Two lacrosse players from Easton (Md.) High School recently were suspended for carrying what they consider tools of the trade.
Under Talbot County Public Schools's zero-tolerance weapons policy, Graham Dennis was hauled off in handcuffs by local police and charged with possession of a deadly weapon when Easton High officials found a pocket knife and a multi-tool device used to repair lacrosse stick strings in his bag during a search on April 13. He was suspended for 10 days. Searches of the players' bags were conducted after administrators received a tip that some of them might contain alcohol, The Baltimore Sun reports.
Dennis's teammate Casey Edsall, who had a lighter also used to repair equipment in his bag, was suspended for one day because the lighter is classified by the district as an "explosive device." Edsall's family appealed the suspension but was denied by superintendent Karen Salmon. They now plan to take their case to the Talbot County school board in an attempt to reverse Salmon's decision.
As for Dennis, school officials originally told his mother, Laura, that she would not be allowed to appeal her son's 10-day suspension. But Salmon indicated Monday that she would consider a written appeal to expunge the suspension from Graham's record, meaning the soon-to-be-senior would not have to report the suspension to every college to which he applies. In a letter to the Dennis family obtained by The Sun, Salmon wrote that having a weapon on school property is a criminal offense that could be punished with three years in jail. "Given the severity of this violation, expulsion is warranted," she wrote.
Laura Dennis added that her son and other players have regularly used such items as the knife and lighter to repair sticks on the sidelines during games - a practice other area lacrosse coaches claim is not unusual. "Honestly, they are typical items for kids that tinker with their sticks all the time. Every team has a kid who is a stick doctor," Bob Shriver, coach at Boys' Latin School in Baltimore, told the paper. "I can see that being part of somebody's bag."
This incident comes not long after members of the Maryland board of education raised concerns about whether some school system policies are too harsh and deny students the right to an education. "Incidents like this are cause for tremendous concern," Kate Walsh, a member of the state school board, told The Sun. Walsh initiated a discussion about suspensions last winter after a Fairfax County, Va., student committed suicide following a long suspension on a relatively minor infraction. "This represents overreactions in school systems that are troubling."
In another incident some observers are calling an administrative overreaction, a boys' track coach in Westwood, Mass., was fired and ordered off school property on April 29 for letting his runners train without wearing shirts.