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'Doing the right thing' gets Fox Chapel Area student in trouble

| Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, 10:30 a.m.

A Fox Chapel Area student is spending up to 10 days suspended from school for what his lawyer calls “doing the right thing.”

The 16-year-old boy was suspended this week for reporting to a security guard at the Foxes' Friday night football game that he had a pocket knife with him.

Attorney Phil Dilucente said Tuesday the student, David Schaffner III, spent last Friday afternoon setting up a site to hunt and forgot he had a knife in his pocket.

“He went to the game without changing,” Dilucente said. “When he got there, he saw a sign about the no-weapons policy on school property. He remembered the knife and he told a security guard about it.”

The guard took the knife to the principal.

“Instead of saying good job to him for being forthright and doing the right thing, they decided to make it into a federal case,” Dilucente said.“He voluntarily turned it in, did the right thing — and he's now being punished,” the attorney said.

The youth doesn't have a behavior problem at school, according to his attorney.

“He's a good kid,” Dilucente said. “This is just an example of the fear that permeates school districts.”

He said that Schaffner was asked to leave the game immediately on Friday. On Monday, he was handed a 10-day out-of-school suspension.

Dilucente said he is talking with Fox Chapel Area officials to end the suspension as soon as possible. “We are in discussions,” he said.

Still, the youth could possibly face expulsion, Dilucente said.“It would be an error on Fox Chapel School District's part to not only hold an expulsion hearing, but then expel him,” the attorney said. “He did nothing other than forget, and he did all the things he was supposed to do.”

Neither Schaffner nor his family could be reached for comment.

District spokeswoman Bonnie Berzonski said she could not discuss the matter.

“Due to privacy laws, the school district does not discuss any student discipline situation publicly,” Berzonski said.

According to the district parent/student handbook, students who bring a weapon to school or school-related activities will be expelled for one year. Weapons include knives, firearms, Mace or bombs.

Berzonski said the superintendent has the ability to change the sanction depending on the specific case.

Dilucente said the district's action is sending the wrong message to youths.

“This is truly an unfortunate situation in the fact that we consistently teach our children to do the right thing if they accidentally make a mistake, and here is someone being punished for doing that,” Dilucente said.

“We are hopeful that the district will terminate this punishment as soon as possible.”

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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