COLUMBIA, S.C. — An 11-year-old honor student who packed a knife in her lunch box to cut a piece of chicken has been suspended and arrested on charges of having a weapon at school.
"Mom was busy, and Dad had gone to work," Charlotte Kirk said, explaining why she packed the smooth-edged steak knife with her leftover peas, chicken and apple on Oct. 18.
Officials decided Friday not to expel Charlotte after she showed up at a hearing with her lawyer and a handful of supportive letters from her counselor and teachers. Charlotte can return to class Monday but will be on probation, and still faces a hearing in family court.
After a friend in the cafeteria spotted the knife and suggested it might not be allowed, Charlotte went to higher authorities, and got a lecture from a teacher and a guidance counselor.
"I never took it out of the box," Charlotte said. She tried to eat her lunch, tearing the chicken with her fingers. "But I didn't eat a lot," she said. "I was too upset."
That afternoon, as she and her father, Carl Kirk, were leaving Hopkins Middle School, a deputy sheriff came, put her in his cruiser and drove away--not allowing her father to ride along. Charlotte looked out the back window all the way to the sheriff's office, making sure her dad was still there.
Supt. Don Henderson said officials apparently followed policy: "When a weapon is found, the police have to be called."
Charlotte's lawyer, Ben Wofford, said: "Clearly, in Charlotte's environment, she doesn't think that a kitchen knife is a weapon."