Girl suspended from middle school for cutting peach with child butter knife

Pembroke Pines police turn investigation over to State Attorney's Office

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – A South Florida couple is outraged after they said their daughter was suspended from her middle school for using a child butter knife at lunchtime to cut a peach.

"There's no one there trying to educate and to be reasonable to say, 'Let's work this out,'" the girl's father, Ronald Souto, said.

Souto's daughter is an honor roll student at Silver Trail Middle School in Pembroke Pines.

"She's always trying to help someone. She's always trying to share things," Souto said about his daughter.

Ronald and Andrea Souto told Local 10 News reporter Michael Seiden that their 11-year-old daughter was suspended for six days for bringing the knife to school.

"This is a set of a spoon, fork and knife for toddlers -- one year old," Andrea Souto said. "It is made for children to learn how to eat properly. She's used it since she was baby."

According to the school district, the girl violated the county's weapon policy when she used her butter knife in the cafeteria to cut the peach. 

"The friend asked for half of the peach and she cuts half of the peach and gives to her friend. She goes to the bathroom and comes back and the guy said, 'Follow me,'" Ronald Souto said.

Ronald said he hopes what happened to his daughter will bring change to the district, specifically new polices when it comes to weapons.

He's not alone. 

"I think the principal should revisit this and everyone (should) sit down to the table, and let's just say, 'Don't do it again.' This is outrageous to go to that extreme," Melvin J. Smith, whose grandson attends the school, said.

The Soutos said they were shocked about the suspension and are now concerned that their daughter's act of kindness could lead to criminal charges.

"She's afraid now of the educators. She's afraid of people at school. They need to change the system," Ronald Souto said.

A Broward County school district spokeswoman declined to offer specifics about the incident because of "student privacy," but said, "The school followed district policy regarding this incident and continues to work with the student and parents involved.  It is the district's priority to maintain safe and secure campuses for students and staff at all times."

The Pembroke Pines Police Department said it has turned over their investigation to the State Attorney's Office.

It's unclear whether prosecutors will file charges, but the family's attorney said the school board isn't doing its job in this case.

"The school board has abused its discretion to act in this case," Larry Meltzer said. "It is tragic that a school that this little girl loves sees fit to prosecute and suspend her -- the epitome of a model and honor roll student -- for using a child-proof utensil that could never be construed in any form as a weapon in order to share part of her lunch with a fellow classmate.

"This item at all times was used in the school's lunch room as it should be -- to cut a peach and share lunch with a friend," he added. "She should be applauded for her generosity, kindness and for her motivation to be a great student in all senses of that word.

"The only harm that has been exacted in this case is by Silver Trail Middle School and the Broward County School Board upon one of its finest students and upon one who exemplifies the type of person and student it wishes to help create. It is truly senseless and does reflects poorly upon the type of educators and law enforcement involved in this case."