Those dangerous choir students! What were they thinking buying Father’s Day presents in England? But these days, who knows which students will snap? A few years back I saw a High School Freshman’s student handbook, and it was 60+ pages long. It dictated hair length, style and color and even vague forbiddings of “unusual or disruptive” hair. Having had disruptive hair in High School I have empathy for school kids today.
Pictured below is an array of LOTR replica swords, surely the offensive miniature would be one of these.
Students ousted from Apple Valley, Eagan schools after spring choir trip
By Bao Ong | 04/24/2008 12:29:32 AM CDT | www.twincities.com
Two students attending Eagan and Apple Valley high schools were expelled last week after buying souvenir swords during a spring break choir trip in the United Kingdom.
A chaperone found the duct-taped boxes that held the swords after the students left the store. The swords were confiscated on the trip and never made it to Minnesota. The students flew home several days early, and the district disciplined the students when they returned.
“The severity of the punishment didn’t fit the crime here,” said Brad Briggs, 45, an Eagan resident and father of one of the expelled teens. “There was no intent of violence.”
Briggs spoke at a Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School Board meeting after his son, a 16-year-old sophomore at Eagan High School, was kicked out of classes for the remainder of the school year after buying a $60 set of three samurai swords in York, England.
The district stuck to its student safety policy and doled out an expulsion that allows Briggs’ son to return to school in the fall.
The other student, a senior, was expelled from the School of Environmental Studies in Apple Valley for the remainder of the school year. At first, she was not going to be allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies. However, after negotiations, school officials agreed to let her graduate with her class.
She had bought an 18-inch sword that was a “Lord of the Rings” replica for Father’s Day, said her father, Dennis Fischbach.
School districts have grown increasingly vigilant in enforcing student safety policies in the wake of high-profile cases of violence in schools, educators and school officials said.
But others â€” from parents to lawmakers â€” wonder if the rules go too far at times, with the policies creating unintended consequences.
Briggs said school board members made it clear that student safety is a priority when they approved the expulsion. He just wishes his son â€” a choir member, Sunday school teacher and Boy Scout leader â€” could finish the school year with his classmates.
“What got him in trouble was being lost in the moment and buying a cool souvenir for his room,” said Briggs, at the April 14 board meeting as he tried to control his tears.
Briggs and Fischbach agreed to interviews with the Pioneer Press on the condition their children’s names be withheld from this story. The district said it could not discuss the names of the students or details of the expulsions because of privacy laws.
“We never expected to be expelled,” Briggs’ son said. “We’re not the sort of students that people would expect to do something like this.”
“It wasn’t like he was buying an M-16,” the father said.
The Briggs family is thankful their son was not expelled for the maximum full school year and can return to the district.
The students, who are completing their classes with the help of an assigned teacher, said although they disagreed with the decision, they understood why the school handed out the expulsions.
Superintendent John Currie said the district uses its best judgment on a case-by-case basis.
“We make the best decision we can to protect the safety of everybody involved,” he said.
Charlie Kyte, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators, went through a similar situation when he was superintendent in Northfield, Minn.
“Schools are in a real Catch-22,” he said.
A popular student once brought a toy gun to the high school, and Kyte had to expel him.
“Had I let him off the hook, the signal would’ve gone to students that we didn’t care about the policy,” Kyte said.
A fourth-grader from an Asian immigrant family once brought a big knife, without his parents knowing, for a show-and-tell activity at school because the knife was important in the family, Kyte said.
The student was suspended, he said.
Safety policies vary from district to district, as well as state to state. Some choose a zero-tolerance rule, while others have a “no-tolerance” policy that gives school officials more discretion in discipline.
For the Eagan district, the state’s fourth-largest, having a consistent policy is likely more important because of the large student population, Kyte said.
But the problem with zero tolerance is too many students who simply make a mistake and do not intend to harm anyone get punished, said attorney Amy Goetz, who founded the St. Paul-based School Law Center.
She said Minnesota law is vague and lacks a consistent standard, which can lead to students being punished excessively.
“Most parents don’t know how easy it is for their children to be ousted from schools,” Goetz said.
Mike Roseen, chairman of the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School Board, said district officials take expulsions seriously.
“The process is fair, and the process is equitable,” Roseen said. “And if someone gets caught up in something where they made a mistake, I’m sorry about that. There’s a policy we’re going to go by.”
Bao Ong can be reached at email@example.com or 651-228-5435.
(tee hee hee-do you want to email bong?)