A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

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A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by Jamie » Fri Oct 09, 2009 7:19 am

http://www.wten.com/Global/story.asp?S=11283345" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Posted: Oct 8, 2009 05:26 PM

A NEWS10 EXCLUSIVE
By MARK O'BRIEN

LANSINGBURGH -- High school senior Matthew Whalen is the kind of student any parent would want.

He's an Eagle Scout, on the honor roll, taking Advanced Placement classes, and never been in trouble with the law. He's received commendations from the City of Troy and the Boy Scouts of America for saving a woman's life, and this past summer, he completed Army basic training. All of it was accomplished before the age of 17.

"I'm just trying to do what I can while I can," Matthew says.

His goal is to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a dream since he was in grade school.

"I have a first-grade yearbook that says I want to be driving tanks in the Army," Matthew says. "I mean, this is something that I know I've always wanted to do."

But the dream could be in jeopardy, thanks to a two-inch pocket knife that officials at Lansingburgh Senior High School found in Matthew's locked car last month. The pocket knife was a gift from his grandfather, Robert Whalen, who's the Hoosick Falls Police Chief. Matthew says he kept the knife in a side compartment and never tried showing it off or threatening anyone with it. Instead it was a part of the survival kit that was his car.

"My car is designed in a way that if I ever broke down, I'd be OK," Whalen explains. "I have a sleeping bag. I have bottled water. I have an MRE. I believe it's better to be prepared and not need it than need it and not have it."

Matthew says school officials approached him on Sept. 21, asking if he had a weapon on him. When Matthew answered he did not, he says the officials asked if he had a knife in his car. Matthew said it was a pocket knife, and took officials to his car when asked. He also turned over the pocket knife when asked.

The Lansingburgh Central School District has a zero-tolerance policy on weapons. According to the district's Codes of Conduct, students are not allowed to have "a weapon of any kind" on school grounds. Even though a pocket knife is not considered a weapon under New York State penal code, the district also prohibits students from possessing anything "that reasonably can be considered a weapon."

According to Matthew, the school suspended him for five days, during which time a Superintendent's hearing was held to determine the extent of his punishment. Matthew's family contends only the high school's principal and athletic director were present, not the Superintendent or the assistant principal who initially suspended Matthew. And despite a letter from Matthew's Scout Master explaining how a pocket knife is a common tool for scouts to have, the district suspended Matthew for another 15 days. The Whalens say they received no explanation as to why, and they claim there was no opportunity to ask.

"I want him to have fair treatment based on his character," says Matthew's father, Bryan Whalen. "It just totally baffles me that they would go after this when they have much bigger fish to fry."

The Whalens say during the Superintendent's hearing, officials admitted that Matthew cooperated fully, didn't have the pocket knife on him, had no intention of using it, and never threatened anyone with it. "They'd already made their decision," Whalen's father says.

In a statement to NEWS10, Superintendent George J. Goodwin says, "We do not comment on discipline related to an individual student. Our policies are clear that weapons are not permitted on school premises and subject to disciplinary consequences."

Legal expert Thomas Carr, of Tully Rinckey PLLC, says school districts are within their rights to impose and enforce safety policies, even if a pocket knife is not considered a weapon under New York State penal law. But he also says such school rules can quickly become so-called "gray areas" that leave the meaning of what's considered a weapon open ended.

"If this 17-year-old is driving his car to school," Carr says, "let's face it, the tire iron in the trunk to change the wheel is much more of a deadly weapon than a one-and-a-half inch blade knife."

Carr also says the Whalens might have grounds to pursue legal action against the district if Matthew felt he had no choice but to allow school officials to search his car.

At this point, the Whalens are not sure when or if they will sue the district. Instead, they want the district to reinstate Matthew immediately and remove this from his official student record.

"He needs to be doing the application for his admission to West Point right now," Bryan Whalen says. "They're delaying that, and that could be very costly for him."

Matthew says he wants to follow in the military footsteps of his father and grandfather. His grandfather, Robert Whalen, received two Purple Hearts for his service in the Vietnam War. Bryan Whalen served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and at Ground Zero, as his unit was on the scene by the evening of Sept. 11, 2001. He's also received the Soldier's Medal from the U.S. Army, and he pulled survivors from a burning helicopter that had crashed at the Stratton Air National Guard Base during an air show crash in 1991.

Matthew guesses a student must have told school officials, but he doesn't know who did it or why. His father thinks it might have been a prank to see Matthew get a little heat from administrators and that the intent was for it to never get this far.

