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Pocketknife dispute finally closed
by Jason Collins
Sep 21, 2013 | 56 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SKIDMORE — The parents of a teen whose transfer to Skidmore-Tynan ISD was revoked over a pocketknife found in his boot say that they can finally put this ordeal behind them.

A ruling by the Texas Education Agency states that the district should not have revoked the transfer midyear.

The ruling doesn’t say that Tobias “Toby” Chamberlain, 17 at the time, didn’t do anything wrong though.

“I will not stand here and argue the fact that he had the knife on him,” said his mother, Angela Chamberlain.

Toby had just begun his second year in the district the day of Sept. 14, 2010.

The knife was in Toby’s boot. School administration was told by another student that Toby had it after she was caught with a cell phone, according to Fred Chamberlain, Toby’s father. Fred said Toby did not take the knife out at school.

After the knife was found, Toby was immediately sent home and told that his transfer would be revoked. He also was required to attended alternative education.

Angela said that at the heart of the issue is the district shouldn’t have revoked the transfer.

“This is a child that has never been in trouble,” she said. “This wasn’t a troubled student.”

Craig Wood, legal council for the school district, said that Skidmore-Tynan has provisions within its transfer guidelines that stipulate students’ behavior as a condition.

“They revoked his transfer because the conditions of his transfer said he had to have good behavior,” Wood said.

She appealed to the school board which voted to uphold the revocation.

“He really took it hard,” she said. “He put on a tough face.

“But I know my child and I saw the change in him.”

He was a member of the band and the revocation meant that he would not receive his letterman jacket.

Toby also had already ordered his senior ring which, since he was transferred to A.C. Jones High, would be for the wrong school.

All of that aside, Angela said that she sought the higher opinion “out of principle.”

“It could have been handled differently,” she said. “And they all know it could have been handled differently.”

According to the opinion, signed last month by Michael Williams, commissioner of education, “(The district) violated Texas Education Code section 25.036 when it terminated the transfer agreement with (Toby) after less than one school year.”

Angela agrees that the ruling doesn’t change anything.

“It was a matter of principle,” she said.

“It lets my child know that all this mess it caused is not his fault.

“He could have continued on in Skidmore.

“It didn’t have to come down to what it came down to.”

District staff members, specifically principals and the superintendent, have discretion pertaining to punishment when prohibited items, such as knives, are found.

“We don’t want to punish a kid for what could be an innocent mistake,” Wood said.

The TEA, according to the ruling, could not rule on whether it believed the punishment was just.

“The commissioner lacks jurisdiction to consider student disciplinary matters under Texas Education Code chapter 37,” the ruling states.

Her son is now pursuing a degree in the criminal justice field.

“Since he was in ninth grade he took an interest in criminal justice,” she said. “As you can see, this was not a child who needed to be placed in the alternative learning program and hounded by military recruiters as a bad seed.”

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.
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