The Loudoun County Public Schools recently upheld the almost four-month-long suspension of an eighth-grader [Metro, Dec. 8] whose crime was that he took steps on his own to save the life of a classmate. The boy's offense apparently was that he didn't follow school procedures for the type of situation with which he was confronted.

What happened was that back in October a fellow student told the 13-year-old boy that she had a knife and might use it to kill herself. The eighth-grader was able to talk the girl into giving him the paring knife, which was enclosed inside a notebook; he then put the notebook, unopened, into his locker, which he secured with a combination lock.

He did not tell any teacher at the Purcellville middle school about the incident but planned instead to tell his mother about it and let her talk to the girl's family.

Maybe the young man should have given the knife to a teacher, as the school board disciplinary panel contended in its recent unanimous decision to uphold the suspension, which will continue until late next month. Of course, then he would have been forced to explain why he had the knife. I have my doubts about the school's ability to handle -- and keep confidential -- such a delicate situation.

The young man's plan to confide in his parents sounds like a good idea. This was a precarious and potentially serious situation.

Who is to say that the boy, when faced with this difficult moral dilemma, did not make the right decision? I think he did just fine.

It is interesting that the schools seem to be applying their rules so literally -- as though the rules were the lost 11th Commandment. Students caught with aspirin are treated as if they were terrorists. However, the rest of the world is generally able to apply rules with a little more common sense.

How do we expect our young people to have respect for their teachers, their school or for any adult if we behave so absurdly?

-- Doug Peterson