Two Riley Avenue Elementary School students who brought a knife to school and were accused of plotting an attack on a fellow second-grader in November are now back in class following a three-month suspension — despite a code of conduct that calls for a minimum one-year suspension for incidents involving a weapon.
The mother of the child who was threatened, whose name is being withheld to protect her son’s identity, said the suspended students were overheard by a teacher talking about using a knife to hurt her son.
“Before they could get to that point, one of the teachers called security,” she said. “They had the kids removed before anything could actually happen. My son knew nothing about it. One kid dared the other one to do it. He brought the knife in and it was supposed to go down but they got caught before it could happen.”
A police report states that one of the students was dared by his friend “several days earlier to bring a knife to school and stab another student … during recess time because they are not in the same classes … and recess is the only time they are in the same place.”
The report also states the children who planned the attack said they were not bullied by the student they targeted. In fact, it says, “He is one of their friends.”
The duo had been brought to the office of Riley Avenue principal David Enos “by their teacher, who overheard the boys talking about a knife they were in possession of in the classroom,” according to the report.
At the principal’s office, one student turned over a pocket folding knife.
The students were suspended and the parent of the intended victim pressed charges with Riverhead Town police. The charges were handled through the department’s Juvenile Aid Bureau.
The students — whose names are being withheld by the News-Review because of their ages — remained suspended until late January, when Family Court Justice John Rouse issued an order of protection prohibiting them from “any act of violence” against the student they had threatened. The order also forbids the students from possessing “knives or dangerous instruments.”
They were also ordered by Family Court to cooperate with probation services and to undergo psychotherapy.
“By right, the code of conduct says you’re out for the rest of the year if any weapons are involved,” the victim’s parent said in an interview. “There shouldn’t be any questions about it.”
The district’s code of conduct states that “any student, other than a student with a disability, found guilty of bringing a weapon onto school property will be subject to suspension from school for at least one calendar year.”
The code of conduct also says that “before being suspended, the student will have an opportunity for a hearing pursuant to Education Law section 3214. The superintendent has the authority to modify the one-year suspension on a case-by-case basis.”
The victim’s parent feels that race played a role in the outcome, since her son is black and the students who made the threat are white. She pointed out that her daughter was once suspended for the balance of a school year after a fight that didn’t involve weapons and was made to attend “5-to-7” classes — an after-hours program for students with disciplinary problems.
At the least, she said, the students who plotted against her son should be enrolled in 5-to-7 classes or moved to a different school.
It’s unclear whether the decision to allow the students to return to class was made by the court or the school district, as school officials declined to discuss specifics.
Riverhead School District Superintendent Nancy Carney issued the following email response to questions asked about the case: “I appreciate the questions you’re asking about a very upsetting incident. Of course, I cannot talk about the specifics of the case, but I can assure you that any incidence that involves a weapon in our schools is taken very seriously.
“But we also approach cases with specifics in mind,” she wrote. “As has been shown in the criminal justice system, one size does not fit all. We try to apply the totality of the situation to the guidelines in working out appropriate and effective consequences for actions. Age, prior incidents, etc. are always considered. The response to this incident was thorough, serious and consistent with our code of conduct.
“I can appreciate the frustration and anger that the parent who contacted you must be feeling, but in the interests of the privacy of her son, and the other students involved, I cannot discuss any specifics.”
The parent of the targeted student said that since the other students returned they have been placed in a different class with one-on-one supervision to ensure they have no contact with her son.
But her son, she said, still feels threatened.
“This is not the way a kid is supposed to be feeling,” she said. “This is just too traumatic.”
The parent said she doesn’t know why the students were plotting to hurt her son.
“My son was friends with them and thought they were his friends,” she said. “He didn’t find out for about a week that this had happened and that they weren’t his friends and they were trying to hurt him.”