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VESD holds hearing for knife-wielding first-grader
VICTORVILLE • An expulsion hearing was held Monday morning for a 6-year-old Discovery School of the Arts student who brought a knife to school two months ago.
According to police reports and a school site investigation, the first-grader brought a 9-inch folding blade knife to school and showed two friends during afternoon recess.
The hearing, which was made public at the request of the parents and their lawyer, called on two witnesses that spoke about the incident — the child’s homeroom teacher and the school’s principal, Robert Hill.
Both the principal and the teacher said the male student showed the knife to two friends and when surrounding children saw it, they reported it to a teacher on recess duty who informed the child’s homeroom teacher, who was also on recess duty that day.
According to the teacher, the boy gave the knife to another male student so he would not get in trouble. It is unknown if the child was brandishing the knife or if he showed it to his classmates discretely from his coat pocket.
The panel who heard the case questioned the boy’s mother, who said that the boy took the knife from the home of a family friend without asking. She said that she and her children spent the night at the house and that her friend dropped her children off at school because she had to be at work early the next day.
She said that her friend’s son, whom she estimates to be about 11 or 12 years of age, had an extensive knife collection — which she claims she was unaware of until the school notified her and the boy’s father of the incident.
The child was placed on independent study for an indefinite amount of time, although the mother claims she has only received three homework packets from the district.
The principal said he has attempted to contact the mother numerous times by phone and that he is forced to send the homework packet home with the child’s older siblings, who also attend the school.
The mother, however, claims she has never received a single phone call from the school, even though Hill testified they have kept a log of every attempt they have made to contact her.
“My recommendation is that he should be expelled from the district,” Hill said to the panel of three. “I believe that this child is a clear and present danger.”
Although the student has had few absences and no recorded discipline or mental issues, Hill abides by a strict zero-tolerance policy that the child’s attorney Marcie Garnder challenged.
“He’s a well-adjusted, normal kid,” Gardner said. “I believe it’s appropriate to give a 6-year-old another chance. He’s not a bad kid. This is a discretionary expulsion. The Ed Code is not a zero-tolerance Ed Code.”
The panel, which is comprised of principals from different schools in the district, can reinstate him in school immediately or recommend him for expulsion.
Gardner said the panel can make a choice to enroll him again, but they are unable to expel him from the school or the district without getting it agendized for review by the VESD board of trustees. Gardner said that only the board of trustees can expel him from the district permanently and that the family can choose to appeal it at the county level if they choose.
Cynthia D. Vargas, the attorney for the district, said in light of the incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the heightened awareness of safety on campus needs to be considered as well.
“I cannot put in danger the 999 other kids on my campus just because we think he won’t do it again,” Hill said, who estimates his school serves about 1,000 students. “It’s my responsiblity to keep the kids safe.”
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