Pembroke Pines, Florida — A South Florida middle-school student has been suspended for using a child’s butter knife to cut a piece of fruit.
Parents Ronald and Andrea Souto are furious that their 11-year old daughter has been suspended from school for six days. The supposed offense was bringing the knife — part of a cutlery set designed for toddlers — onto school grounds. The girl is on the honor roll in Pembroke Pines, Florida, at Silver Trail Middle School.
“This is a set of a spoon, fork, and knife for toddlers,” says the girl’s outraged mother, Andrea Souto. “She’s used it since she was baby.”
But officials with Broward County Public Schools assert that the child was in violation of Broward County’s official weapons policy.
The girl was using the “knife” to cut a peach in half so she could share it with a friend who is a fellow student. “She’s always trying to share things,” says Ronald Souto of his daughter.
He goes on to say,
“The friend asked for half of the peach and she cuts half of the peach and gives to her friend. She goes to the bathroom and comes back and the guy said, ‘Follow me.'”
The Pembroke Pines Police Department has turned the investigation over to the Florida State Attorney’s Office, and the parents worry that their daughter could face criminal charges. As a result of the incident, the girl has become fearful of authority figures.
“She’s afraid now of the educators,” Ronald Souto explains. “She’s afraid of people at school.”
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Broward County Public Schools refuses to discuss details of the situation due to issues of “student privacy.” However, she claims,
“The school followed district policy regarding this incident and continues to work with the student and parents involved.”
But the Souto family’s attorney, Larry Meltzer, asserts that the school board isn’t doing its job in this case. He says,
“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,”
“This item at all times was used in the school’s lunch room as it should be–to cut a peach and share lunch with a friend.” He adds, “She should be applauded for her generosity, kindness, and for her motivation to be a great student in all senses of that word.”
The attorney concluded,
“The only harm that has been exacted in this case is by Silver Trail Middle School and the Broward County School Board upon one of its finest students and upon one who exemplifies the type of person and student it wishes to help create. It is truly senseless and does reflect poorly upon the type of educators and law enforcement involved in this case.”