Extreme expulsion for middle school student

The Incident

Tim Hapner

Until recently, thirteen year-old Tim Hapner attended Milton Somers Middle School in La Plata.  He got good grades and hadn't had a behavior problem. In fact, he recently received a good behavior award at a school assembly for going “Above and Beyond”.  He has an active after school schedule: school roller hockey, recreational ice hockey, Boy Scouts and a church youth group.

On Friday May 18th, Tim goofed. He accidentally brought a small Boy Scout pocketknife to school.  He had been looking at it while getting ready for school because he had a backpacking trip with his troop coming up. As he came downstairs for breakfast he put the pocketknife in his pants pocket. He meant to leave it on the kitchen counter but got distracted by his morning routine and left the house to catch his school bus without emptying his pocket. 

During fourth period he realized, with a jolt, that he still had the knife in his pocket. He knew he wasn’t supposed to have a knife at school but was too scared to turn it in. Instead, he thought it would be better to leave it securely pocketed so he could take it home and put it away. 

On the bus ride home, the way Tim sat caused the pocketknife to fall out onto the floor.  A student sitting in front of him picked it up, and another began to tease him about the knife.  Tim’s seatmate grabbed the knife back and returned it to Tim who re-pocketed it. 

The bus driver heard the exchange, pulled the bus over and confiscated the pocketknife. Tim immediately obeyed, even though it was a treasured gift from a fellow Scout. Although the driver reported the incident to the school that afternoon, the family received no word from the school.    

On Monday the Hapners’ “Zero Tolerance” nightmare began. Tim was called to the office that morning and his mother, Lin Hapner, was called to take him home. 

Before Mrs. Hapner arrived, Vice-Principal Kathleen Morris had Tim write a description of his behavior with the pocketknife, and questioned him alone.  Ms Morris told Tim’s mother that he was automatically suspended for possession of a weapon.  Ms Morris expressed her surprise that Tim had done such a thing, telling Mrs. Hapner, “I know who my good kids are, and Tim is one of my good kids.” 

Charles County Public Schools spokeswoman Katie O'Malley-Simpson told The Bay Net that, as a rule, when a school's administration hears that a student has a weapon the child is isolated, and the police are called.  If criminal charges may be warranted, then Juvenile Intervention Officers investigate the situation with the school's cooperation.  Otherwise, according to O'Malley-Simpson, the principal or another school administrator handles the investigation. 

The administrator talks to all the people necessary to find out what happened. The exact investigation proceedure depends on the situation.  After the investigation, O'Malley-Simpson explained, the student's parents are notified.  The principal makes an immediate decision about suspension, then giv

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