Friday, May 4, 2007
Pocketknife at FNL raises concerns
When is a pocket knife a potentially dangerous weapon, and when is it a normal badge of childhood? In an e-mail sent to parents regarding an alleged knife brought to a recent Friday Night Live [FNL] dance for middle school youth, Carlisle Superintendent Marie Doyle wrote, "What we do know is that a few students have carried pocketknives at school and FNL (as a result of Boy Scouts or sport activities) and have been asked not to do so again. To the best of our knowledge, those students have complied with that request."
Friday Night Live is sponsored by the Carlisle Youth Commission, whose chair, Lori Canavan, has declined to comment, on the advice of Town Counsel.
Recent FNLs were held on March 2 and April 6, and another is scheduled for May 4. Doyle's e-mail to parents was dated April 30. Doyle contacted the police regarding the FNL concern and, according to a Carlisle Police Department spokesman, a middle-school student was issued a summons on March 27. The eighth-grader appeared in Framingham Juvenile Court on April 9, and is scheduled to return to court on May 17. This youth had previously appeared in court on a related matter concerning a knife on a school bus (see "Juvenile Court rules on knife incident," June 10, 2005.)
How serious was it?
Doyle would not answer questions about particular circumstances that precipitated concerns at the FNL. She was concerned about maintaining student confidentiality, and stressed that nothing harmful occurred. She said, "There was no event. No one saw a knife. No knife ever came out of a pocket." However, she was willing to answer more general questions.
Are pocketknives commonly brought to school? They are not allowed, but Doyle noted that in the 15 years she has been working as a school administrator both before and after she came to work in Carlisle, "Every single year we have kids that bring in Swiss Army knives to school." In recent months there have been two knife cases, she said, noting that often, the knives are recent gifts that the children are excited to show off to their friends. She said she has not seen any other weapons brought to the Carlisle School.
When the school hears about a knife, typically by reports from other students or from parents, Doyle said the administration will investigate and speak with a number of students individually, including the alleged weapon owner. If there is sufficient cause, the student's bag or locker will be searched.
"Middle School students are truly delightful," Doyle said, "but sometimes they make bad decisions. Our job is to help them think carefully about their decisions." She said if it is a case of a new knife being brought to school, it may be collected from the student, who is given instructions to leave it home in the future. Parents are then contacted to pick up the knife later.
Doyle said that if it is felt that the matter is more serious, then other responses may be appropriate. For instance, if they believe the student just forgot, and no "mal intent" was involved, then detention may be used. She said, "Anyone who brought a repeat weapon, I'd suspend."
Superintendent says FNL is safe
In general, Doyle said, "A student who was involved in disciplinary action would not be allowed to participate in social events." She added, "If a student presented a threat to the community, he or she would not be allowed to attend an event such as FNL." She emphasized, "FNL will continue to be a safe, fun event for all the students."
Doyle also wrote in her e-mail, "Further, we have investigated allegations of misconduct in school this year, and taken appropriate action when a student has threatened other students." Later, she elaborated on verbal threats that occasionally are made between students, "We also hear comments like 'I'm going to kill you.'" The school investigates each occurrence, she said, to learn if the comment was, "made in a dangerous way, or as bad humor." She said this was a perennial problem, "But in light of events of recent years, we take them far more seriously than we did several years ago."
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