Earlier this month, a student at Annapolis High School in Dearborn Heights, Mich. was expelled because she was found carrying a small pocket knife in her purse at a school football game.
The student, 17-year-old Atiya Haynes received the small, foldable knife from her grandfather. It was a gift. Her grandfather was worried because she had been riding her bicycle from southwest Detroit to Dearborn for a summer job, reports Detroit Fox affiliate WJBK.
Meanwhile, at an elementary school in a suburb south of Seattle, a boy from a Sikh family will be allowed to carry a dagger under his clothes to Gildo Rey Elementary School every day.
The not-at-all-foldable knife the boy will carry is called a kirpan. School district officials are allowing the dispensation because the kirpan is an important part of Sikhism, according to Seattle NBC affiliate KING-TV.
“People will even wear it in the shower. It’s kind of hard for others to understand,” Jaswinder Singh, spokesman for the Gurudwara Sikh Center of Seattle, told KING-TV.
“For the people who are formally initiated to the Kirpan, it’s very near and dear,” he added.
Auburn school district assistant superintendent Ryan Foster explained that the knife is fine with school officials as long as it is hidden.
“The knife can’t come out,” he told the Seattle NBC affiliate. “That allows them to express their religion without jeopardizing anyone’s feeling of safety. If there are any problems, we will take it to the family, but we don’t expect any.”
The state of Washington has a strict “zero tolerance” weapons policy.
Michigan also has a strict “zero tolerance” weapons policy, and school board officials used it to justify the expulsion of Haynes, a college-bound senior and an athlete.
Unlike the Sikh student who will hide a dagger under his clothes every day, Haynes said her pocket knife was in her purse at the football game because she forgot to remove it.
School board officials said they believed Haynes should be punished for her forgetfulness.
“We are upheld by the state of Michigan to uphold the laws of the state of Michigan,” school district superintendent Tim Thieken told WJBK.
Haynes was extremely frustrated.
“I’m disgusted,” she said, according to the Detroit Fox affiliate. “Every time you forget your keys to your house, think of me. Think of this honest mistake. I’m a human being. I’m 17 years old. It’s disgusting that you can sleep at night knowing that you can potentially ruin somebody’s life.”
There is a silver lining for Haynes. School district officials refused to overturn her expulsion but she is now able to take online coursework to complete her high school degree this academic year.