Reporting Mike Hellgren
EASTON, Md. (WJZ)— Outrage is growing after two high school students are suspended– one taken away in handcuffs– over items found in their lacrosse equipment bags. Those items are banned from school property.
Mike Hellgren explains the zero-tolerance controversy.
The parents of those two students say the school administrators are taking this way too far.
Talbot County schools are under fire for suspending two Easton High School lacrosse players over equipment they kept in their bags to fix their sticks.
“It’s a huge overreaction for a very minor infraction, and it wasn’t handled well at all,” said Graham Dennis, suspended student.
Laura Dennis’ son Graham had a pen knife and a Leatherman that school authorities found while they searched a team bus before it headed to a game. He now faces jail time and damage to his permanent record.
“A police officer came and took him away in handcuffs and they said ‘Give us 40 minutes, we have to process him,’ Laura Dennis said. “So they did mug shots and they fingerprinted. I was able to pick him up from the police department 45 minutes later.”
Doug Edsall’s son Casey had a lighter he also used to fix his lacrosse stick. The school classified it as an explosive device.
“The school administration apparently stepped in, and I think the wheels came off at that point. I think a big mistake was made,” Doug Edsall said.
“I’m just really terrified of what could happened, and it’s just been real emotional for myself and Graham of what we’ve been through,” said Casey Edsall, suspended student.
The school refused to answer any questions. Instead they sent WJZ a statement that says the students broke state law: “The criminal law does not have an exemption for any class of students. Disciplinary decisions are often controversial.”
“To charge him for having a deadly weapon for a two-inch pocket knife is ridiculous,” Laura Dennis said. “It’s such a waste of everyone’s time and energy.”
The Maryland state school board is already taking a look at whether zero-tolerance policies go too far.
The parents of these students say the administrators’ actions here are out of line and their sons have never been in trouble and didn’t intend to harm anyone.
“You can hide behind a zero-tolerance policy. But I do believe that common sense needs to be applied, and unfortunately was not done in this instance,” Doug Edsall said.
“It makes me feel like I can’t trust people in a position of authority like that,” Graham said. “It’s scary to think that they would do something to a kid that doesn’t have any problems.”
The students have served their suspension. It’s unclear what might happen next, though, with these charges.
The school administrators say a team of staff members evaluated the case before making a decision about the punishment.