"It's just plain wrong of what they've done," he says. "It isn't a weapon!"

But the family feels the district overreacted, if not for suspending Matthew in the first place, then for adding an additional 15 days to the original suspension.

"If they had told me, 'Take this out of your car,' I would have said alright, and it never would have been an issue," Matthew says. "I was upset with it, but I can understand that. They have the zero-tolerance rule."

The district provides a tutor for Matthew for 90 minutes every day; he's banned from stepping on school grounds for any reason whatsoever, including assignments and sporting events. Matthew says it's hard to cram more than six hours of work into his tutor time, and he says his work is not being graded until he returns to school. All he wants is to return to class.

"The rest of my life could be affected by this," he says.
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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by Murph » Fri Oct 09, 2009 7:44 am

I'm sorry to hear about this, hope everything works out for your friend and son.
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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by bonanacrom » Fri Oct 09, 2009 7:55 am

The law suit would be glorious to watch. This isn't by far the first time this same thing has happened. The fact that there is no more commonsense in this county baffles me.
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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by Shmerlin » Fri Oct 09, 2009 7:58 am

Zero-tolerence = No common sense


That being said, and have having worked in the school system, sometimes zero-tolerence is the only "guiding" principal you can use as some of the administrators are just frakin-retarded. I wouldn't want them to use their judgement for me for anything. And these are the people who are in charge of children...
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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by Flex » Fri Oct 09, 2009 8:05 am

Wow, that sucks.

Do you think it would do any good to call or email? I'll be polite, but I'm guessing that the extra attention from the news article might just make them more stubborn.
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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by Tonto » Fri Oct 09, 2009 8:09 am

Can't even describe how pissed off I am about hearing that without violating the rules big time... but stupid stuff like this is going to continue until people stand up for common sense instead of hiding their heads in the ground all in the name of "safety" and let others dictate how rules are made.

What I want to know, I'd love to see what's in the teachers vehicles. I can't understand why does it only apply to the students when the teachers vehicles and persons are excluded from these 'zero tolerance rules' - if it's in the name of safety and "Zero Tolerance" - if it's good enough for the students, why aren't the teachers to use the same rules?? I'd love to see what teachers/administrators have in their pockets, purses, murses and vehicles.

Just utterly amazing on the largest scale of idiocy...
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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by AZMedic » Fri Oct 09, 2009 8:14 am

Blades only or a multitool?

That could help in court a lot.
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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by Lenny » Fri Oct 09, 2009 8:20 am

I want kids to be safe, I want adults to use good, sound judgement and not rely on a blanket. What a shame, they have NO email contacts at all on the district website. Good call on thier part I guess.
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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by Erik » Fri Oct 09, 2009 8:21 am

Tonto wrote:Can't even describe how pissed off I am about hearing that without violating the rules big time... but stupid stuff like this is going to continue until people stand up for common sense instead of hiding their heads in the ground all in the name of "safety" and let others dictate how rules are made.

What I want to know, I'd love to see what's in the teachers vehicles. I can't understand why does it only apply to the students when the teachers vehicles and persons are excluded from these 'zero tolerance rules' - if it's in the name of safety and "Zero Tolerance" - if it's good enough for the students, why aren't the teachers to use the same rules?? I'd love to see what teachers/administrators have in their pockets, purses, murses and vehicles.

Just utterly amazing on the largest scale of idiocy...
Tonto,

Not saying I agree with the school's decision, but your assertion is wrong. I know it's wrong because I'm a teacher and have been one in multiple school districts.

If I, as a teacher, was caught bringing a weapon to school in any of those districts, I would be canned on the spot. The end.
Last edited by Erik on Fri Oct 09, 2009 8:22 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by JTNieman » Fri Oct 09, 2009 8:22 am

That's enough to make a father go into a rage.

I wish all the patience and calmness in the world to the parents of that seemingly wonderful young man because they will surely need it while going against such unarguably nonsensical jackasses improperly assigned to authoritative positions they no doubt lack the sense to properly administer.

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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by maddmatt » Fri Oct 09, 2009 8:24 am

nfa, would it be possible for you to post the school boards contact info here, or could you shoot me a pm that contains it.
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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by Novesh » Fri Oct 09, 2009 8:26 am

Thanks to recent new rules/laws setup in most school districts, possession of any edged weapon on school grounds is enough for permanent banning from that school (or any school in the district).

