Readers' views on school discipline in penknife caseI am...


February 16, 1997

Readers' views on school discipline in penknife case

I am writing this letter after reading the article and editorial by The Sun about John Destry and his suspension from school. I think you have missed the point about fairness of punishment by the school system.

In the article, it was made known that Mr. Destry was an honor student and has never been in trouble before. I would have to ask myself why an honor student, after reading and signing a letter explaining the school policy, would make a decision to carry any knife to school. You say it is only a two-inch blade, it is dull and he uses it at his job after school.

The problem officials will run into when they make an exception for this young man will be how do you judge the next violation?

How do you decide what to do with an average student, who only has a three-inch blade on a pocket knife? You make an exception for that student, and you have to make one for the below-average student who carries a hunting knife to school because he is an avid hunter.

Enforce all rules on all students equally. This should send a clear message to all students. You come to school to learn. If you choose to break the rules that you agree to before you start the school year, you will meet with swift and expected punishment.

I applaud the system for sticking to its rules, and enforcing them without prejudice to all students.

Keith K. Light


As a parent and taxpayer, I am opposed to expulsion and extended suspensions except for the most serious of offenders -- carrying or possessing a firearm, an assault or distribution of drugs. Expulsions are counterproductive.

As pointed out by the students at the Feb. 5 school board meeting, there are dangerous weapons readily available throughout the school. In art and science, there are sharp instruments for chiseling and dissecting. In physical ed, there are bats and field hockey sticks. In band, there are brass instruments of all sorts. In the cafeteria are tables and chairs, knives and forks.

For lesser offenses such as "simple" possession of nail files or pen knives, I strongly recommend suspensions of one to 10 days, dependent on whether it is a first, second or third offense. In all instances, the parents should be notified. One of the conditions of re-entry into the school is the requirement for the parent and student to meet with the administrator. After the third offense and only then should a severe punishment such as extended suspension or expulsion be considered.

Expulsion or extended suspensions are not the panacea for enhancing discipline in the schools. Our educators have not even tracked the students they have expelled, let alone analyzed the long-term, adverse emotional and educational impact that expulsion has on our children.

Having gone through the process and even appealing to the State Board of Education, I strongly recommend that when a child is expelled or placed on an extended suspension, if they are appealing the decision, they immediately file a writ of mandamus with the Circuit Court to have their child placed back in school while the appeal is pending through the administrative process.

June A. Salanik


Having attended the Anne Arundel County school board meeting on Feb. 5, I applaud Southern High School's "vintage 1968 style walkout" and the students' admirable conduct and speech at that meeting. I vehemently oppose extended suspensions or expulsions as a form of deterrence; most of our prison population did not graduate from high school!

My heart goes out to the 578 children expelled in nne Arundel County in the 1995-96 school year and to the 200-plus already expelled this year. What will be the overall effects of these "extended suspensions" and expulsions? I challenge concerned parents, PTAs, the press, congressmen, senators and the governor to demand that an unbiased "voluntary" group be appointed to study the short- and long-term effects of these expulsions and extended suspensions on the children, parents and society as a whole.

At the board meeting, one of the board members stated that "expulsion isn't forever." An expulsion which lasts a whole school year, or an extended suspension that can last the rest of the year, is forever to a child. During that time, the child will probably have a low self-esteem, feel worthless, be unsupervised and bored. Our prisons are filled with people who had these same symptoms.

In the case of the Southern High student, it was announced over the public address system that someone lost his or her keys. The student retrieves his keys and is charged with carrying a weapon to school. Was this entrapment?

If our children are to be held accountable and punished in such a "cruel and unusual" manner, surely our educators should be held accountable when our ninth and 10th graders cannot multiply or read.

Jeanne Muhlada


Mixed use, floating zones and county general plan

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.