The issue arose in a school program that is sponsored by the MSP, part of their Teaching, Educating, And Mentoring (T.E.A.M.) School Liaison Program that trains police officers to present a 30 lesson curriculum.
Michigan’s knife laws are hardly a paragon of freedom, but their general 3-inch limit is applied only to knives “(carried) with intent to use same unlawfully against the person of another.”(MI 750.226) Clearly, that does not make all knives over 3-inches long a weapon, nor one that is illegal to carry. It is misleading to leave off the operative half of the definition (intent), and to mischaracterize the state law definition as being a function of length only.
Or, was it that they simply mischaracterized the state’s School Code regarding “Dangerous Weapons” (380.1313) in a way to imply that the Code’s 3-inch limit is applicable everywhere? Nothing in the study paper or the officer’s presentation, as recounted by the student, explicitly or implicitly specified this is a school related restriction only and that other than in school, this 3-inch restriction does not apply.
Although too intimidated to confront the police officer conducting the class, the student in this instance is well-versed in Michigan’s knife laws and underlined the offending phrase to be sure to bring it to the attention of the father, a Knife Rights member. He contacted us. We have hidden the handwritten fill-in-the-blank answers that were dictated by the officer presenting the class in order to protect the student and father involved.
We found the statement regarding knives all the more puzzling given the numerous common items provided to students as examples for the last fill-in-the-blank (baseball bats, for example), which notes that these can be used as weapons but “are not illegal to possess by legal definition,” exactly the situation for knives over 3 inches in length. It would be true if the statement had been limited to school only, but, again, that does not appear to have been the case.
Back to the question, are they ignorant, incompetent or being intentionally dishonest or misleading? When contacted by the parent, the MSP would only say that the 3-inch limit applied to the school code and claimed that the study sheet was not part of their copyrighted materials. They also declined to provide the parent with a copy of MSP’s curriculum or materials.
Were those involved in developing or modifying this curriculum in Zeeland incompetent or did they do this on purpose? Does the local police officer who teaches the program believe this is the law or did the officer not notice the paper’s lack of distinction between general law and school code? Is this another example of an anti-freedom mentality that tries to mold young people into unquestioning compliant citizens, teaching them what they wish were true, as opposed to the reality of the real world and real law?
Among the problems with this is that it undermines the credibility of both the school and the police. When authorities misinform, they only serve to diminish their authority.
Having been caught in this error, simply changing the curriculum and study paper to correct the issue wouldn’t be a sufficient response in our opinion. However this came to be, the Zeeland police and the school(s) involved owe it to all students who have received this erroneous information regarding their knife laws to provide them the corrected information including the distinction between what is legal generally and what is restricted at school.
By the same token, the Michigan State Police need to assume responsibility for assuring that their T.E.A.M. program is not corrupted and manage it in a way that ensures that incorrect information such as this does not get passed along to students, whether intentional or otherwise. They have an obligation to ensure the quality of the instruction they promote and for which they provide training.
We can think of few more irresponsible actions than a government agency misrepresenting the law to its citizens and children. It’s time to fix this.
This should also serve as a cautionary note to all parents to stay aware of what their children are being taught.
Want to know the knife laws where you live? Knife Rights Foundation’s LegalBlade™ App provides guidance at your fingertips to the knife laws of all 50 states as well as over 40 cities and local jurisdictions in the United States. Available for Apple and Android devices at www.KnifeRights.org/LegalBlade.