That is just how it is...

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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by liberty45 » Fri Oct 09, 2009 8:33 am

That's not cool to bring any weapon to school even if it is in your car. That is something the child should have left at home. A lawsuit is a little over the top.

Don't get me wrong I am all for preparedness but come on bringing a knife onto school property? WTF was he thinking? "Oh it will be okay cause I am prepared!". Being prepared also means being smart and not raising red flags or causing unwanted attention. YOU DO NOT NEED A KNIFE TO SURVIVE! And if he "felt the need" he should have put an art exacto blade in his car and just say it was for an art project or something.

Suspension is sound but nothing more is needed IMHO. The kid learned his lesson and HOPEFULLY won't do it again.

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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by Richter » Fri Oct 09, 2009 8:47 am

liberty45 wrote:That's not cool to bring any weapon to school even if it is in your car. That is something the child should have left at home. A lawsuit is a little over the top.

Don't get me wrong I am all for preparedness but come on bringing a knife onto school property? WTF was he thinking? "Oh it will be okay cause I am prepared!". Being prepared also means being smart and not raising red flags or causing unwanted attention. YOU DO NOT NEED A KNIFE TO SURVIVE! And if he "felt the need" he should have put an art exacto blade in his car and just say it was for an art project or something.

Suspension is sound but nothing more is needed IMHO. The kid learned his lesson and HOPEFULLY won't do it again.
I sorta agree with this... why wouldn't a knife be considered a weapon?? if there is a strict rule about it, why would you wanna chance it? There is a rule at work about not bringing weapons, so I leave it in the vehicle since state law says you can do that as long as it's not in the building. However, seeing this kids impeccable record, I would assume he would have knifes and other "survival" tools.

this story disgusts me. What happened to the days where they had rifle practice at school?

It sounds like the guv'ment is trying to prove a point rather than enforcing the law. The path this country is taking is horrifying... makes me not want to join the Marines...I'm very patriotic but defending this country is starting to look like I wouldn't be defending America anymore. Sorry if that gets some of you enraged but that is just my POV

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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by Mr.Pliskin » Fri Oct 09, 2009 8:51 am

liberty45 wrote:That's not cool to bring any weapon to school even if it is in your car. That is something the child should have left at home. A lawsuit is a little over the top.

Don't get me wrong I am all for preparedness but come on bringing a knife onto school property? WTF was he thinking? "Oh it will be okay cause I am prepared!". Being prepared also means being smart and not raising red flags or causing unwanted attention. YOU DO NOT NEED A KNIFE TO SURVIVE! And if he "felt the need" he should have put an art exacto blade in his car and just say it was for an art project or something.

Suspension is sound but nothing more is needed IMHO. The kid learned his lesson and HOPEFULLY won't do it again.
It whas a 1.5" pocket knife that was in his car, he wasn't waving the thing around. You wouldnt happen to be a retarted school superintendent would you?

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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by JTNieman » Fri Oct 09, 2009 8:57 am

liberty45 wrote:That's not cool to bring any weapon to school even if it is in your car. That is something the child should have left at home. A lawsuit is a little over the top.

Don't get me wrong I am all for preparedness but come on bringing a knife onto school property? WTF was he thinking? "Oh it will be okay cause I am prepared!". Being prepared also means being smart and not raising red flags or causing unwanted attention. YOU DO NOT NEED A KNIFE TO SURVIVE! And if he "felt the need" he should have put an art exacto blade in his car and just say it was for an art project or something.

Suspension is sound but nothing more is needed IMHO. The kid learned his lesson and HOPEFULLY won't do it again.
Ironic user name you chose, with sentiments such as that.

It was locked up in his CAR. It's a 1.5" blade.

My school had a no tolerance on weapons policy, but they still had Boy Scout meetings in the gymnasium led by Eagle Scouts, occasionally. Hell, our standard meeting place, when I was in scouts, was in the school cafeteria! Our parking lot had gun racks with loaded shotguns in some of the vehicles!

Then again, OP's story is in New York... the new California.

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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by Keith B » Fri Oct 09, 2009 9:03 am

We are witnessing the destruction of an outstanding young man. I am wondering what his next step will be, Burger King or Taco Bell? The school will expel him, West Point won't take him, colleges wont take him, and I'm willing to bet that the Army won't let him enlist.

And people wonder where all the natural born leaders have gone

/rant
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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by JTNieman » Fri Oct 09, 2009 9:07 am

I whole-heartedly agree with sigboy40.

