Fore Note: Sometimes I read a news story and find myself almost screaming at the computer, how can people be so stupid. This is one of those stories. Keep in mind as you read this story that these are suppose some of the smartest, most educated in our society. Educated idiots is what comes to my mind.
See the light: Petition seeks to rescind Cherokee student's flashlight suspension
ROGERSVILLE — A Cherokee High School mother said Friday she hopes school administrators will admit they overreacted by suspending a student for bringing a flashlight to school.
Don’t just take her word for it.
As of Friday evening there were 867 signatures on a online petition stating the same thing.
Cherokee High School went on lockdown Feb. 12 after a student reportedly told school authorities that a classmate might be carrying a gun, although the item in question turned out to be a flashlight.
Upon being interviewed, the student who had the flashlight said he carried it because it’s still dark outside when he arrives at his bus stop.
His one-day suspension hasn’t been served as of yet, and assuming school reopens Monday after a week off for winter weather, the suspension will be served that day.
This past week the mother of one of the boy’s classmates started a petition asking school administrators to rescind the suspension.
The mother asked not to be identified for fear that the school might retaliate against her child.
She said told the Times-News Friday that school administrators need to listen to the community they serve, admit that they overreacted by suspending the boy, and rescind the punishment.
“I started the petition because I know this boy, and I know that he wouldn’t have intentionally done anything to disrupt school or cause all this trouble,” she said. “(Her child) was heartbroken by this whole incident. (The boy) was terrified when the police confronted him during the lockdown. He didn’t know what he did wrong.”
She added, “I know how stubborn they (school administrators) can be, and they will never admit they made a mistake, but this is one case where they need to make an exception. This suspension is an embarrassment to them, the school, and Hawkins County.”
Director of Schools Steve Starnes told the Times-News Tuesday it’s not against the rules to have a flashlight in school.
He noted, however, that bringing any item to school that results in a significant disruption can result in disciplinary action.
“Even sometimes when things happen inadvertently that may cause a substantial disruption to the school, then I think we have to deal with certain situations,” Starnes said.
Starnes added, “Students should be cognizant of any item that may be considered a weapon and not bring those items to school.”
Starnes also applauded the student who reported the safety concern to school authorities.
Hawkins County Schools emphasize that students, faculty and staff are the first line of defense in preventing school violence and tragedies by reporting any potential safety concerns.
Starnes added, “If there’s any potential for danger to our students, we’re always going to be cautious and exercise diligence and make sure that we are doing everything possible to promote student safety.”
The petition is located online at www.change.org and here is a link to the specific petition.
Numerous comments from people across Hawkins County, as well as across the country, have voiced their support for rescinding the punishment on the petition web page.
One Hawkins County resident wrote, “If the child is making an effort to walk to the bus stop in the dark for goodness sakes let him have a flashlight. What about a little punishment for make an accusation on another student that was not true, instead of praise.”
Another Hawkins County resident said, “A child should not have his potential future crushed because he was using his head to ‘LIGHT’ his way in the dark. Get real people. If he didn't use it as a weapon then get over yourself.”
The mom who started the petition said she doesn’t expect to be able to prevent the suspension because school has been out all week and there was no way to get the petition to administrators before Monday.
But, the petition also seeks to have the punishment rescinded and expunged from the boy’s record. He will receive “zeros” for all work he missed that day, which will have a negative effect on his grade point average.
“I think the kid’s record should be cleaned and no grades should be affected,” she said.
She added, “What does suspending this child teach other students? This would go on his permanent record, causing further issues as he tries to get into college. This action also causes concern in school regarding his reputation. Just because there was a temporary disruption in school, doesn't mean someone should be punished.
She added, “We understand and thank our school system for keeping our children safe. Suspending a child for a flashlight has no benefits, except this child will now stand in the dark while he waits for the bus.”