Outrage of the Day: Pencils Banned as “Weapons”

Hi Readers — A bunch of you pointed to this story today and indeed, it’s pretty irresistible: A teacher sent a memo home to all sixth grade students saying the could NOT bring pencils to class. Furthermore “…

any students caught with pencils or pens after Nov. 15 would face disciplinary action for having materials ‘to build weapons.'”

The higher-ups at school later said the teacher was not authorized to send home this note. (Then they took her out back and shot her with a Ticonderoga #2.) — Lenore

48 Responses

  1. It was only a matter of time, really. Hell, how many times have we joked about that very thing here?

  2. Well, my pencil IS sharper than the mini nail file that is banned on airlines.

    *rolls eyes*

  3. LOL, so how exactly are they supposed to do their work? I guess if I was in her class I’d be happy…with no pens or pencils there can be no tests or class work.

    This reminds me of junior high. Not that pens/pencils were banned but there was this kid, Mike, who was a genius at turning his pens into mini “weapons”. Using just the springs from pens, the casings and, occasionally, rubberbands he was able to make all sorts of bows and other launchers. The ceiling over his desk was full of the ink cartridges he shot up there. I don’t remember him ever using them to shoot at other kids and even if he did all he would have gotten was a detention.

    Eventually they did ban rubberbands from the class because everyone was in this giant rubberband war. They were banned not because they were dangerous but because they had become a distraction. There were no notes sent home to parents. It was all taken care of in the classrooms.

    But that was back in the early 90s when people still had some common sense.

  4. WHAT!?!?? They had common sense in the ’90’s???? Where was I?

  5. Well, duh, of course they’re going to do all their classwork on their iPads. Tests are on the server. Pencils are SUCH an anachronism.

  6. Wow….that’s really all I can say…wow!

  7. Actually, the story says that pencils will be distributed as needed. It’s just that the kids aren’t allowed to HAVE pencils.

    Not that that’s sane, or anything, but they will be allowed to USE pencils.

  8. My 6th grade teacher was the worst. She told my parents I would end up being a drug addict(!). Perhaps she didn’t like it that I was much smarter than her?

  9. I just love that giving out pencils as needed means she would be handing out weapons in class. If they’re weapons when the kids bring them, why not when they come from the teacher?

  10. I wonder what her stance is on paper. I mean, have you ever had a paper cut? Ouch!

  11. Agree about the pencils, but the linked article is pretty disgustingly sexist.

  12. After reading the story (not such a big deal, just a great headline), one has to wonder what on Earth were her pupils doing with their pencils, that she had to resolve to this???
    A few ideas come to mind…

  13. All pencils? My dad gave us a carpenter’s pencil when we were kids. Its about 3/4 inch wide by 1/4 inches thick so it doesn’t come to a point.

  14. Wow. I’m not quite sure what to think.
    I remember when I was in primary school (oh, roughly 30 years ago), my mother never had to buy writing implements like pens and pencils, because the school insisted we use theirs, one blue and one red. (The kids thought it was cool to put the red cap on the blue pen, and vice versa!)
    When I became a parent and my kids started school I was a bit taken aback when I realized I’d have to BUY pens and pencils for my kids!
    The schools seem to be vacillating between not wanting to fork out the dough, but also wanting to control what enters the classroom.

  15. Dear King Krat
    Sorry, but its “smarter than she.”

  16. What’s funny, is that they were told not to bring pencils to school, that it will be provided for them in class. What is the difference? A pencil is a pencil. Students will still have it in their hands in class. What wouldn’t they be able to do in the classroom that they couldn’t outside of it. Completely absurd, and shows the mental state of this teacher. Can one really think she’s fit to teach or influence our kids? I would be pulling my kid from her class, and demand to be placed in classroom where sanity and common sense prevails. Not fear, paranoia, and irrationality. I’m just glad the school board recognize this as an issue and rescinded the memo. Hopefully they give her some disciplinary action. What else can she be doing that isn’t approved by the school board?

