Standing up for expelled third-grader
I thought you'd like to know how zero tolerance is being applied in our local schools. My daughter's third-grade friend brought his pocket knife to school on accident. It was just in his pants pocket from the weekend.
An hour after school was dismissed, he and his friends were still playing on campus and he showed his knife to them. One of them was a girl and because the blade was pointing in her direction, she decided he was "brandishing it" and went to tell her mom, who told the office, who told the district, who told the cops, one of whom said if he saw him with a knife again he could shoot him. That's right: preserve and protect; bully the 8-year-old.
He's being expelled from Cumberland Elementary because California's zero tolerance rule requires that the principal issue a mandatory recommendation for expulsion with complete disregard for age, circumstance or intent.
The California penal code defines brandishing very clearly. According to Penal Code 417, simply drawing or exhibiting a weapon isn't enough to justify a conviction. In order for prosecutors to convict you of brandishing a weapon or firearm, you must do so in a rude, angry or threatening manner.
This means that if you are merely joking, "showing off" or even educating another person about your weapon, you aren't guilty of brandishing a weapon.
Our principal requested that the family not discuss this incident with anyone. This is alarming, because it takes away the only recourse the family has to exonerate their child--raising awareness and drawing support. It also puts all power squarely in the hands of the administrators and district officials.
I am shocked and saddened that there are few other parents rising in his defense. I think we are all too scared that our own kids' education will be sabotaged if we speak up against current policy.
I am hopeful that by raising awareness, parents will be less fearful of applying pressure to our lawmakers to amend the zero tolerance rule. Even adults in our criminal justice system are not punished with the same heavy-handed blind sentencing that zero tolerance mandates for kids.
To discuss you may wish to join http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SunnyvalePolitics/message/2231