The principal at a South Florida middle school is sparking outrage for handing down a six-day suspension to an 11-year-old honor student who brought a toddler-proof butter knife to school.
WPLG-TV in Miami reports that the student at Silver Trail Middle School in Pembroke Pines was suspended recently after she was caught using the knife in the cafeteria to cut a peach in half to share with a classmate.
Police were called to investigate the matter, the station reports.
The suspension has outraged the girl’s parents, who say the Broward School District has gone too far in treating the knife as a weapon that endangers other students. They fear the suspension will go on their daughter’s permanent record and even lead to criminal charges, according to the station.
“There’s no one there trying to educate and to be reasonable to say, ‘Let’s work this out,’” said her father, Ronald Souto.
He and his wife said the knife is so dull it could barely cut the peach.
“This is a set of a spoon, fork and knife for toddlers – 1-year-olds,” Andrea Souto told the station. “It is made for children to learn how to eat properly. She's used it since she was baby.”
The station reported that the Pembroke Pines Police Department turned the case over to the Broward County State Attorney's Office, but it was unclear if prosecutors will file charges.
Larry Meltzer, the Soutos’ lawyer, accused school officials of abusing their discretion in suspending the girl.
“It is tragic that a school that this little girl loves sees fit to prosecute and suspend her -- the epitome of a model and honor roll student -- for using a child-proof utensil that could never be construed in any form as a weapon in order to share part of her lunch with a fellow classmate,” he said.
WPLG reports that a spokeswoman for the school district defended the suspension, which was reduced to three days after the Soutos met with the principal.
“The school followed district policy regarding this incident and continues to work with the student and parents involved,” she said. “It is the district's priority to maintain safe and secure campuses for students and staff at all times."