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STRUTHERS SCHOOL Boy's mom questions suspension



Published: Tue, March 4, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The child wanted to show his mom he knew how to use a plastic knife.

& lt;a href=mailto:kubik@vindy.com & gt;By MARALINE KUBIK & lt;/a & gt;

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

STRUTHERS -- Mastering the skill of buttering bread with a plastic knife earned a 6-year-old first-grader 10 days out of school after educators accused him of carrying a weapon.

A classmate spotted the plastic knife from the Struthers Elementary School cafeteria in the first-grader's book bag and told the teacher, said Donna Long, whose son, Kevin, was suspended Friday.

"The school secretary called me about 2:30 p.m. about the time school was letting out, and told me there was an issue with Kevin and they needed to see me before he would be released," she said. "I thought maybe he swore."

When she got to the school, which is less than a block away, and asked her son what he did, he told her about the knife.

"I laughed," she said. "I didn't think he could get suspended for something like that. It was in his book bag; he wasn't waving it around or threatening anyone."

Kevin isn't allowed to use knives at home, not even plastic picnic ware, she said. At school, plastic knives are available to children in the cafeteria during lunch. "He wanted to show me that he knew how to use it," Long said.

A few weeks ago, the little boy brought a plastic knife home from school and, his mom said, she reprimanded him, telling him never to bring one home again.

"I wanted it to butter my toast," Kevin said, trying to explain why he tried to bring a second knife home.

As the result of his actions, Principal Betty Washington issued Kevin a notice of intended suspension. Both he and his mom had to sign the document, acknowledging that they understood why Kevin would not be allowed in school, to participate in any school activities, or to make up any missed school work from March 3 through March 14.

The notice states that "Kevin had a plastic knife in school, [and] was showing other students in class."

Long, however, said that the principal never said anything to her about Kevin's showing the knife to classmates. She also questions why the police were not notified if her son presented a threat.

State law mandates that any pupil caught with a weapon on school property be recommended for 180 days' expulsion, said Ron Iarussi, director of curriculum and instruction at Struthers schools. "They are given 10 days out-of-school suspension pending the appeals process," he added.

Iarussi had no knowledge of the incident at the elementary school and could only speak in general terms.

Discussing disciplinary actions involving pupils also is against school policy in the interests of protecting the pupils' privacy, he added.

Dr. Sandi DiBacco, superintendent, was unavailable to comment.

Long and her son are scheduled to appear before the school board Friday morning to appeal the suspension.




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