zero tolerance policies go bonkers again

Zero-Tolerance Policies Go Bonkers…Again

BSKnifeSunday, the New York Times had a story about Zachary Christie, a first grader from Newark, Delaware who was suspended after being caught at school with a cub scout tool that features a knife, fork, and spoon.  You see, Zachary thought it was kind of cool and brought it to school to use for lunch.

I think you can see where this is headed:

But, based on the code of conduct for the Christina School District, where Zachary is a first grader, school officials had no choice. They had to suspend him because, “regardless of possessor’s intent,” knives are banned. […]

Still, some school administrators argue that it is difficult to distinguish innocent pranks and mistakes from more serious threats, and that the policies must be strict to protect students.

“There is no parent who wants to get a phone call where they hear that their child no longer has two good seeing eyes because there was a scuffle and someone pulled out a knife,” said George Evans, the president of the Christina district’s school board. He defended the decision, but added that the board might adjust the rules when it comes to younger children like Zachary.

Unfortunately, I’m sure we’ve all heard of something like this all too often in the years since the 1999 Columbine shooting.  I thought that things had returned to sanity, but according to the article, rules were tightened up again in a lot of districts following the Virginia Tech shootings two and half years ago.

I have only one thing to ask: Where has common sense gone? Are people so afraid of something happening that they’ll willingly accept a nanny-state policy that does nothing?  I’m fairly comfortable defending the previous sentence because, even after the first wave of zero-tolerance rules, school shootings still happened.  So what do these policies protect against exactly?  Right.  Not much, if anything.  Except, you know, camping utensil and Tylenol carrying-students…

Anyway, you can visit Help Zachary, the website the boy’s parents have set up to promote their cause of overturning their son’s suspension.  And for anyone who lives in Newark, Delaware, there is a school board meeting tomorrow at 7:30 at Porter Road Elementary School.  If you can go, please do so to show your support for a boy who did nothing but express enthusiasm for a piece of technology he just thought was awesome.

Also, if you have Twitter, you can help as well.  Retweet this tweet in order to spread the message.  I wouldn’t mind getting the hashtag #zacharychristie to a trending topic, either, but the message about the school board meeting is much more important.  Thanks to everybody who’s done their part!

I’d also urge people who hear of similar incidents in their own municipalities to go before their school boards and demand that these unnecessary rules be repealed.

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  1. Stacey Westphal

    October 13th, 2009 at 14:03

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    Yea for zero tolerence – this world has so much crime now. TV rewards bad behavior, the courts are a joke. It seems here in the United States, that we reward crime – all you get is a slap on the hand, and the justice system is nothing but a revolving door for criminals. All which the behavior begins in the home with parents not supervising their children, and noinstilling any meaningful values to offspring. When something happens they cry oh poor me. I say more zero tolerence rules, and stick to them. The parents were responsible in this case to be sure the child knew the rules and should have been monitoring what he brings to school. And shame on ABC for rewarding this behavior by putting the child and his parents on TV.

  2. jason p

    October 13th, 2009 at 14:25

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    i agree with the zero tolerance rule, but i think it should be taken a step further and schools (all of them) should be equiped with metal detectors. this way, all items would be caught before they 1) just fall out of a pocket or 2) are used inappropriately. i also feel the parents should be held responsible for not being aware of the items their child took to school (regardless of his age or intent). the utility tool is FOR CAMPING, not show and tell at school. i’m tired of America not taking responsibility for their actions. step up America!!

  3. laura johnson

    October 13th, 2009 at 14:29

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    I just watched your interview on the Today Show after they showed a story of the grandmother who cursed and resisted arrested for speeding in a work zone and was tased by law enforcement then received a $40,000 payout for breaking the law! This is an outrage.I have two sons myself that love camping and don’t see a camping tool as a weapon but a tool which is what Zachary had at school.School officials should talk to this child and take his age into consideration and realize he’s too young to see his tool as a weapon and the fact he has a strong and stable support system at home and did’nt take this tool to school to cause harm but simply eat his lunch.How can granny get $40,000 for on video so disrespectfully breaking the law while an innocent child thinking as an innocent child be threatened with juvenile detention?If this is justice we need to start over.My thoughts and prayers are with Zachary and his family and I sincerely hope this child is not sent to juvenile detention and is allowed to go back to school and maybe he should get $40,000 too or more considering his “offense” is nothing compared to what grandma did. GOOD LUCK! GOD BLESS!

  4. cody beemer

    October 13th, 2009 at 15:05

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    I’m a 40 yr old white male from MO ..This story made me think back to the day when I was Zach’s age . It was every young boys dream to own a Swiss army knife with the fork and spoon and almost every cub or boyscout did own one they also carried it everywhere they went including , The grocery store ,to friends house ,to grandmas, to bed ,and yes even to school .