  17. This teacher should be fired for this insanity. If the kids even consider building weapons out of writing implements, banning them from bringing them to school is not going to stop it. You can build weapons of similar (if not better) quality out of school materials.

  18. Maybe she was taking a cue from security guards at a courthouse I visited. Classified as weapons: pencils, religious medals, lapel pins, military insignia.
    But maybe she has heard that the pen (and pencil?) is mightier than the sword.

  19. @Dean: lol. If so, then I think there are far bigger issues with the teacher than anyone realizes. After all comparing adult criminals with elementary students isn’t exactly a thought from a healthy mind.

    But in regards to the courthouse’s classification of a weapon. I would agree. In the hands of an aggressive/violent individual, almost anything can be considered a deadly weapon. Mostly sharp, metal, and pointed objects. I’ve known some incidences where the accused bit guards.

  20. Sheer insanity.

    Considering all the things currently banned in schools, children’s homes must seem like very dangerous places! I have aspirin, knives, pencils, paint brushes, chapstick, and all sorts of “dangerous” items just lying around for children to touch.

    OMG, call child protective services!

  21. My brother-in-law’s best friend was actually murdered with a pencil in a school stabbing (at a college), and my brother-in-law was injured in the same attack. A violent and determined individual who knows where to strike (neck, in this case), can certainly make a pencil into a weapon.

    But the conclusion I draw is not that pencils should be banned. It’s that anything can be a weapon in the hands of the right person (even their bare hands), and that the hysteria is ultimately misplaced. BECAUSE even pencils can be used as weapons, we need to stop focusing on the weapons.

    The people who would use even pencils as weapons – because they are messed up, desperate, whatever – need personalized help. The conflicts that drive people to become this violent need to be solved. The pencil (or nail file, or pocket knife, or any other potentially-dangerous utility object) are really, really not the point.

  22. To Dot Khan,

    While a carpenters pencil is quite blunt, I’ve never seen a way to sharpen one in any way other than with a knife or chisel.

  23. This reminds me that when I was in school, and there was a big fuss over whether Sikh students should or shouldn’t be allowed to wear kirpan to school, my friends and I discussed how stupid this was given that (a) a kirpan is symbolic, not an actual weapon, and (b) anyone who actually *wanted* to stab someone could do it just fine with a pencil or a biro …

  24. @Sylvia: well there is a HUGE difference between a pencil and a blade. Symbol or not, it’s still a legitimate weapon. That’s like saying people are allowed to carry firearms (with a license of course, and getting a license isn’t that complicated these days) under the second amendment. So if I carried a gun into your workplace, would you feel comfortable? Possessing a firearm is our culture. But it doesn’t make it right or safe to be carrying it around everywhere does it. Yours is a bad example.

  25. I was guessing that this story would be from the UK, but it’s from Massachusetts.
    Oh well, same difference nowadays.

  26. Hah! When I was in 6th grade, I injured someone with a pencil – me! I was so bored I was standing it on end between the spirals of my notebook, and then forgetting about it a couple minutes later I lobbed my head forward and stabbed myself right above my eye. The teacher was pissed, I was mortified, and I still have a spot of pencil lead in my eyelid. I also snorted pixy stix with some classmates during school after we had the D.A.R.E. program.

  27. @Eric — maybe it’s a Canadian thing? I ride the bus with kirpan-wearing Sikhs pretty much every day and it’s never occurred to me to worry about that, but I would be seriously freaked out if I thought someone on the bus was carrying a gun…

  28. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirpan

    The difference, Eric, between your example and the one given is that the kirpan is not merely an issue of nebulous “culture” but one of religious requirement.

    (And for that matter, I, for one, have no intention of getting into the second amendment debate now, but I feel I should warn you that sooner or later somebody is bound to show up to say that they, in fact, carry guns everywhere and feel safer, etc. etc. etc. I don’t get it and kinda think they’re all very strange individuals who carry guns around, but it’s clearly not as clear-cut as you think even with that example.)

