A Pocketknife Earns Expulsion but Not a Felony Conviction


On Monday the Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned a teenager's felony conviction for bringing a pocketknife to school, saying there was no evidence he intended to use it as a weapon. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune describes the incident at the center of the case:

The student, a 16-year-old boy identified as S.M.L., was caught with the knife in February 2010 after a school resource officer and assistant principal at Willmar High School received a tip that he had brought drugs to school. They pulled him from class and he turned over marijuana and a pipe. When asked whether he had "anything else that he shouldn't have," the student said he had a pocketknife in his jacket pocket, a violation of school rules.

Asked whether he brought the knife to school for protection, the student said "no" but that "it didn't hurt." The school expelled the student for a year. He was charged as a juvenile with felony possession of a dangerous weapon on school property and three petty drug and tobacco misdemeanors. The student, now 18, pleaded guilty and was placed on probation.

Writing for the appeals court, Justice Kevin Ross said "identifying an object as more menacing in appearance than non-weapons is not a substitute for evidence of design as a weapon." He noted that knives like the defendant's, which had a serrated, three-and-half-inch blade, are "routinely available as a sporting good by vendors not commonly associated with dangerous weapons."

The ruling has no impact on school policy, which Willmar Public Schools Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard describes as "zero tolerance, depending on the case." Huh? "You look at a kindergarten kid differently than a high school kid," he explains. "Or at least I hope we do." Me too. What about 6-year-old Cub Scouts?

[Thanks to Mark Lambert for the tip.]

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  1. He noted that knives like the defendant’s, which had a serrated, three-and-half-inch blade, are “routinely available as a sporting good by vendors not commonly associated with dangerous weapons.”

    Look out, the kid has an “assault” knife!

  2. I carried a pocketknife everywhere as a boy, including to school. So did a lot of other boys. Oddly, nothing bad happened.

    This country is becoming more ludicrous by the minute.

    1. Same here. And if someone did do something stupid with their pocket knife, it was taken away… you know…lost privileges, instead of a felony.

    2. A friend brought one to a field trip in 6th grade. When he produced it in front of a teacher, it was confiscated.

      I remember at the time thinking that was a bit harsh…

      1. In our school, even when students were being searched (which almost always involved stolen property rather than something like drugs) and we had to turn out our pockets, pocket knives were ignored. The female teachers would actually ask you to use the knife to open parcels and the like if they didn’t have scissors handy, and of course the male teachers were carrying pocket knives of their own. It was treated for what it is: just another tool.

        1. In my little town, every fifth grader took the NRA Hunter Safety course, so you knew how to handle a gun safely. The teacher brought in his shotgun for the class. Beyond imagination anymore, isn’t it.

          1. At least it wasn’t a DEA agent bringing a Glock “fowty”.

            1. If the instructor was like they guy who came to my school, he was an old Fish and Game officer with a plug of tobacco in his cheek.

        2. just another tool

          Which is my job.

        3. When I taught middle school (in Maine) thirty odd years back, I recall getting tired of one kid disturbing class to sharpen his pencil. I recall handing him my knife, and telling him to sit down and quit being a nuisance. Gave the kid something to fiddle with, since he was obviously not interested in algebra.

          A fellow teacher (financially well off, supposed returned his salary to the school since he didn’t need it, whereas, this was Maine and the school did) gave all his students real honest to gawd Swiss Army knives at Christmas. Outcry? Only that every other kid in the school was jealous.

          This country needs to lighten up!

    3. pre-columbine thinking

      1. A few years before Columbine I was taking an electronics class at the local high school. An adult-ed thing for personal interest. At one point I pulled out my keys and the teacher noticed I have a little folding pen knife on the ring.

        He told me that I should keep it hidden because if the wrong person saw it they could call the police and have me charged with a felony.

      2. Huh, I must have missed that. Were a lot of kids killed by pocket knives at Columbine?

        1. thinking not weapons. pls try to keep up

          1. “thinking”, there’s a larf…

    4. This country is becoming more ludicrous by the minute

      Next thing you’ll want kids to be able to bring BB guns to school. You know you could shoot your eye out!

