The Cutting Edge

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Student Suspended for ‘Doing the Right Thing’ After Bringing Knife to School

It’s another one of those what-is-this-world-coming-to stories.

An eighth grader at a middle school in Pennsylvania was suspended for three days and may face a 10-day suspension after accidentally bringing a pocket knife to school. The story wouldn’t be so shocking thanks to school policies these days, but the boy had actually done the right thing and immediately turned his knife into the principal when he realized it was in his pocket.

Doing the right thing did not matter. He was immediately suspended.

“The safety and well-being of our students and staff is paramount,” Superintendent Keith Hartbauer said to Pittsburg’s Action News 4. “We will follow our district’s policy, procedures, and solicitor’s recommendation regarding this discipline incident.”

Apparently, the 13-year-old Thomas Ross Jr. had used the pocket knife the night before to open a cardboard box containing a futon. He stuck it in his back pocket but forgot to take it out. When he wore the same shorts to school the next day, the knife was still in his pocket.

“I was scared that if I were to get it caught with it on me, it would have been worse than me turning it in,” Ross Jr. said.

A similar knife to the one he took to school – WTAE

So he went to the office and told the principal, who took the knife. The boy was then surprised when he was sent home with a three-day suspension.

Needless to say, his father was not pleased.

“There’s a first-degree murder and a third-degree murder. There’s no such thing as zero tolerance in the world,” Thomas Ross Sr. said. “Why is there zero tolerance on a child bringing a weapon by accident to school and then doing the right thing and turning it in?”

The younger Ross is apparently a good student who had never been in trouble at school before.

“When he realized he had it, he turned it in,” Ross Sr. said. “He’s a typical kid. Don’t discipline a child for doing the right thing.”

People have strong opinions about the zero tolerance policy (including over at Fark). While the school does have a policy and turning yourself in does not absolve you from guilt, the suspension does punish the boy for doing the right thing. If this were to happen again to someone else, they know it would just be better to keep the knife in their pocket.

Whether the rule of no pocket knives at school is even relevant (considering just a few decades ago students were taking knives to school without fanfare) is valid, but let’s just focus on the implementation of the rule.

What do you think? Was the school justified in suspending the boy or should the principal have been lenient?


  1. It is absurd that the boy was punished. It is bad policy, bad leadership, bad mentoring, bad administration, and not to mention bad policy. The policy is clearly rigid, doctrinaire and narrow minded. Another policy foisted on all due to fear-based thinking. The passing of these narrow-minded, feel good policies is a clear example of letting the actions of a few bad people infringe on the actions/rights of good people.

    • I agree with the previous response. This is form over substance. Beyond that a knife is a tool not a weapon. A pliers is a tool but is also capable of hurting someone. Would this be the same result if it had been a pliers? I think not.

      Jeff Sherwin (not afraid to show my name)
      [email protected]

    • Yes but it is easier for the school admin to follow a stupid policy than actually think.

  2. This is ridiculous. Let him go with no record of it. In 2nd or 3rd grade I took a bayonnet to school for show & tell. Nothing was said to me other than be careful and to keep it in the brown paper bag in which I brought it. This was in the early 1970’s.

  3. Schools like to claim they teach their students critical thinking skills. How can they teach what they themselves cannot demonstrate or implement? Truly asinine situation that we sadly see repeated over and over in today’s school system across this country.

  4. If knives should be banned from schools, so should scissors! It’s RIDICULOUS! Suspended for bringing a knife to school, with no chance for an explanation. Automatically accused of conspiracy to assault with a deadly weapon…

  5. Unfortunately my son had a similar incident. He forgot about his knife but decided not to say anything and then foolishly used some “popits” that drew attention to himself. He was then suspended for an entire year. This has been a nightmare and we are now facing the possibility of him being expelled because he got caught vaping in the bathroom and they asked him if he had anything in his car to which he said he had a pocket knife. I can’t belief how horrendous this whole thing has been. Yes, he should not have had his knife either time but both times i was told how respectful and cooperative he was. He apologized and was given such a harsh punishment. The year long suspension nearly did us all in. His mental health declined and we were very worried about his safety, social isolation is not right especially at this young age. My heart hurts for any others who have been in a similar situation. Had my son had any mal intent I would have felt the punishment more appropriate but he has never been a problem kid, didn’t get in fights or argue with teachers. He isn’t a great student but that doesn’t indicate he ‘s a bad kid either. I can’t believe we have to deal with this all again.

    • Tim

      December 9, 2018 at 3:30 pm

      Sorry to hear about that. Hopefully you can appeal the decision. Worst case scenario, there are alternative schools or certain charter schools that might be able to take him.

  6. My son (spec ed & 8 y/o) placed a multitool with a 1.75″ non locking, non-assistive device blade on it in his pocket. He then swiftly forgot about it. When it fell out of his pants pocket, he was suspended for 5 days. It’s no where near the spirit of district policy (moved towards restorative justice a few years ago), just her opinion of what she has to do. It’s actually counterproductive to the work that we’ve been doing with the district special ed dept.

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