  29. The teacher is a whack-job, I’ll grant, and I’m glad the school authorities are not backing her up.

    That said, though, the reporter is at least as bad. This bit:

    Wendy is too uptight, one night with me she will loosen up

    sure sounds to me like a threat of sexual assault. I suppose we’re supposed to think that’s okay because he thought he was being funny? Or because we’re already prepped to disrespect that particular woman? I think both the teacher and the reporter need a good talking-to at least, and the reporter could probably use some diciplinary action.


  30. I am a teacher that works with emotionally disturbed, elementary-aged children. Last January, I was stabbed in the neck by a student with a sharp pencil. Overall, I was not seriously harmed. Having been a victim of a pencil as a “weapon,” I still believe that the 6th grade teacher that demanded the ban is over reacting.

  31. Even scarier, pencils could be use TO DESIGN weapons

  32. I had a pencil thrown at my head in 7th or 8th grade, embedding graphite in my forehead that took months to get out. Uh, yeah, it was a weapon, even though I doubt the friend who threw it actually planned on it sticking there, lol.

  33. oh, and I completely, 100% thought this was written sarcastically. My 6th grade teachers would have written it as satire. But, uh, she’s serious? Really?


  34. OK, read the article, concluded teacher Wendy Scott HAD to be writing sarcastically and mocking the whole safety culture. Why? Because I myself have very often said “Well if we’re going to ban THAT, let’s ban pencils as well because they could poke out someone’s eye.” Then looked up and saw a few comments here that thing so as well.

    If the teacher is serious though, she’s a lunatic. If she’s joking she’s all right by me. How to tell though?

  35. Oh I should mention for any kids reading here: Get a big rubber band and make your pencil really sharp. Rubber band between thumb and index, pencil across one side of band, other side of pencil pulled back with rubber band. Thwang! You should be able to embed it in the wall if you are good. And taking out someone’s eye or causing serious damage? Definitely so.

    If they ban pencils, do it with pens or pointy sticks work in a pinch. The pointy sticks are a danger for sure, concerned parents, so get to work burning down all the forests in the world for safety.

  36. I should really put together a web side with how-tos for making weapons out of common items.

    Schools should expel any student found to be wearing shoes with laces since shoelaces have been used to strangle people to death.

    Here’s one case selected at random:


    If your shirt has buttons, you could force the buttons down someone’s throat, causing an airway obstruction and choking them. So no buttons!

    The plastic in pencil cases could be fashioned into a knife that could be used to slit someone’s throat.

    Textbooks and workbooks contain paper which can cause nasty paper cuts. Enough of these and someone could bleed to death.

  37. In case you need to know exactly how dangerous office supplies can be in the right hands:



    These things should be banned! Every last one of them.

  38. @Rachel and Nicole. Back in 1963 when I was in third grade, we boys regularly had “sword” fights with pencils. One morning I was stabbed in the palm, and the lead point broke off. Just then the teacher called us to our seats to begin class. I grabbed a paper towel and held it in my palm for a few minutes until the bleeding stopped. To this day, I still can see the dark dot of graphite under my skin.

  39. If they’re serious about removing weapons from the classroom, they’ll have to ban rulers (especially the high-quality steel variety), rubber bands, string, pens, and pencils.

    I’m fairly sure the pencil I used as a crossbow bolt is still embedded in the wall.

  40. So, does the teacher issue computers for the kids to do their work? I’m wondering when ipads will be issued to every student they way mini-chalkboards and chalk used to be given to studnets in every class. I bet there’s an app for that. 😉

  41. Since a few posters mentioned carrying guns in public and how it owuld scare them, I will now kindly ask that you not move to my state (AZ). It is common to carry a gun openly at your side and permitted by law. Thanks.

  42. See, I know somebody like AirboneVet would show up to say that 🙂

  43. Seeing as how schools and prisons are so much alike these days it IS entirely possible they learned to make prison blowguns:

    Inmates and school kids, what’s the difference these days?

  44. Just yesterday, in my state, an armed (with a gun) 15-year-old boy held his class hostage for several hours, then shot himself when police rushed the classroom. He died today.

    I don’t know any more details than that, but it makes banning pencils because they can be used as weapons or used to build weapons seem really, really, really, stupid.

