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Hannity

Eagle Scout Responds to Pocketknife Suspension

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," October 15, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Now earlier this week, we told you about a Delaware school that temporarily suspended a 6-year-old for bringing a spork to school. Now although that school reversed its decision apparently others are now taking its lead.

Matthew Whalen, a 17-year-old Eagle Scout from upstate New York, was suspended for four weeks by his high school and you won't believe why. Now Whalen kept a knife similar to this one in the trunk of his car as part of a survival kit.

Now the knife Whalen says was a gift from his grandfather. Now Whalen's fate now rests in the hands of the school board which has the power to reverse this decision. And the school district superintendent, George Goodwin, maintains that the district has a zero tolerance policy with regard to all weapons.

Now we reached out to members of the school board for comment today. And we're going to put the members' names on the screen for you to see and want to report to you that seven of the nine members did not return our telephone calls.

Now board member P.J. Higgitt referred us back to the superintendent and Bonnie Lance's husband told us that she supports the school's course of action 100 percent. But here is the good news. Whalen hopes to attend West point and he did receive word from the school earlier today that they will not hold this suspension against him.

And joining me now to discuss this is Matthew Whalen and his father, Brian.

Guys, welcome to the program. Thanks for being here. We're really appreciative of your time. Thanks.

MATTHEW WHALEN, SUSPENDED FROM SCHOOL: Thank you for having me, Mr. Hannity.

BRYAN WHALEN, SON SUSPENDED FROM SCHOOL: Thank you, Sean.

HANNITY: All right.

B. WHALEN: Great pleasure.

HANNITY: Matthew, first of all, it was odd to me — first of all, I think it's really smart to have a survival kit in your car. This was in your car, it was locked up. And the school comes up to you and says, do you have a knife on you? Why don't you walk us through what happened?

M. WHALEN: I was called to the vice principal's office and asked if I had a knife on my person. And I told him I didn't. And they asked me if I own a knife. And I told them yes, I'm a soldier, and I'm an Eagle Scout, and I own a knife. And they asked me, is it in my car or anything like that? And I told them yes, it's located in my car right now.

And they — from there, they told me to bring it down to the car, open it up and show them. And at that point, I thought it was just — you know, they thought I had a big knife and it's was just — a little two-inch thing and I figured, you know, it's not a weapon under New York state law. You know there's no problem with it.

So I brought them down and showed them the car and the knife. And they told me that I had a weapon on school property and had to be suspended.

HANNITY: All right, and the principal even admitted from what I had read that in fact you had no intent to use the knife and you had no — the knife was not accessible to you, correct?

M. WHALEN: Yes. The principal said that in a recorded superintendent's hearing.

HANNITY: And they brought in a police officer and the police officer said you aren't breaking any laws.

M. WHALEN: Yes. The little pocket knife, because of the size and everything with it, it wasn't a weapon under New York state law and he said that there's nothing illegal about the situation.

HANNITY: You know, I find this amazing. Now I also found more amazing is your story that you were — you had received from the scouts a medal and a distinction and an honor because you had saved somebody's life. And I want to know if you can, you know, share the context of how that happened with our audience.

M. WHALEN: Yes, when I was 13, I was on a sporting trip down to Virginia with some family members. And while there at a hotel, my cousin had an allergic reaction to some medication. And she was unconscious and unresponsive. And she wasn't breathing. So I performed CPR on her until medical officials arrived on the scene.

HANNITY: Which could probably explain — and I'm just assuming here, tell me if I'm wrong — why you might have a survival kit with you at all times? One of the motto, always be prepared, right?

M. WHALEN: Yes, I feel being prepared in any circumstances is a good idea and it's better to have something and not need it than need something and not have it.

HANNITY: All right, let's talk about, first of all, you originally were suspended for five days. And then they tacked on another 15 days. Can you explain those circumstances?

M. WHALEN: I was told that I had to go to a superintendent's hearing because a principal can only suspend a student legally for five days. So I had to go to a superintendent's hearing to see if they could suspend me for further. And that the superintendent wasn't even at and neither was the vice principal who originally suspended me.

It was just the athletic director and the principal. And from there, I received notice that I would be told of — this is my fate. And I received a phone call from the principal later that day and I was told that I had another 15 days of suspension.

HANNITY: You know, what was amazing to me I thought you had a pretty interesting line and I thought it was very clever. You made the argument that well, if this is a weapon, well, somebody that has a baseball bat on a baseball team, they could use that as a weapon.

M. WHALEN: Yes. Under their blanket definition of a weapon, it's anything that can be reasonably considered a weapon. And I mean, a bat in my eyes is a much better weapon than a two-inch pocket knife locked in someone's car.

HANNITY: Yes. All right.

M. WHALEN: Let alone that or a tire iron.

HANNITY: Yes. I mean, anything could be used as a weapon based on the attempt but you didn't have any access to it. It was locked up safely in a car. All right, now, explain to me — first of all, I love the fact that you're a young man and you have this ambition.

West Point is one of the greatest colleges that I think anybody can go to. And you got word today from West Point that they will not hold this against you. How did it come to their attention that they responded that way to you?

M. WHALEN: Some news stations called them and also some people told me that they wrote West Point about the issue. Just so that I wouldn't be negatively affected by this when they saw it and they pay closer attention to the issue rather than just passing me over seeing that I had a weapon on school property charge. And, you know, that wasn't really the case.

HANNITY: All right. Brian, as the dad, you know, what's your reaction to this? I understand that you're not considering any type of lawsuit. But there is a potential that your son is going to be suspended for 20 days. Your reaction.

B. WHALEN: Initially, it was just the first five days, it was — we were really concerned and just surprised by it. After the hearing, we thought based on the attitudes of the principal and the appointee of the superintendent that ran the hearing that it was just going to be dismissed and he would be allowed right back in school.

So, you know, we were irritated by it. But it was something that we thought we could get through. But when they — a couple of days later when they tacked on the additional days that have ultimately brought it up to be a month out of school, that was outrageous. And very infuriated.

So we contacted the media at that point. And I actually have retained an attorney now.

HANNITY: Good for you.

B. WHALEN: And we'll be exploring that right measure to try and get his record expunged.

HANNITY: Matthew, you did nothing wrong. Good luck at West Point. And we'll be looking forward to seeing great things from you in your future. Thank you for being with us.

M. WHALEN: Thank you, Mr. Hannity. I appreciate it.

B. WHALEN: Thank you very much, sir.

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