Zero tolerance strikes again in a case involving a Clarskville high school student and a fishing knife. The student in the case, David Duren-Sanner, is a senior at Northeast High School in the city of Clarksville. His father is a commercial fisherman and Duren-Sanner drove his car to school one day. He states he was unaware that there was anything potentially illegal or dangerous in the vehicle. The school initiated a random lockdown search and selected Duren-Sanner’s car to be searched. The student agreed to the search and informed school authorities that his father did chew tobacco, and so there might be tobacco products present in the car. He made no mention of any weapons as he claimed he had no knowledge of its presence.
The search of the vehicle revealed a large fishing knife wedged between the two front seats. The knife belonged to Duren-Sanner’s father. He was immediately suspended for ten days in accordance with the school’s zero tolerance policy regarding weapons on the school campus. Duren-Sanner protested claiming that the knife did not belong to him and that he was unaware that he had brought it on campus. School officials rejected his pleas, citing their zero tolerance stance, and informed local law enforcement of the situation.
The local sheriff’s department has charged him with weapons related offenses, stating that the knife in question was longer than three inches and therefore constituted a “dangerous weapon.” Sheriff’s department officials contend that regardless of who actually owned the knife, Duren-Sanner was effectively in possession of the weapon as he was driving the vehicle at the time. Zero tolerance strikes again as the potential consequences continue to mount for this Clarksville high school student and a misplaced fishing knife.
Duren-Sanner also faces placement in an alternative high school for 90 days after serving his initial ten day suspension. He is also currently banned from school activities such as the upcoming senior prom and his class graduation. Members of Duren-Sanner’s family have appealed to school authorities attempting to explain the situation, but school officials always return to their zero tolerance stance. Duren-Sanner’s grandmother Peggy called it “guilty until proven innocent.” She told reporters that Duran-Sanner was a good student, a member of the school’s ROTC program, and looking to attend college. She lamented that all those things were in jeopardy now due to this situation.
Duran-Sanner will have the opportunity to formally appeal his punishment at a hearing with school officials tomorrow. If his appeal is unsuccessful, it may jeopardize his ability to graduate at the end of this school year. Given the reliance on zero tolerance by school officials, it remains to be seen what the outcome of this hearing may be. Supporters of Duran-Sanner have launched an online petition at Change.org to attempt to influence school officials to end his suspension and for law enforcement to drop the criminal charges against him. The petition had reached over 5,000 signatures as of the publication of this story.
The issue of safety on school campuses is not a new one. The situation involving David Duren-Sanner and a misplaced fishing knife is just one more example of this. Zero tolerance has struck again in Clarksville, Tennessee.
By Christopher V. Spencer