board hoping for an oppertunity to perhaps pop a bird along the side of the road. Sure eneough we spot a grouse and he stops and gets out and shoots the bird and we continue on to school. Nobody thought anything of it, nobody called the cops and no parents freeked out. What do you suppose would happen if that took place today? :eyeroll:
 

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People can blame the adminstrator all they want, but they are simply operating under a set of guidelines that is out of their control. School administrators are stuck in "middle managment" situations so often.

I think polices need to be changed that give administrators some leeway to include common sense. But I bet when that happens there will be community members enraged about how schools are getting soft on violence... Its a lose, lose for the schools.
 

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I suppose if somebody gets bit they will pull all kids teeth too.

It's hard to be a teacher these days catching hell from all corners. Not many people will put up with that and seek other employment leaving behind many who just don't give a damn one way or the other and it is very apparent. :-?
 

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WOW, back when my bro was in high school he carried his guns to school and no one said anything. im waiting for them to take our welders away, along with all our other stuff in my metals class.
 

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Well rules are rules.
My sophomore year in high school we had a kid get caught with shotgun shells and chew. The thing was he took his dad's pickup because his wouldn't start. He was a starter on the high school football team and he couldnt our lsat two games which were the final to games at state.

I hate to say it but in the student hand book it has all the rules. I hate how the rules are but there isn't much a guy can do about them.
 

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Our school is bipolar. Last week, our science teacher gave one of us his knife to cut something with, and then yesterday, one of the sophomores almost got the cops called on him for killing a bat with a water bottle. what the hell?
 

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No common sense what so ever. These policies are all based upon FEAR. What happened to faith based policies?

It is just more evidence of communism in our society :******:
 

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wow, for f-ed up! i can't believe how far our society is going today. i thought it was bad when i was in HS. it just keeps getting worse. common sense is going right out the window because a policy is a policy, give me a break.
 

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I understand where your coming from t squared, but you cannot make exceptions, because then this parents will want their kid to get an expcetion and so on and so on. Thats what our school staff told us.
 

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I understand where your coming from t squared, but you cannot make exceptions, because then this parents will want their kid to get an expcetion and so on and so on. Thats what our school staff told us.
Here I thought we increased the teacher/student ratio so we could get down to individual treatment... another huge crok of crap and part of the down breeding of America. 8)
 

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Zero tolerance policies aren't for the good of the students. They're for the convenience of administrators who don't want to have to explain themselves. "Sorry, my hands are tied". I understand not wanting confrontation between yourself and an irate parent, but I also think "that's why you make the big bucks". The problem is really that there are so many parents whose precious little snowflake can do no wrong in their eyes. It's an indictment of the society we live in when many parents would rather go to bat for their kid, when the kid is clearly wrong, than allow the impartial authority to do their job.
 
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