FOX CHAPEL (AP) — A western Pennsylvania teen-ager contends he was wrongly suspended from school after he realized he had forgotten about a hunting knife in his pocket at a high school football game, which he turned over to a security guard.
David Schaffner III, 16, said he was setting up a hunting site in the woods before he was dropped off at the Fox Chapel High School football game Sept. 13. Schaffner remembered he still had the knife with him when he saw a sign prohibiting weapons at the field, so he approached a security guard and gave him the knife.
Schaffner said the guard allowed him into the game and kept the knife. But Schaffner was thrown out of the game minutes later once the principal was told about the knife and, on Monday, Schaffner was suspended for 10 days.
He said he was merely trying to be honest, as his father had taught him.
“He always tells me, ‘If you don’t have your word, you don’t have anything,’” Schaffner said. “That’s what I tried to do here.”
Family attorney Phil DiLucente said the situation shows that zero-tolerance policies wrongly take away the discretion of school officials.
“Instead of saying ‘good job’ to him for being forthright and doing the right thing, they decided to make it into a federal case,” DiLucente said. “He voluntarily turned it in, did the right thing — and now he’s being punished.”
The district has refused comment beyond a formal statement saying: “Weapons in schools and on school grounds can lead to accidents and situations that place student safety in jeopardy. When there is a weapon on school property, we must follow the steps that are required by law. The Fox Chapel Area School District remains committed to protecting the safety of all students and staff members.”
Schaffner still faces an expulsion hearing under a student handbook policy that says students who bring a weapon to school-related activities face a one-year expulsion.
DiLucente said he’s working to avoid that and get Schaffner back in school.
The sophomore said he’d be honest about a similar mistake again even knowing the consequences.
“I don’t think one policy that I don’t agree with is going to ruin me from being honest,” Schaffner said. “All I want to do is go back to school.”