  45. Oh, my, I laughed until the tears flowed…
    You know, you may have to get a permit to carry that Ticonderoga #2!
    Or you could be like all us nerds in college: put ’em in a pocket protector so all can see just how well armed you really are!
    After all, everybody’s afraid of well-pencilled nerds, aren’t they?
    Aren’t they?

  46. Just for a little context here. I’m a teacher, have been for a long time. Also a free-range mom, happily.

    As fun as outrage is, I’m wondering if there’s more to the story.

    Is it possible the kids were being incredibly obnoxious with their pencils? Were there behavior problems reported? Kids hurting each other? I wonder if the teacher had already used every trick she had in her book for getting the kids to behave better and this was a desperation move.

    Not that it was a smart one.

    But still, what teacher – or even parent – has given some kind of a consequence or established some rule – not because it is the proper, common sense solution, but it’s because it’s the best thing we can think of in our desperation? I know I have. I’ve said and done some pretty dumb stuff.

    We probably won’t hear much from the teacher as long as she’s still employed by the school. Teachers simply aren’t allowed.

    Bottom line – yes, it all sounds silly. The whole thing is utterly unbelievable. At the same time, maybe there is a little tiny piece of me, the piece of me that’s been driven nuts by my children from time to time, the piece of me that knows I’ve made stupid rules too, that wonders if a little breathing room might be called for.

    I’ll step aside to let the tomato throwing commence…

  47. No tomatoes, Lainie.
    You make perfect sense to me.
    It’s true enough that we often don’t get the full story
    (in this sad age of media “bites”)
    Cornchipped and dipped…
    But it does make one wonder – just what kind of panic attacks cause such draconian measures?

    I’m wondering – maybe all those pens and pencils will just be replaced by laptops and digital notepads, with no sharp objects. Perhaps it’s a new consumer opportunity.
    Fun and profit.

    Our collective societal academic braininess perhaps grows in direct proportion to how unsafe
    we now see our world. Potential boogey holocausts lurk in ever stranger and more menacing ways.

    If you were to check out stats on just how medicated modern citizen-consumers are becoming, our anxiety is perhaps our new religion………….

  48. As a veteran teacher of more than 20 years I had a “first” in my class last week. A child told me about two children goofing off on the other side of the room. You can now either assume I was not doing my job, or you can believe that I actually trust my students to be on task and not engage in violent behavior.
    I told the 2 children to stop goofing off and get back to work. The next thing I knew the 2 boys goofing off had laced their “sharpened” pencils into their shoe laces and one did a high kick jump and stabbed the child who reported their “goofing off” about an inch above his heart. The other child was JUST kicking the child in the ankle with the sharpened pencil laced into his shoes.
    Later, when the students wrote a letter as to why they did this, one child said they were getting back at “Bill” for being a “snitch”, the other child called him a “tattletale”. (“Bill” told me about the kicking going on in the back of the room). These children were in fourth grade and the child doing the major kicking’s mother is a teacher in the building. Their punishment was a “severe” reprimand. Nothing was even put in their permanent record.
    People wonder why no one stays in teaching and they think they are overpaid. What type of person would be attracted to a career like this? Could you imagine working in a job environment where a 10 year old person tries to stab another person (it could be you) and absolutely nothing was done about it!
    Did you realize that if a principal reports too many violent incidents on their campus, it becomes a reflection of their commitment and ability to do their job? Just like many of you, you assumed the teacher removing the pencils from their classroom for safety reasons was being ridiculous or she was not capable of doing their job. Open your eyes; school is not what it used to be. It is no longer safe. These three boys considered themselves “best friends”. Imagine if they were enemies. They were only teaching “Bill” a lesson.
    I wonder how long the victim “Bill” will continue to be a model student, or will he become a gang member to protect himself while at school. The teacher and the principal cannot protect “Bill”.
    I will be removing pencils from my classroom, and I am a good enough teacher to make my instruction still meet the state and national standards and protect my other students. There are other ways to evaluate student achievement, without using a pencil.

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