A fifth-grader in Cupertino, California was suspended and threatened with expulsion for bringing a small Swiss Army knife on a school-sponsored, science-oriented camping trip.
In early April, Braden Bandermann’s class set off on Garden Gate Elementary School’s annual, week-long pilgrimage for fifth-graders to the Marin Headlands, just north of San Francisco.
Before leaving, Braden did what any Silicon Valley 10-year-old faced with the perils of nature might do: He packed his trusty Swiss Army knife. As any camper knows, the multi-tool device is nothing if not versatile. Braden’s particular model contains a can opener, tweezers, a toothpick, a nail file, a tiny pair of scissors and a small blade.
The little blade landed the boy in big trouble.
“They called me,” explained Tony Bandermann, Braden’s father. “They said, ‘You have to come and get him. He has a weapon. He needs to be suspended or possibly expelled.'”
At the time, the elder Bandermann was on a business trip in Sacramento, roughly 100 miles away. His wife, Braden’s stepmother, was at the camp with Braden, but they had arrived by bus and had no private transportation. (Braden’s mother was also unable to go to the camp so that he could serve a suspension.)
The school principal, Brandi Hucko, allegedly wanted Bandermann to rush to the site of the science camp, pick Braden up for a one-day suspension and then deliver him back to camp.
Bandermann told The Daily Caller that he was frustrated over Hucko’s insistence “that I risk my job and go get him out of the program for a one-day suspension all over a Swiss Army knife.”
The multi-tool instrument did not present a threat, Bandermann believes.
“I went to the very same trip when I was a child at the same school, and I had a very similar Swiss Army knife,” he said. “In fact, most of the kids did.”
Principal Hucko disagreed. According to Bandermann, she was adamant that punishment must be swift and severe.
Consequently, Bandermann told TheDC, school officials forced Braden to serve a one-day suspension at camp. He was allegedly isolated in a teacher’s lounge area from all the other children. He was forced to eat meals by himself. He was forced to sleep in an area separate from all the other children. He missed an entire day of activities.
Bandermann believes school officials overreacted.
“This is not Sandy Hook,” he said. “Get real. He brought a stupid Swiss Army knife to camp.”
Bandermann said that he suggested to Hucko that perhaps someone could take away the knife and discipline his son once he was returned to the urban comfort of Silicon Valley. However, Hucko would not negotiate.
The Cupertino Union School District would not respond to questions from The Daily Caller. School district representative Jeremy Nishihara said answering questions would violate Braden’s privacy.
Garden Gate Elementary’s parent handbook, available on the school’s website, stipulates a stern “zero-tolerance” policy for “violence, weapons, and drugs on school campuses or at school activities off campus.”
“State Law, district policy, and regulations of [sic] California Education Code support Zero Tolerance by requiring the immediate suspension and recommendation for expulsion of any student who possesses or furnishes a firearm, knife, explosive, or similarly dangerous object on school grounds or at a school event off school grounds,” the policy reads.
“Our schools also have prevention and intervention programs to help students make decisions, solve problems, and deal with conflict,” the policy also adds.
This incident is the latest in a long line of extraordinarily strong reactions by school officials to things students have brought to school — or talked about bringing to school, or eaten at school, or taken to a nature camp — that vaguely resemble weapons but aren’t, actually, anything like real weapons.
In rural West Virginia, an eighth-grader was suspended and, astonishingly, arrested after he refused to remove a t-shirt supporting the National Rifle Association. When he returned to school, he wore the same shirt, as did several other students in a show of support. (RELATED: Eighth-grader arrested over NRA shirt returns to school in same shirt)
Officials at an elementary school in small-town Michigan impounded a third-grader boy’s batch of 30 homemade birthday cupcakes because they were adorned with green plastic figurines representing World War Two soldiers. The school principal branded the military-themed cupcakes “insensitive” in light of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. (RELATED: School confiscates third-grader’s cupcakes topped with toy soldiers)
At Genoa-Kingston Middle School in northeast Illinois, a teacher threatened an eighth-grader with suspension if he did not remove his t-shirt emblazoned with the interlocking rifles, a symbol of the United States Marines. (RELATED: Junior high teacher tells kid to remove Marines t-shirt or get suspended)
At Park Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland, a student was suspended for two days because his teacher thought he shaped a strawberry, pre-baked toaster pastry into something resembling a gun. (RELATED: Second-grader suspended for having breakfast pastry shaped like a gun)
At Poston Butte High School in Arizona, a high school freshman was suspended for setting a picture of a gun as the desktop background on his school-issued computer. (RELATED: Freshman suspended for picture of gun)
At D. Newlin Fell School in Philadelphia, school officials reportedly yelled at a student and then searched her in front of her class after she was found with a paper gun her grandfather had made for her. (RELATED: Paper gun causes panic)
In rural Pennsylvania, a kindergarten girl was suspended for making a “terroristic threat” after she told another girl that she planned to shoot her with a pink Hello Kitty toy gun that bombards targets with soapy bubbles. (RELATED: Kindergartener suspended for making ‘terroristic threat’ with Hello Kitty bubble gun)
At Roscoe R. Nix Elementary School in Maryland, a six-year-old boy was suspended for making the universal kid sign for a gun, pointing at another student and saying “pow.” That boy’s suspension was later lifted and his name cleared. (RELATED: Pow! You’re suspended, kid)