      1. Kids used to bring guns (firearms even, not weak airguns like a BB gun) to school legally all the time, usually either because it was hunting season and they were going to head out into the woods after class or because they were on the school’s rifle or trap team.

  3. I was just linked here from a thread on jezebel, and I must say a few things…
    1. You guys are racist, sexist, homophobic PIGS. 2. You are the representation of all that is wrong in this world. 3. DISGUSTING FUCKING PEDOPHILES, SICK BASTARDS. 4. You all need to DIE. 5. STAY OUT OF JEZEBEL.

    1. In other words, *poooooooot*.

    2. Are we hate-figures over at Jezebel? That would be delightful.

      1. Delightful was exactly the word I was going to use. This is perhaps a bit rough around the edges but maybe it will improve with time and blossom into a well rounded troll. Making numbered lists of things is a pretty good start.

        1. Especially when those things include calling us pedophiles. In caps lock no less.

          1. For the children…

        2. Im trying to figure out why this was posted on THIS thread.

          Jezebel linked to the reason pocketknife thread? Why?

          1. I read through the last few threads. All I could see is a link off to Weigal on this thread.

            1. I found this gem. Their fear of weights is…unsurprising.

              1. Who’s got positive self-esteem here? C’mon, speak up! This is causing us nothing but trouble.

            2. Oooh, and this one promises to be fantastic.

              I’ve heard from many guys who tell me that they lie about porn (and the other kinds of sex they may buy) because, as one put it to me, “women go ballistic when you tell them the truth.” But it’s not women’s job to ratchet down their anger in order to make it safe for men to get real.

              1. Remember, that’s the guy whose erectile dysfunction lead him to being a feminist.

                1. Congratulations on caring enough to remember his name. Fag.

              1. We get flamed for Harsanyi? They should pray to their goddesses that Welch or The Jacket aren’t quoted. It would probably cause more squaks than a dog in a henhouse. No sexist.

              2. That’s a pretty mild Reason thread, as our threads go.

          2. Note Tables 4 and 7 in the Cato paper, robc.

            1. Wrong thread dude.

              1. So what is up with this thread? Thacker and the Jez troll.

                1. They might be fighting a full-on copy pasta war behind the scenes, creating odd posting artifacts.

      2. Ya know I’ve bern hanging arond the gawker sites quite a bit lately. I love io9, gizmodo and jalopnik.

        Out of curiosity I went to garner and jezebel. I don’t thnk I’ve ever seen a group of people with that much vitriolic hatred for conservatives. And its not so much the hatred, I mean I can’t stand the GOP either, its more the muckracking and the air of superiority and holier than thou attitude that bothers me. But some of the idiocy I’ve seen in the comments section is good for a laugh.

    3. Troll, spoof, or idiot? It’s getting hard to tell the difference anymore.

      1. I know. And I think we would be kind of psyched if we actually were hated there.

      2. I just had a look at its web site, and judging by its screed on vegetarianism, I’d have to say it’s an idiot.


      3. “Troll, spoof, or idiot regular? It’s getting hard to tell the difference anymore.”

    4. Why is it safe to be a vegetarian? Plant-based proteins are lighter proteins compared to animal proteins from flesh meats. They are easily digested and assimilated by the system to nourish the whole body.
      Flesh meat eating is the cause of tumors and cancers in the body. They are the carriers of parasites and of communicable diseases from animals such as mad cow disease, foot and mouth disease, bird’s flu, and other diseases that plague humanity today.
      A vegetarian diet, contrary to common beliefs, provides a complete balanced diet. Some people believe that a vegetarian diet does not supply the body with the essential nutrient, vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is found in spirulina, and in other seaweeds. Vegetables rich in cobalt also help the body to produce its own vitamin B12.

      Again, delightful.

      1. can vegetarians eat animal crackers?

      2. Are you kidding? It maligned caffeine!

        This curr needs a good walloping to teach it some manners and good sense.

