FOUNTAIN VALLEY : District May Alter Weapons Ban Policy

The Fountain Valley School District is considering changing its weapons ban policy to eliminate ambiguity about the definition of a knife and to give principals discretion in deciding when to recommend expulsion.

Board of Trustees President Robert Sedlak has pushed for the changes because he believes the current mandatory expulsion recommendation isn't fair to students. The changes will result in a more "human policy."

"Now we're going to treat innocent situations differently," he said.

Sedlak said, for example, that if a youngster brought his Boy Scout knife to school by accident and did not have any intent to harm someone, the principal would have the discretion not to recommend expulsion.

The principal could instead choose to file a report about the student to the board.

Under the other change, the code would bar any weapon on campus rather than forbidding knives as defined in the state penal code. That code defines a knife as having a 3 1/2-inch blade.

Under the altered code, carrying any type of knife to school may be grounds for expulsion by the district's board of trustees, said Supt. Ruben L. Ingram. The change would eliminate confusion as to what types and sizes of knives would be an expellable offense, he added.

Trustees also will consider requiring that when two or more students are involved in the same incident, they would be expelled from their current schools and relocated at separate campuses, if possible.

Trustees are expected to give final approval to the changes at Thursday's board meeting.

District officials and principals said the changes strengthen the zero-tolerance policy. Ingram said that if a child brings a weapon to school, then the principal is obligated to suspend the student, pending expulsion.

Fred Moiola School Principal Edward Powell also said that the proposed changes won't weaken the zero-tolerance policy.

"The principals are not going to start to be easy on kids who are creating a problem," Powell said. "I still believe the board will end up with a strong zero-tolerance policy."

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