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In both cases, it appears that board policy and/or established building expectations were followed. The only thing I might add to the knife situation is to address the IEP to see if it contained any guidelines for working with her in situations like this.

Scott Elias

Nice work with the t-shirt parent. Have you heard from the ACLU yet? I've had similar incidents of parents behaving badly: "My mom said not to give my cell phone to anyone EVER. Especially administrators!"

Regarding the knife - again at the high school level in my district it's zero-tolerance. Unless there were some mitigating issues on the student's IEP, she'd be up for expulsion.

Dave Sherman

Terrific Post!!
Regarding the T-Shirt - I would not have allowed the student back in class until he covered the saying or changed the shirt. The principal has a right to ban articles of clothing that interfere with the educational process of others. If the parent disagrees and keeps sending the child to school with inappropriate clothing, then I keep the child in the office. If the parent crosses the line in the slightest (language, threats, etc.) then I call the police. I also would have ignored the second shirt worn the next day.

Regarding the knife - This seems like a case of a student trying to get suspended out of school. It appears as if she did not actually threaten anyone with the knife. She showed it in order to "get herself in trouble." I agree that I would need to study the IEP and hold an IEP conference. Are we dealing with a child who is placed in the wrong educational setting? The in-school suspension seems like a better consequence than an out of school.

brian saxton

Interesting post:
T-Shirt: handled well. I am not sure what I would have done, however now that you have handled it I think I would have gone in that direction. More concerning to me is that a 5th grader is already listening to Pantera. Anyways, if it is disruptive to the educational environment then it needs to go.

knife: For us if a kid has a knife at school then it is at least a 5 day suspension, especially if it is seen by another student. The reasoning is that when that kid goes home and starts to tell their parents who then tell their friends and so on, I need to make sure that I have handled it and can assure the parents that it was taken seriuosly. I would be more concerned if that student had EBD and had the knife. I would definilty be calling an IEP to discuss the situation and put some safeguards in place.

Great post


It seems like we are all in your corner and would have done similarly.

With the T=shirt issue I am reminded of one of my constant mantras. Dress codes are about life skills. Our school has a uniform but we still deal with a variety of dress code issues and we have many alternative dress days also. From September on (and in the Handbook) I find multiple opportunities to address the instructional component of dress codes with students and parents. This of course does not keep me from having confrontations such as you describe but it does help the community in general see the bigger picture.

I talk a lot about how every job (whether written or unwritten) has dress policies. I talk to the older students about consequences in the work place. I have at least one HR person speak on Career day and address the issue. I really believe that the students and parents have to understand that dress codes are not a school or punitive thing but part of the real world. How many articles have been written about how to dress for an interview? Learning what is appropriate dress based on the event seems to be a skill that needs some reenforcement.

Thanks for the post dealing with what we all face daily!


Thanks for this post. It’s great and as a new administrator it gave me the chance to think some situations through that I haven’t had to deal with (yet).

The shirt: This is a non-issue. Although at times I feel as if I am the only person in education who can teach a student wearing a shirt with a curse word (marijuana leaf, alcohol advertisement, etc.), wearing a hat, or using a cell phone and simultaneously ensure that all of the students exposed to this are learning too; I know that I am not.

There is a deeper issue here of punishing a student for their parent’s beliefs. If the school is doing its job right it should be exposing the student to other points of view (how the shirt might make other students feel and how what the student chooses to wear portrays them, for example). Then we need to allow the student to make a decision and then let that decision stick.

The knife: What are you going to do? That endangers the lives of those around the student. Zero-tolerance policies are far too automatic (and seem to be applied far more often to minority students), situations must be taken into account. These issues should be left in the hands of the people who know the student the best and not turned over to school police, school boards, or any other bureaucratic agency.

Again, thanks for this post. I really enjoyed it. :)

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