      3. Animal crackers in my poop

    5. You sound fat.

      1. and ugly

        1. Vegetarians also usually have uncontrollable and really heinous gas.

          So fat, ugly and smelly is what we have so far.

          1. Any link between vegetarianism and excessive amounts of body hair? Just askin’.

            1. Could be if they eat a lot of soy.

    6. WTF is Jezebel, and why should anyone fear a “verbal beating”?


      1. dunno but these reasonoids seem to get torqued over it

    7. Somebody is having an unhappy period.


      why would you target that?

      1. How would she measure it?

      2. Nothing is more important to these people than self-esteem, not knowledge, not health, not wealth.

      3. Wait… you mean this was a serious post? Someone actually threatened a verbal beating that would push my self-esteem into the negatives?

      1. See, OP, you need to stay. Rather really needs a friend.

        1. who is OP?
          And feel free to leave

      2. 1. You guys are racist, sexist, homophobic PIGS.
        Add alcoholics, and drug addicts

        2. You are the representation of all that is wrong in this world.
        Add universe

        You forgot about the compulsatory en r?gle DUI/possession arrests, and autism spectrum disorder

        4. You all need to DIE.
        Who would entertain me then?

        Watch out for Sugarfree; it’s the closest he can come to being a girl

        1. sorry guys, i just came all over my keyboard from reading that post. now my room smells like a fishmarket.

        2. BTW, don’t mention beating them; half of them started masturbating when they heard, and they make enough typo errors with two hands

        3. Hang on…Steve Smith is a rapist. How’d she miss that?

        4. For the record, we are all going to die.

          Just not right now.

    9. Oooo, what thread? I have to go check it out now!

    10. Oh, by the way, proud mother, I DO say otherwise. Please, give me your verbal beating.

      1. thank you ma’am, may I have another.

        1. No, I just would find it funny what she considers a beating.

          Also, I wonder if she’s read Morning Links yet and seen us beating on Jezebel like a renting mule.

          1. no way. how would she type through the tears.

      2. If you are going in for that kind of kink, please do it behind closed doors.

    11. proud mother, could you post an email? i really need to get off, and you sound loike my perfect date

        1. like tyler durden, i am just a manifestation of your subconscious need to bone a lot of women and discuss the horrible odors our vagina emits.


    13. Beat away, missy.

    14. Huh?

      Hey momma, do you know the meaning of “non sequitur”?

    15. Hey sexy lady… wanna kill all libertarians?

  4. “The ruling has no impact on school policy, which Willmar Public Schools Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard describes as “zero tolerance, depending on the case.”

    So zero tolerance has exceptions, but not when you embarass authorities by not having drugs when they get a tip that you do.

    1. “zero tolerance, depending on the case.”

      That comment reminded me of something I’ve heard in the old car hobby….80% of the time, it’s 100% reliable.

      oh, and anyone who thinks “zero tolerance” is a good idea should DIAF

    2. Some zero tolerance is more tolerant than other zero tolerance.

  5. You participate in thug-state schools, you live by thug-state rules.

  6. He did have drugs.

    1. AND a deadly weapon, which I believe triggers a mandatory life sentence.

      1. and a felony conviction essentially is a life sentence

        1. plus waterboarding while being sodomized

  7. Lets count the difference between public schools and prisons:

    1. Prisons have better food service.
    2. Prisoners maintain some of their basic rights.
    3. I can’t think of any more differences.

    1. As a general rule you don’t have to worry about being sodomized in a public school.

      1. SODOMANIA!!!!!!!

        1. Sodomalia!

      2. As a general rule you don’t have to worry about being sodomized in a public school.

        Depending on the case.

      3. As a general rule you don’t have to worry about being sodomized in a public school.

        Except in Britain.


          Good ol’ Elk River, MN.

      4. As a general rule you don’t have to worry about being sodomized in a public school.

        That’s reserved for parochial schools.

  8. The ruling has no impact on school policy, which Willmar Public Schools Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard describes as “zero tolerance, depending on the case.”

