By 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.

Comments (547)
  1. Kay says:

    School officials are taking humanism out of school. Common sense and attention to the welfare of their students future need to be applied. Our children don’t like going to school because they are not treated like individuals but are treated like wanna be criminals. Calling the police was totally out of order in this situation.

  2. Rose says:

    Each school teacher should also have their bags searched while on school property.

    Any violations? Then the school teacher should be put in front of a firing squad. NO questions asked. After all, zero-tolerance should be a two-way street!

  3. JLP45 says:

    ABSOLUTLY rediculous–seems funny these kids that were making good use of their time are subjected to these rediculous charges, while almost every felon arrested in Baltimore has a wrap sheet as long as these comments and doesn’t go to jail until they kill someone–maybe—-we have lost all common sense—thank you my government –thank you !!!!

  4. JLP45 says:

    NEXT TIME YOU HEAR—-THERE OUGHTA BE A LAW—THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD—FOR THE CHILDREN–IT TAKES A VILLAGE—hang on you just asked the Government to take your money to act like they are going to solve a problem that N E V E R gets solved, but costs more money every year. Solve yourproblems at the lowest level possible get the Government out of our lives !!!

  5. no relief says:

    Reminds me of when I was a kid. (1970s-80s). I used to carry a pen knife on me all the time as well as a lighter. I used them in school to do stuff, occasionally sharpen a pencil or clip the nails. Nobody gave it a second thought. Now THAT is common sense. There was a “smoking area” outside the school where the 16 year olds could light up, and people used their lighters. I didn’t smoke, but I didn’t judge people who did. I didn’t kill anyone with my pen knife either.
    If I wanted to stab someone, I could easily use a pen or pencil to do so. I could do serious damage. Should we outlaw pens n pencils? Maybe we should force kids to use chalk instead…much safer.

  6. linda senft says:

    enough already, the school is totally wrong. those boys deserve better. for how many years have those boys wear the school uniforms proudly and play to the best of their ability to represent their school. many athletes carry items to fix their equipment. i have a suggestion for the next lacrosse game, when a stick needs to be fixed,stop the game, give the stick to a school administator and have them fix it, then resume the game. most of the school administators done even attend games yet they can sit back and judge. the two lacrosse players deserve more from the school then a criminal record.

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