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Questions raised over Minnesota teen's school expulsion

It seems every week there is a news story somewhere in the U.S. about a child or teen that was suspended or expelled for either brining a banned item to school or threatening an act of violence. Since violence in schools first erupted during the late 1990s and early 2000s, school districts around the country have adopted zero tolerance policies aimed to protect students and rid districts of problematic students.

A Minnesota high school junior who was looking forward to attending prom will instead spend the rest of her junior year at home after she was recently expelled from school. Considered a "model-student," the teen's expulsion came after school authorities discovered a small pocket knife in a routine locker search.

Upon discovering the knife, the girl explained she'd used the knife two days earlier to help with farm chores at her boyfriend's house. After finishing the chores, the teen said she threw the small knife into her purse where it lay forgotten. Despite her believable story and outstanding school record, school officials immediately suspended the teen. She subsequently learned school board members voted to expel her for the rest of the school year.

In addition to missing out on her junior prom and not being able to attend school activities and sporting events, the teen is worried she will fall behind academically as teachers don't seem to have the time or inclination to ensure for her academic success. Disappointed and confused over the actions of teachers and adults she respected and trusted, the teen is worried she may have difficulty getting into college.

During 2012, a total of 238 students were expelled from Minnesota schools. Of these expulsions, 75 related to illegal drugs and 50 stemmed from the possession of small pocket knives. While in this case, the juvenile faces no criminal charges, the incident and expulsion will likely have a long-lasting and negative impact on her life.

Minnesota juveniles who face criminal charges related to bringing a banned item or weapon to school or threatening an act of school violence face serious consequences. Parents, who have a child in this situation, would be wise to contact a criminal defense attorney.

Source: Star Tribune, "State education officials asked to overturn suspension over pocketknife," Steve Brandt, May 8, 2014

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