Are the consequences -at all- proportionate to the crime they perceive, if there's even a crime committed? Do they think about the consequences of -their- punishment, and whether or not it's at all appropriate or beneficial to the child they task themselves with preparing for the educated world?

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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by liberty45 » Fri Oct 09, 2009 9:19 am

Mr.Pliskin wrote:
liberty45 wrote:That's not cool to bring any weapon to school even if it is in your car. That is something the child should have left at home. A lawsuit is a little over the top.

Don't get me wrong I am all for preparedness but come on bringing a knife onto school property? WTF was he thinking? "Oh it will be okay cause I am prepared!". Being prepared also means being smart and not raising red flags or causing unwanted attention. YOU DO NOT NEED A KNIFE TO SURVIVE! And if he "felt the need" he should have put an art exacto blade in his car and just say it was for an art project or something.

Suspension is sound but nothing more is needed IMHO. The kid learned his lesson and HOPEFULLY won't do it again.
It whas a 1.5" pocket knife that was in his car, he wasn't waving the thing around. You wouldnt happen to be a retarted school superintendent would you?
Excuse me? I know you are deeply in favor of the kid in this and I see his side but not knowing or following the strict, and in my opinion insane rules/laws of the school makes this kid a failure to preparedness.

I am not a "retarted" school superintendent but I believe they do have the right to suspend this kid over this BUT to go further and potentiall hurt his future is uncalled for.

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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by thefirebuilds » Fri Oct 09, 2009 9:22 am

I would consider a 3000 lb automobile a weapon and as such students should not have them at school. How about that.

I was a carpenter in high school. I carried a drywall poke, a framing hammer, utility knives and all kind of other fun and sharp TOOLS.
A real outdoorsman only needs a knife and a harmonica.

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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by liberty45 » Fri Oct 09, 2009 9:23 am

jtnieman wrote:
liberty45 wrote:That's not cool to bring any weapon to school even if it is in your car. That is something the child should have left at home. A lawsuit is a little over the top.

Don't get me wrong I am all for preparedness but come on bringing a knife onto school property? WTF was he thinking? "Oh it will be okay cause I am prepared!". Being prepared also means being smart and not raising red flags or causing unwanted attention. YOU DO NOT NEED A KNIFE TO SURVIVE! And if he "felt the need" he should have put an art exacto blade in his car and just say it was for an art project or something.

Suspension is sound but nothing more is needed IMHO. The kid learned his lesson and HOPEFULLY won't do it again.
Ironic user name you chose, with sentiments such as that.

It was locked up in his CAR. It's a 1.5" blade.

My school had a no tolerance on weapons policy, but they still had Boy Scout meetings in the gymnasium led by Eagle Scouts, occasionally. Hell, our standard meeting place, when I was in scouts, was in the school cafeteria! Our parking lot had gun racks with loaded shotguns in some of the vehicles!

Then again, OP's story is in New York... the new California.
Liberty is being eroded unfortunately but NOT following the laws and going against the grain and claiming "preparedness" REALLY hurts our cause and beliefs in the long wrong.

I think it is smart of schools to have a no weapons policy since kids (especially in High School) are mostly immature and have tendencies to fight. A 1.5" blade can cause serious damage to a human being. It is a precaution and the kid should have used common sense, especially if he is supposedly "prepared".

He should look over the thread here about being the Grey Man. It will help him out in the future.

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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by liberty45 » Fri Oct 09, 2009 9:26 am

After re-reading the article it is clear that the kid had to have either showed the knife to someone and/or told someone about it. How would the school know otherwise?

Big mistake on his part!

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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by Some Guy » Fri Oct 09, 2009 9:33 am

[rant]
Can't wait to see them take pencils and pens out of schools too. When I went to school, I used to see people brush their teeth in the bathroom after lunch. All of these can be make shift weapons. Hell, even clothes can be used to strangle some one. Every thing can be a weapon if you want it to be. Most people call these items tools until used in a violent act, then they are considered weapons.
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Re: A friend's son suspended from school for being prepared...

Post by thefirebuilds » Fri Oct 09, 2009 9:43 am

liberty45 wrote:After re-reading the article it is clear that the kid had to have either showed the knife to someone and/or told someone about it. How would the school know otherwise?

Big mistake on his part!

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I'm sure the forum administrators could help you change your sign on name to something more suitable.
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