Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Soldier Suspended from High School

This story breaks my heart and boils my blood.  From Fox News:

Matthew Whalen, a senior at Lansingburgh Senior High School, says he follows the Boy Scout motto and is always prepared, stocking his car with a sleeping bag, water, a ready-to-eat meal — and the knife, which was given to him by his grandfather, a police chief in a nearby town.

Matthew is an Eagle Scout and planned to apply to the United States Military Academy at West Point.  For the offense of having a pocket knife locked in his car in the school parking lot, Matthew was given a 20 day suspension from school.  His chances of admission to the elite institution are probably remote, given the historical prestige and competitive field of applicants to West Point.  The knife was a gift from his grandfather, a police chief in a neighboring town.

When my father was a high school student in the 40's, no senior boy with two bits of sense, would dream of going to school without his pocket knife in his pocket.  It was and is a tool with many nonviolent uses from cutting a rope, to untying knotted shoes laces to carving a sculpture of "The Man with the Hoe" like my Mom's brother carved for my mother after he returned from Korea.

The recent horrific school shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech, of course deserve the attention and consideration of school boards and administrators throughout the country as they endeavor to keep all students safe.  It is not 1945, and all kids are not going straight home to work on the farm.  But please explain the logic of suspending an exemplary honor student, who had recently completed Army basic training for having a common tool locked in his car.  It was not a 7mm Glock or a sniper rifle.  It wasn't a switch blade or nunchucks or steel knuckles.  It was a pocket knife.  The truth is, the tire iron in his trunk was more dangerous.  His car was a more lethal potential weapon.

If that school had, God forbid, experienced some kind of real emergency that required the assistance of students, what kind of senior would you turn to?  I would look for Matthew Whalen.


  1. This knife was in his locked car--I have a question how did they find it to start with. I really believe that schools are going to far. This like the story of the 6 year old that was suspended for 45 days for taking one of those like a leatherman to eat his lunch.

  2. An anonymous "tipster" told someone at the school that Whalen was carrying a knife. When he was approached, he told him that he was not carrying a knife. Followup questioning revealed that he did own a knife that was locked in his car. Fortunately the 6 year old, Zachary Christie from Newark, DE, was allowed to return to school after the school board decided to change its policy with regard to kindergartners and first graders.

  3. It sounds like someone had it in for him and found a way to get back at him.

    Schools need to start looking at things like this case by case.

  4. Amen! As an educator, I understand the concept of zero tolerance but a little common sense goes a long way! The school could have handled the matter discreetly.

  5. I would like to add that there is always another side to the story. The school had to have had a good reason for the suspension. Being a fellow classmate of Matt I completely agree with the suspension and believe that he got off easy. Many people are afraid to talk about Matt because they are afraid of what he will do to them. Maybe if some of these stories got out with some of the truth in them people would not disagree with this suspension