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Published: Wednesday, 4/27/2011

Suspension reduced for teen who took pocketknife on bus

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Mark  Hollandsworth, band director at Blissfield High School, says he hated to do it, but it was his duty to tell the superintendent about the pocketknife. He says Christopher Dashner is 'a good kid.' Mark Hollandsworth, band director at Blissfield High School, says he hated to do it, but it was his duty to tell the superintendent about the pocketknife. He says Christopher Dashner is 'a good kid.'
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BLISSFIELD -- Christopher Dashner, the Blissfield High School junior who was suspended for inadvertently taking a pocketknife on a band trip, says he's in better spirits now that his 45-day suspension has been commuted to 10 days.

The 17-year-old said he attended the Blissfield Board of Education disciplinary hearing Monday night and spoke with board members.

"We spoke for about an hour and a half and it was a 6-1 vote in my favor [to shorten the suspension]," he said.

He said he'll return to school next Wednesday, after missing the prom scheduled for Saturday and a trip with the band on Friday.

It was on a band trip to New Jersey and New York during spring break that the teen discovered he had left a pocketknife in his backpack from a camping trip.

Chris turned the knife over to a parent chaperone, who in turn reported the matter to the band director.

The band director, Mark Hollandsworth, said he reported what had happened to Jerry Johnson, the high school principal, who conveyed details of the incident to Superintendent Scott Moellenberndt.

"I did my due diligence, as much as I hated to do it," Mr. Hollandsworth said. "Chris is a good kid. It was a costly mistake for him."

A Facebook page called "Free Chris" has attracted statements of support and sympathy from hundreds of friends and schoolmates. Renee Dashner, Chris' mother, said she has been following the page more closely than her son has.

Although the board pared Christopher Dashner's suspension from 45 days to 10, he will miss the prom and a band trip. Although the board pared Christopher Dashner's suspension from 45 days to 10, he will miss the prom and a band trip.
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Mr. Moellenberndt said previous incidents of students' taking dangerous weapons to school have resulted in expulsion.

"The difference here is we didn't go for expulsion," he said.

Emily Freeland, a junior, said Chris, who plays first trumpet in the band, is well regarded by his classmates.

"He's in the band, he's in the Boy Scouts, he's in school plays. He's totally involved in the school," she said.

Her mother, Leslie Freeland, said she thought Chris' punishment was too harsh.

"I think he should be able to go to the prom," she said. "I think he made an honest mistake."

Chris told the chaperone about the knife while the band members were touring the NBC studios in New York.

The subsequent suspension marred what was otherwise a very successful trip, Mr. Hollandsworth noted. The high school band took first place in its competition at the Festivals of Music held at Montclair State University.

Contact Carl Ryan at: carlryan@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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