One guy's tool is another guy's weapon.
That's something Blaine High School senior Tony Richard is learning the hard way.
He's been suspended since September 5th, and could be expelled for the entire year, after a security guard found a box cutter in the teenager's car during a routine check for parking passes.
"They asked if I had anything in my car, and I said no," Richard recalled, "And then they asked me if I'm sure and I said yes."
School administrators then told him they'd located the box cutter in the cup holder of his parked car. It's a violation of the Anoka Hennepin County District's zero-tolerance weapons policy.
"I didn't realize that, I didn't think about it," he explained, "I just threw it in there after work one day so I wouldn't rip my car seat or something."
That's when he learned he'd be suspended for ten school days, and his case would be forwarded to the Anoka Hennepin County School Board for possible expulsion.
"I basically had to calm him down to say what's going on," Tony's mother Michelle Richard recalled of the phone call she received from her 17-year-old son that day.
"He was very upset and said 'They're trying to suspend me and expel me for having my work box cutter in my car.' And I said what?"
Tony works an average of 20 hours per week at a Cub Foods store in Blaine. As part of his job, he uses the knife with the retractable razor blade to break down boxes headed for cardboard recycling.
"He's getting the same punishment as if he'd brought it into the school," Michelle Richard said, "That's exactly what they would do in those cases too, they recommend expulsion."
The six-member school board won't consider Tony's fate until next Monday night at it's regular meeting, meaning he'll actually be out of school a total of 11 days.
"I want to graduate with my own class," Tony said Tuesday, "I don't want to go to some alternative learning center."
His mother's heard from many other parents willing to speak on Tony's behalf at the meeting.
"Parents that are actually drawing up letters to represent our family and Tony to say that the punishment just isn't fitting the crime."
District spokesperson Sarah Schwartz told KARE 11 school officials can't comment on individual student discipline cases, but referred to the district's policy on weapons.
It bans "possession, use and/or transmission" of a weapon or "any object that can reasonably be considered a weapon."
Examples given are knifes, real or immitation firearms, explosives, incendiary devices and any other object which can be used to harm a person.
The policy flatly says any student found in violation will be immediately suspended, and expulsion proceedings will be launched automatically.
Tony has spent his entire high school career at Blaine, and the sum total of his behavioral mishaps until now were three marks for being tardy. That had no bearing on the school's decision to banish him.
The staff at Blaine High, Schwartz explained, has no leeway in such matters once a weapon is found on school property. These cases are referred directly to the school board regardless of circumstances.
What will Tony tell the school board next week?
"I threw it in there after work one day," he said, "I use it to cut boxes. That's what it's for, so, that's pretty much it."
His mom's worried that he's missed his senior picture, and will miss homecoming because he's also banned from all activities. On Tuesday Tony had more to say about the chemistry labs he's missing during his suspension.
"It's not fun, I'll tell you that," he asserted, "All my friends are in school."
"You can say 'Oh yeah it's vacation,' but there's nothing to do at home all day and I've still got to do all my school work and stuff."
"I'd rather be in school."
(Copyright 2008 by KARE. All Rights Reserved)