Last Updated on March 18, 2021 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995
Many students are suspended or placed up for expulsion for possession of a “knife,” pursuant to California Education Code 48900(b). Although what a “knife” is, seems somewhat obvious, it is specifically defined in the Education Code and the definition is important.
A sister section, 48915(g) contains the definition of a knife as it relates to suspension or expulsion. Per 48915(g) a “knife” is:
Okay- you may feel like you are somewhere back in time when trying to figure out what a “dirk” or “dagger” is, but click the links to find out. For our purposes, the two most important definitions are:
1) Weapon with a blade longer than 3 1/2 inches, and
2) Folding knife with a blade that locks into place.
This is because in my experience these are two most helpful definitions for parents.
The reason is this: if a kid goes fishing over the weekend, leaves his multi-tool, key chain, or swiss army knife with a blade that locks into place in his pants pocket, and throws those same pants on in the rush to get to school on Monday, he has a knife for expulsion purposes. It does not matter if he did not intend to bring the item to school, nor that he used it for fishing- he could be in trouble if this item is discovered. Of course, many kids, finding such an item in their pants pocket while at school, take it out, fiddle with it in class, show it to friends, or simply use it. That is a very very bad idea. In fact, even if the blade is minuscule, dull, and looks like it could not hurt a bug, if it locks, the school may choose to apply their “zero tolerance” viewpoint and put the kid up for expulsion.
If the same tool does NOT have a locking blade, that is when the 3.5 inch blade issue arises. If a blade is 3 inches long, attached to a multi-tool, and not “primarily for stabbing,” this may open a door for attack. Please note: the student still may be put up for school expulsion for other reasons such as possession of a “dangerous object,” but that is a story for another day.
Now, don’t count on the schools understanding this nuance- it may be a matter to be raised in the child’s defense by legal counsel. In my experience, it is rare for schools to listen to parents without attorneys when it comes to legal interpretations.
There is a lot more to say, but basically if a child is up for expulsion for possession of a knife, check the definition above to be sure what they have really IS a “knife.” If it isn’t then any discipline for a “knife” may be open to attack.
Education Attorney for Students
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Please see my disclaimer. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting. This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.