    Having said this I agree that there should be some guidelines on weapons being brought into school ,But as usual Americans have taken things way too far . Kids can still be kids and be safe there has to be a mature rational adult at the school that could have made a distinction between a first grader wanting to eat his lunch with his Swiss army knife and a first grader that wanted to stab his teacher and kill his class mates .

    Not every crime should be treated and punished the same This doesn’t happen in very severe murder cases being tried in our court systems and it shouldn’t happen in our elementary schools.

  5. Jamie Toth

    October 13th, 2009 at 15:15

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    I think the kid should get the punishment, I think he knew that he wasn’t to take something like the knife to school and he shouldn’t be treated different from anyone else . Let’s go into the thought , what if another child would have gotten hurt by this knife.I also feel the parents are the blame here,You know your child has this knife,Let’s be RESPONSIBLE for the child’s actions.Next time it may be a gun.

  6. maggie m

    October 13th, 2009 at 15:28

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    Come on America, use your common sense and stop living in fear! This is obviously a normal 6 year boy who loves camping so much he carries his eating tool with him every day. I understand the need for zero tolerance, however, each situation is worth careful review and then addressed with common sense. When did a spoon, knife and fork tool become a weapon? If schools are so fearful of eating utensils, they should be eliminated from the cafeterias and have the children eat with their fingers! This is so ridicious.

    The school administrators should immediately reverse their decision and allow Zachary to go back to his school.

  7. Hall Monitor

    October 13th, 2009 at 15:30

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    This story made ! Check it out for all the crazy headlines from our schools.

  8. Tony

    October 13th, 2009 at 15:59

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    If the little face shown with this story was brown skinned, it wouldn’t be a news story at all. Why can’t the rule stand and the example be made? The intention of the zero tolerance policy is to send a strong (harsh?) message to parents and children to keep dangerous items home. It works, if every grade school child hears the news. The rule was not taught to this boy, or his parents, well enough. How many times do you need to tell your first grader not to run out into the street or parking lot? Many many times.

  9. Jamie Toth

    October 13th, 2009 at 16:11

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    You let 1 go you have to let them all go.Then you have a school full of knives.And let’s be REAL clear about this…It’s not a UTENSILE, It is a SWISS ARMY KNIFE,”KNIFE” being the key word here.I don’t know about other schools,But in our district and others around us,there are NO eating knives given to Elementary children.

  10. Jamie Toth

    October 13th, 2009 at 16:22

    I strongly agree with Tony…The Mother on the Today show just killed me, watching her stroke his little hand like he was some victum of a terrible conspiracy about him.

  11. Tully

    October 13th, 2009 at 17:00

    The problem with Zero Tolerance policies is (as the article alludes) that there is also zero discretion in applying the prescribed penalties.

    A five-day suspension I can see, even though this was an honest mistake on the part of a 6 year old. Harsh, but I can see it. But mandatory “alternative placement” or expulsion? Excuse me? That’s insane.

    And as for the principal, s/he should be tossed into that ring of hell reserved for pettifogging loophole-sucking lawyers and spineless/mindless bureaucrats. Anyone with an ounce of real concern for their juvenile charges would have tossed the “utensil” in a drawer and called the parents to come get it and explain to the kid that you don’t bring knives to school. But such a SANE reaction would, of course, be a step outside the straitjacket of gutless zombie bureaucratic reflex…

    (Remember, these are the EXACT same kind of people who would be enforcing the ObamaCare rules via the IRS.)

  12. Teddi

    October 13th, 2009 at 19:13

    Well said Tully.

    and for you Jamie, pull your head out and be realistic! The world must be rejoicing that you are not a teacher and I pray not a mother.

  13. Bill

    October 13th, 2009 at 21:29

    We need a zero tolerance policy on zero tolerance policies.

  14. Mark in TX

    October 14th, 2009 at 18:14

    I often have to wonder what would have happened if this story had a different ending.

    For example: “A 6yr old boy was stabbed today at a local school. A young boy had wanted to take his new boy scout knife to school to eat with. Another young boy got into an a verbal conflict when wanting to see the knife but did not want to share it. A scuffle followed that led to the accidental stabbing of a 3rd young boy” So now who would be to blame? Zero Tolerance is not only about racial issues, but the simple matter of the danger any kind of weapon can pose at school. Seeing a news story today of how boys not much older in Florida set fire to another boy of similar age because he stopped them from stealing his dads bike. It is not only the intent of the person that brought the object to school but the interaction it will have with others at the school.

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