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Violinist, 10, is suspended from school for knife use

August 30, 2015 by norman lebrecht

31 comments.


Abbigail (sic) Cunkelman, of Blairsville, Pa., said she used the Swiss army knife to trim hairs on her bow. Her parents, who received a letter from the school in the vacation saying she would not be allowed back, are taking her case to court.  Is the school being over-zealous? ignorant? safe?

moscow violin


Comments (31)

  1. Martin says:

    Knifes are not allowed on that school ground. Without another knife related incident by that student there must have been other reasons of why this student is not allowed back.
    Maybe misbehaving parents who, instead of offering an apology, went berserk.

    1. Brian b says:

      Or maybe insane school administrators without an ounce of common sense.

  2. Paul says:

    There’s really no need for a knife to cut bow hairs. It’s not a normal piece of equipment in a fiddle case. The school’s right.

  3. Vovka Ashkenazy says:

    The U.S. version of obsessive elf’n safety.

  4. Ross says:

    It’s always been this way.
    A child may NOT bring a knife to school.
    Suspension is temporary, no? If she is not allowed back, that is expulsion.
    To be expelled over this seems too harsh, and I am guessing there were other problems with this child prior to this incident.

  5. Alvaro says:

    Sad. If she had used a gun to blow the hairs off, the school would’ve done nothing.

    Thats logic for you, in America.

    1. Doug says:

      Vacuous sloganeering from a useful idiot. Hey, what about a so-called “Palestinian school” in Gaza? You know, your pet-oppressed-population to those of you on the Left? Maybe they would use Katyusha rockets to blow the hairs off a bow. Who knows, they might even kill a few eight year old Israeli girls in the process before they arrived to suck the blood from helpless Hamas soldiers. Two birds with one stone, so to speak.

      1. jaypee says:

        And the winner of the “Non sequitur of the day”-award goes to… Doug!!!!

        As for Alvaro: 100% spot on!
        I would even add that this girl would have been congratulated by the NRA and the Republican party.

    2. Greg Hlatky says:

      Supercilious, self-satisfied, wrong: that’s an artist for you.

  6. Ex-Teacher says:

    That’s not true – guns, knives, in fact any deadly tool can get you suspended or expelled. But this is one of those times when the school is being stupid. When I was a teacher, our art teachers had students use Xacto knives all the time. We had a fine young student who played oboe who regularly used a reed knife and no one complained. Zero-Tolerance rules generally mean Zero-Brains-Used.

  7. Max Grimm says:

    Come now, Alvaro.
    On the note of logic (or the absence thereof):
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero_tolerance_%28schools%29#Media_attention

  8. Ben Schaffer says:

    When I was in HS in CT in the mid 90s, an athlete was suspended for knife possession, used to trim protective patches for his feet. Nothing new… it was a zero-tolerance, better-safe-than-sorry thing.

  9. John Sullivan says:

    I use nail clippers for that purpose. Always carry a pair in my case anyway for keeping nails in the proper short playing length. I don’t understand why she didn’t carry those. And at any rate, why couldn’t she have done the trimming at home?

  10. Miles Golding says:

    I’ve carried a Swiss Army Knife in my violin case’s outside music pocket for decades – I regard it as essential touring equipment. (I once sneaked it through security at LHR when I’d forgotten to put it in my suitcase!)
    But a 10-year-old and at a school? No way. Nail clippers snip bow hairs perfectly.

  11. V.Lind says:

    What sort of parents acquaint a 10-year-old with a Swiss Army knife anyway?

    No knives in schools is hardly nanny-state stuff. But I agree that suspension would have been the appropriate punishment, so there must be something else. As the parents are fighting this, there may have been an element of “I’m going to keep on doing it because it is my right” (it’s not). In which case, removal is the only option.

    1. Martin says:

      In Switzerland, where they are simply known as a pocket knifes, many kids that age have their own and I don’t know of many incidents, especially no major ones.

      1. Paul says:

        Wow. In Switzerland kids of a certain age are “simply known as pocket knives.”

        1. Martin says:

          yeah, our kids just as sharp as you’re grammar mistake spotting 🙂

  12. Tim Walton says:

    STUPID Parents + America = No common sence at all!

    1. Mark Henriksen says:

      Ok, then by your math, what does stupid parents + UK = ?

