“I plan to introduce legislation that allows knives in cars on campus, both for students and adults,” Setzler said in an email response to my query on zero tolerance. “The idea that we trust a 16-year-old to drive a 5,000 pound car onto a high school campus and at 70 mph on I-75 but don’t trust them with a 3-inch lock blade knife in their glove box is madness!”
Setzler said the same applies to making it a felony “if you drive your car onto any school campus with a Swiss Army knife in your trunk or glove compartment” without a state concealed weapon permit.
“How many Cobb parents committed this felony on Friday night when they parked their knife-bearing minivan on campus for a game?” he asked. However, he predicts “some educational group who is looking out for the ‘well being of children’ will oppose me on this.”
Setzler said he will “reach out to a few law enforcement leaders and smart prosecutors” to determined “how exactly to best address this, as holistically as possible.” Likewise, he said, “The issue of how to moderate school boards on this issue will take a bit of finesse as well.”
Cobb legislators are expected to lead a push to revise the zero tolerance law, as Around Town reported Saturday, although it remains to be seen if they will agree with Setzler on outright allowing knives in cars on school campuses. But details can be worked out, and as Setzler said, law enforcement and prosecutors have a part in this. Likewise school administrators have a compelling interest in how the law is revised.
Impetus for changing the law has been generated by the recent arrests of two Cobb high school students on felony charges after knives were found in their parked cars on school grounds. In the case of a Lassiter High senior, he left fishing tackle and four knives in his car after a fishing trip, while an Alatoona High student had stashed an EMT rescue knife in his car for emergency use.
There are plenty of examples of over-the-top zero tolerance elsewhere. Just a few weeks ago in Henry County, a 13-year-old student said she absentmindedly put two antique knives used for letter openers in her pocket and rode the bus to school. There she immediately handed the knives over to her teacher – but, too bad, she was handcuffed and hauled off to a detention facility for two days, then got a four-day suspension and might have faced criminal charges.
This kind of thing happens repeatedly across the country, and it needs to be stopped. Cobb legislators should take the lead in the General Assembly to zero out zero tolerance in favor of common sense.