Thursday, September 11, 2008

Broken pencil sharpener nets suspension

A ten-year-old has been suspended from school for having the blade from a broken pencil sharpener in his possession:

The problem was his sharpener had broken, but he decided to use it anyway.

A teacher at Hilton Head Island International Baccalaureate Elementary School noticed the boy had what appeared to be a small razor blade during class on Tuesday, according to a Beaufort County sheriff's report.

It was obvious that the blade was the metal insert commonly found in a child's small, plastic pencil sharpener, the deputy noted.

The boy — a fourth-grader described as a well-behaved and good student — cried during the meeting with his mom, the deputy and the school's assistant principal.

He had no criminal intent in having the blade at school, the sheriff's report stated, but was suspended for at least two days and could face further disciplinary action.

District spokesman Randy Wall said school administrators are stuck in the precarious position between the district's zero tolerance policy against having weapons at school and common sense.

"We're always going to do something to make sure the child understands the seriousness of having something that could potentially harm another student, but we're going to be reasonable," he said.
The most reasonable thing to do: cancel the suspension and apologize.

Given recent incidents in which pencils and ballpoint pens have served as weapons, the war on broken sharpeners seems — sorry — pointless.

[And I'm thinking now of my grade-school friend Henry Rothstein, who once wrote with a broken-off point rather than sharpen.]

[Update, 10:15 p.m.: According to the police report, the boy is a "very good student and has not been in any previous trouble." He used the blade to sharpen "his pencil" (his only pencil?), a pencil one inch in length — too short of course to sharpen with a sharpener.

The key words for this story? They would seem to be humiliation and poverty.]

comments: 4

Elaine Fine said...

This is just one of the reasons that school supplies (and other things) should not be outsourced. I imagine that union-made pencil sharpeners of old simply would not break.

Anonymous said...

People can be so dumb sometimes. Almost anything — especially a sharpened pencil — can be a deadly weapon. Want proof? Check out what Heath Ledger's Joker character does with a pencil in The Dark Knight.

will said...

We are witnessing a generation bound and beguiled by rules and regs. Nothing is safe, everything has become dangerous. Nervousness and a tweak of paranoia seem common place.

It's amazing the previous generations survived to breed - I mean, we rode biked without helmets & learned to drive without seat belts. Child seats - what were those? Kitchens were filled with glass jars an no safety locks on cupboards.

Aspirin jars, prescription meds - all came without "childproof" caps.

Why the difference? Well, for one thing parents were far more trained in practical manners - they had survived the Great Depression and WWII. And they passed many of those hard earned practicalities on to their kids.

Another reason, there were fewer people in the 50s and 60s - more open places and less living on top of each other (except in the major cities, of course).

And, I don't think it was in the nature of 50s-60s parents to think a bureaucracy - a one size fits all mentality, was necessary for child rearing.

The zero tolerance ruling might catch a few bad situations - but those could also be caught by daily observation instead of the way it is now.

Meanwhile broken pencil sharpeners, miniscule G.I. Joe toy guns will continue to be a bane to innocent children.

Michael Leddy said...

Elaine, I just realized that our kids never brought sharpeners to school. We may have thus saved them from serious run-ins with authority.

I with I'd thought to mention Batman, Matt. Thanks for that.

Bill, I've read that when a person is being tortured, every object, every element of a room begins to look dangerous. It seems to me that everyday life has taken on a similar cast.

Of course, someone should tell that ten-year-old that blades can be dangerous. And that could be the end of it.