My child is a student at Ballington Academy, and he recently informed me that a student in a third-grade class took a knife to school, and was only suspended for a week. The students in that class are no longer allowed to take a backpack to school. I’m wondering, is a week a normal suspension for having a weapon in school? That seems like a slap on the wrist. I feel there should be a more severe punishment. I also don’t understand why only the students in that class are having backpacks banned. Shouldn’t the whole school be banned from backpacks? I am concerned for my son’s safety, and the other children. — Parents, El Centro
We attempted to speak to Ballington Academy for the Arts and Sciences Principal Grace Cortez-Jiminez, but these types of issues are sent to a broader spokesperson. In this case, it was Gerald McFadden, a board member of Ballington and the chief executive officer and president of Volunteers of America, the agency that runs Ballington.
On the discipline end, he said the punishment meted out is reviewed and decided after an investigation into the specific circumstances around the incident.
A one-week suspension was decided on because staff believed there was no intention to hurt anyone by the third-grader. Further, McFadden said the knife was never taken out of the child’s backpack. The teacher discovered it was in the backpack and questioned the student, who freely admitted to possessing it. Also, the student had no prior problems.
These factors went in to deciding a one-week suspension was sufficient, McFadden said.
He added no students or staff were in danger.
In regards to the backpack policy, McFadden was much more measured with his words. What we took from that is, the teacher might have overreacted with an outright ban on backpacks.
McFadden since it has since been communicated to parents that restrictions on backpacks have been or will be lifted.
Still, McFadden said, “we think a teacher out of a greater concern and to minimize anxiety, implemented a procedure that may have been a little bit much.”