      Just curious if you are actually saying anything about America (North, South, or Central)
      or babbling…

    2. Furzwängler says:

      Drivel.In the UK we have plenty of asinine parents too.

      1. Furzwängler says:

        oops!

      2. Martin says:

        And just as silly school rules.
        There’s a Scottish school which disallowed all kids to bring any nuts or nut products to school just because one child has a nut allergy.

  13. MacroV says:

    As one of the seemlingly few Americans commenting here…

    Sadly, we occasionally read, thanks to the internet, of school officials who stupidly overreact to a student who might have technically violated rules, but clearly was not attempting to do what the rules were there to prevent. As in this case.

    Schools prohibit knives because they don’t want them to be used as weapons. This girl clearly didn’t have it for that purpose. And she’s 10. The proper response from the school in this instance would be to tell the parents “we know she didn’t intend any harmful use, but please don’t send her to school with the knife. Find something else that will work.”

    So what would they do to an oboe player who brings a reed knife to school?

    1. J C says:

      As the actual parent of this 10 year old little girl, you are exactly right. The school contacted me 5 days after the incident and said, Hey Jenny, Abby had a pocket knife at school…..which is one of the smallest swiss army tools you can buy, she used the teeny tiny scissors to trim the hairs and had them with her because she was at an after hours school concert and had them to trim the hairs after the preshow rehearsal. Anyway….they said, we talked to her and she understands not to bring them to school and I said I would talk to her also and apologized. They didn’t suspend her, they actually returned the “knife” to her, I was there the night of the concert and I was never approached. That was in May…….in July, I got a call from the head of the school stating that a lawyer had reviewed their response to the incident and advised that the most conservative route was to terminate her enrollment. Which they did at that time. My daughter finished the school year….she was terminated in the summer…..after we had signed and returned our contracts and paid. We were devastated.

  14. Mark Henriksen says:

    Trimming hairs off a bow with a knife?
    What a joke. The knife must have been there for some other reason.

    1. Martin says:

      Maybe she had one with scissors. They are available for under $10.

  15. Brian b says:

    Does this happen anywhere else in any other civilized (or at least “first world”) country? I’d really like to know. I assure you, at least I know that actual education is way down on the list of U.S. public school desiderata among administrators. If this happens in the UK I’d be very surprised. In the U.S. a student can’t even display the American flag on their car or gear because it might “offend” someone.

    1. Dave T says:

      “In the U.S. a student can’t even display the American flag on their car or gear because it might ‘offend’ someone.”

      That’s baloney.

  16. Jules says:

    Please note: she was expelled from a private school which means they can do as they please. The public school system her parents are trying to enroll her in is balking because the expulsion, which is why they parents are going to court. It could also mean could mean there’s much more to this story. Oddly, a photo of Roman Totenberg’s violin accompanies the article.

  17. Abbigail Cunkelman says:

    HI! Thank you for understanding my part in this and I did not have any other intention to bring the pocket knife with scissors to the concert. Here’s the hole story…

    One day I saw my dad using the knife to cut the bow hairs and he told me your not suppose to pull them off you’re suppose to cut them off. So I brought it just in case if a bow hair broke off. Also I remember my violin teacher using some sort of knife to cut off my friend’s bow hair.
    I feel like I have been mistreated and breatrayed because all of my new students parents know “about” me so they won’t let their children hangout with me. I have dreams and nightmares about this my dreams are about being reacepted at the valley school of ligoneir and my nightmares are about being a reject.

    But I have done a lot since then I have gotten into the gifted program, I went to chorus fest, and just recently went to a stem program.
    I am still 10 but in June I will be 11.
    My birthday is 6-23-2005
    I would like to thank all the people who supported me, the valley school of ligoneir(because if I wasn’t expleld I wouldn’t be here), and the Mccutly’s (for 6 long months of torture).

    I won’t let you win this battle. Lanigan I know you didn’t mean to do this because you were being your mothers puppet but I hope you will forgive me and if you do I will forgive you even though I already did. I hope I can a least look at you and be able to smile. Mrs. Mccutly’s just saying the truth will prevail and if you stop milking it I will let I go. You should too it was almost a year ago don’t hold grudges. Everyone likes to be the center of attention but not this badly.


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