TWIN FALLS — Can your child bring a knife to school?
Short answer: No.
“It’s a very strong stance, and we don’t take it lightly,” said Eva Craner, spokeswoman for the Twin Falls School District.
But in south-central Idaho, it’s fairly common to carry a pocket knife, and a child may forget to take it out of their pocket or backpack.
And while the school punishment is clear, the legal consequences can murky, depending on the type of knife.
The topic came up earlier this week when the Twin Falls Police Department responded Oct. 9 to two unrelated reports of students bringing a knife to school at Vera C. O’Leary Middle School and South Hills Middle School.
No threats were made at either school, Lt. Terry Thueson said.
Criminal charges will be filed against both students under a federal code, he said, likely a misdemeanor offenses.
So far this school year, Twin Falls police have received 17 reports of weapons on school campuses, Thueson said. Of those, eight resulted in arrest reports.
At least eight of the incidents involved a knife or box cutter, he said; one was a stun gun.
Deadly or dangerous weapons, including firearms, aren’t allowed at schools. That’s outlined in school district policies, state law and the federal Gun-Free Schools Act.
It’s against the law to bring a knife to school with a blade of any length. And under the law, the student must be expelled from school.
But it’s not against the law to bring a pocket knife with a blade less than 2 ½ inches long. It’s considered a weapon, but not deemed dangerous or deadly under the law, Craner said.
Students, though, could still face school disciplinary action.
“Knives are common weapons to be brought to school,” Craner said. “We really need parents to talk with their kids about why they can’t bring knives to school.”
On Oct. 9 at O’Leary Middle School, a student had a box cutter and another student saw it, Thueson said. The student with the knife took it out during class, dropped it, got scared and left it on the floor.
The student who brought the knife admitted he had it and knew he wasn’t supposed to bring it to school, Thueson said. The student, he said, found it in his pocket after leaving home for school.
At South Hills Middle School, employees saw security camera footage of a child passing a long, shiny object back and forth with peers.
The school principal asked the student about it, Thueson said, and the student admitted bringing a knife to school.
A deadly or dangerous weapon is a “weapon, device, instrument, substance, or material that is used for or capable of, causing serious bodily injury or death,” according to Twin Falls School District policy.
Any student who brings a deadly or dangerous weapon will be expelled — a requirement under state and federal law.
“Our policy isn’t just something we made up,” Craner said. “If we don’t follow those rules, we would be breaking a federal law.”
When a student is expelled, the school board decides on the length of how long the student will be gone.
“A lot of times, people will think they’ll be out of school forever,” Craner said. “That’s not really the case.”
A student’s expulsion typically ranges from one day to a year. “Schools and the district have a little bit of flexibility to take into account the surrounding circumstances,” Craner said.
In the meantime, students receive their coursework to ensure they don’t fall behind in their classes.
School security is a hot topic nationwide, with many schools moving to control building access points and take measures such as installing new high-definition security cameras.
As a result of the incident, school officials boosted security measures, including prohibiting students from bringing backpacks for the rest of that school year.
The big takeaway: Don’t bring weapons to school. It’s important for children to check their backpack and pockets before leaving home, Craner said.
It’s a matter of school safety, she said. “We don’t know what their intentions are until something happens. Better safe than sorry, really.”