The Cutting Edge

The official blog of Knife Depot

Teacher punished for demonstrating use of tools, including a pocket knife, to class

A Chicago elementary school teacher is being charged with possessing a weapon at school after he was teaching his class about garden-variety tools and displayed a box-cutter and small pocket knife to students, according to The Rutherford Institute.

The story, which was brought to our attention courtesy of Knife Rights, is an example of the “zero tolerance” policy gone too far. The public school teacher was giving a lesson to his second graders on “tool discussion,” which is part of the curriculum, when he showed the class examples of such tools as a 2.25-inch pocket knife, box cutter, screwdriver, pliers and wrench.

There’s no doubt it could have been a potentially dangerous and irresponsible situation if he passed them around to students, but he kept them out of students’ hands and merely displayed them as part of the lesson. Doug Bartlett, a 17-year veteran teacher, now faces strict disciplinary action and even possible termination because of his thorough lesson on widely used tools.

Attorneys of the Rutherford Institute, which is a strong advocate of free speech and constitutional rights, sent a letter insisting that disciplinary action against Bartlett be stopped immediately.

Here’s an excerpt from a press release by the institute:

“The charges against Doug Bartlett are absurd—a gross overreaction to a simple teaching demonstration—and underscore exactly what is wrong with zero tolerance policies in the schools,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “School officials should know better than to impose such draconian punishments for innocent actions. Commonplace, basic tools such as wrenches and pliers used as part of a classroom exercise are clearly not weapons. Education truly suffers when school administrators exhibit such poor judgment and common sense.”

The teacher was doing everything he was supposed to and even demonstrated the proper way to use each tool, instead of simply ignoring their existence. When these students find these types of tools, they will know exactly how to use them and won’t use them dangerously thanks to Bartlett. Now, he is being punished for teaching proper usage of tools.

As the outcry for civil rights advocates gets more intense, it’s still unforeseen whether he will be punished or not.


Timothy Martinez Jr. is the community director for Knife Depot and the editor of The Cutting Edge. If you have any questions or ideas for The Cutting Edge, you can contact him at
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  1. This is just more ACLU type crap! It’s a tool, and should be taught how to use. I find more cuts, the worst ones, are made by people who don’ tknow how to handel, or use, a knife.

  2. How stupid is this?? Did he get in trouble for the screwdriver too? If they don’t want to show kids this type of stuff, then it shouldn’t be part of the lessons then

  3. Well you might as well cut out shop and auto motive classes in school cause god forbid Sharp and blunt objects could be used as a deadly weapon

  4. Actually I think it should be law for Everybody to have and know how to use and care for, a pocketknife.

  5. Zero-tolerance teachings produce zero-tolerance citizens. Culture, arts and relationships are based on tolerance. So, where are we going with these policies? Next step will be avoid buying T.V’s because of the violent shows and news?

  6. :O what thats bull i knw knives arnt supposed to be in school but thats just stupid i agree with an elementry school teacher not being able to but a high school should be aloud

  7. this ain’t right ! I was taught never leave the house with out a bandana bill fold and a pocket knife . my grandpa would be so disapointed in the shape of our country today .

  8. That’s so stupid. I never leave the house without a 3″ folder and my swiss army knife.

  9. I much prefer inorfmative articles like this to that high brow literature.

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