This poor kid was just punished at school for doing the right thing

Sep 20, 2016 at 1:02 p.m. ET
Image: Blend Images - ERproductions Ltd/ Getty Imagess

Having a child in middle school brings worries and trials that are distinctly unique. They're spreading their wings, pushing boundaries and testing rules. We all hope that by the time they're surrounded by their peers, we've done an OK job of instilling the values of honesty and integrity in them so that when push comes to shove, they'll do the right thing.

We expect them to slide sometimes. To do the human thing and mess up. What we don't expect is that when they do opt to follow the rules and be honest, the adults we've entrusted them to will take punitive action against them. That's why one mom was so surprised to find that when her son turned in a knife he found, the school took immediate action — and punished him.

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Michigan seventh-grader Kyler Davies didn't mean to bring a knife to school. Doing something like that spells big trouble for any kid across the country — and for good reason. So when he discovered a leather case with a penknife in the bottom of his secondhand backpack, which his mom told a local news outlet she purchased at a neighborhood Goodwill, he turned it over to a counselor and asked to call his mom.

According to the Davies', even with Kyler's attempt to turn himself in, he was dealt with quickly and harshly. The automatic suspension at Coldwater Community School in Coldwater, Michigan, is a whole year's suspension, and that's what Kyler initially received. Later, that was knocked down to a 30-day suspension, which is still pretty lopsided, considering that it means he can't even ride the bus with his peers. That's a problem because he hasn't been able to participate in a community football program that shares transportation resources with the school system.

All for doing what he thought was right.

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The Davies' story is beyond feasible too, considering that any Goodwill shopper knows that it isn't the rarest thing in the world to find a little surprise in a secondhand bowling bag or stroller. The company even released a statement that said that because they get so many donations, they rely largely on donors to double check every pocket and crevice to make sure other items haven't hitched a ride. They even expressed a hope that the school board would take that into consideration when they reviewed Kyler's case. And we hope they will because this is kind of messed up.

We want kids to be able to go to an adult when they find a weapon or some other unsavory thing at school. We don't want them to bring them in at all, of course, but if they manage to make their way inside a school, it's important for kids to know that they can approach a person in charge for the sake of everyone's safety.

And the message that this sends is the exact opposite of what we should want kids to hear.

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This message is one that urges kids to keep stuff like this is a secret. Because even if they try to be honest — even if they had no idea they were holding contraband and that freaks them out — they will get into a whole world of trouble. And that's really not OK.

It's tough enough to convince kids to buck social trends or draw extra attention to themselves — especially at an age when that kind of thing is especially unappealing — because it's the right thing to do. And sure, doing the right thing isn't always easy, and it isn't always fun. But it shouldn't carry the extra threat of punishment or most adults (let alone pre-teens) would be unwilling to go out on a limb if it did. Is that really what we want kids to know about doing the right thing? That it might get them totally and unjustly screwed in the end? If so, this particular school is doing a great job.