    “Zero tolerance” is the substitute for common sense, criteria, intelligence, rationality, the burden of proof, reason, character, wits, thought, knowledge, experience, moral rectitude, ethics…

    … all that differentiates us humans from bureaucrats, to put it more succinctly.

    1. all that differentiates us humans from bureaucrats


    2. zero tolerance eliminates lawsuits

    3. zero tolerance eliminates lawsuits

    4. zero tolerance eliminates lawsuits

  9. See, this is why we will never see a relaunch of MacGyver. Thanks, TSA.

  10. 1. You guys are racist, sexist, homophobic PIGS. 2. You are the representation of all that is wrong in this world.

    *blushes with pride, puffs out chest*

    1. Honestly, Proud Mother, I want to thank you. You just made my day. I am super happy right now.

      1. that must be hard for a libertarian without drugs or alcohol

        1. Well, to be fair, I did smoke a doobie before I posted that.

        2. Don’t forget prostitution. Prostitution makes us super happy, also.

  11. As a general rule you don’t have to worry about being sodomized in a public school.

    Just don’t turn your back on the wrestling team.

    1. When I was in high school, the wrestling team and drama club had a lot of joint practices after school. Now that I think back, it does seem kind of odd.

  12. OK thats just downright messed up dude. Seriously.

  13. Here’s an interesting comparison for you guys: when I was around 5, we were encouraged to bring small knives to school and use them in our extensive PYONERY (Pioneers) youth culture (everything from marching to survival techniques), and that was the Soviet Union. The fucking Soviet Union.

    Back over here, in the land of the free, my aunt’s high school classmates regularly brought knives to school, and guns on school property (small-town Georgia), but that was a long time ago.

    Imagine a 16-year-old high school kid bringing a loaded gun to class in… New Jersey. Roflmfao.

  14. slightly OT:…..nders.html

    these two kids have to register as sex offenders for life because one of them put his bare ass on another kid’s face. Jumping Jesus on a pogo-stick.

    1. Post-reductio America strikes again.

    2. I can’t believe that sort of shit still surprises people. It’s over. This country is dead, and it’s not coming back until somebody brings it back. And as much as I wish otherwise, I don’t see it happening.

    3. WEDNESDAY JULY 20, 2011, 7:27 AM Flag as offensive
      EB1 says:
      These young people were old enough to know the difference between horseplay and deliberate humiliation of the victims for ones’ own amusement. Unless these individuals were raised in such a sheltered environment that they did not have a clue that this was offensive behaviour – they should be held accountable – whether they’re 14 or 40. I also believe that the parents should be ordered to take appropriate parenting classes … better late than never …

      from the comments.

      1. WEDNESDAY JULY 20, 2011, 8:26 AM Flag as offensive
        Opal says:
        good!!! just the other day i rose hell because my 7 yr old came home and told me another 11 yr old was showing his “privates” on the SCHOOL BUS!!!!!

        this one is awesome too.

      2. I bet you can count on one hand the number of times you’ve sat your bare ass down on someone’s face.

        1. PWN’D!

          1. The stylistically semi-fragmented writing, choice of words, and spelling indicate it’s probably a Limey. No worries, they’re hopeless.

        2. as a serial assfacer, I must admit that I stopped counting after 366. I’m compiling my greatest hits for a Youtube compilation.

          1. Were you pitching, or catching?

            1. I only had my ass faced in the training program and that was with a simulated ass.

              1. Still confused. Did you have your ass faced, or your face assed?

  15. Damn it’s so easy to get out of school these days. Today’s kids don’t know how lucky they are.

  16. “zero tolerance, depending on the case.”

    I can just see the shifty-eyed guy in a Bagge cartoon, with “zero tolerance” in one balloon, “depending on the case” in a separate one.

  17. “zero tolerance, depending on the casetort.”


  18. I remember a photo in my high school yearbook of a guy pointing his revolver directly at the photographer’s camera lens during study hall. My how things have changed.

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