ESTERO, Fla. – Friends of a National Merit Scholar who was suspended and banned from graduation after a kitchen knife was found in her car are petitioning other seniors to skip graduation.
Lindsay Brown's friends are pushing the boycott of the May 29 graduation at Estero High School because they believe school officials are going too far in enforcing a campus weapons ban.
"We won't walk unless she walks," said Brittany Scherer, who started the petition drive.
"We've all pretty much grown up together," said Adam Devine, also a senior. "If one person can't walk, the rest of us won't want to."
Principal Fred Bode suspended Brown, 18, for five days and told her she could not participate in school activities, including graduation.
Bode said he hadn't seen the petition and did not think there would be a boycott of graduation. He said he will not change his mind about Brown's punishment.
Bode on Thursday tried to explain himself to about 320 graduating seniors at a breakfast.
"As a public servant, I raised my right hand and said I would follow Florida law and Lee County policy, even if it isn't popular," Bode said he told the students.
Brown was arrested on a felony weapons possession charge after a deputy spotted the kitchen knife in her parked car. Brown said the knife was accidentally left there when she was moving during the weekend.
Bode said that he had no choice but to give Brown the same punishment as other students would get under the school's policy forbidding weapons on campus.
Parents were quick to object to the school's handling of the situation.
"This whole thing is ridiculous," said Jens Romer. "She should be allowed to graduate with the rest of her class."
Parent Sharon Scowden said special consideration should be given in this case.
"It's outrageous," she said. "She was a good student, not a troublemaker."
Bode said there normally would be an appeal of Brown's suspension, but it's a time-consuming process that can't be expedited.
He said the matter is finished, adding Brown "took her finals and we are all going to get on with life."
"It has not been a good ending to what had been a really good year," Bode said.