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By now, probably everyone has heard this story about the 6-year-old Cub Scout who took his fork/knife/spoon to school to eat lunch.

My question: Have we as a society gone too far with zero-tolerance policies?



6-Year-Old Scout Suspended for Bringing Knife-Fork-Spoon Utensil to School


Six-year-old Zachary Christie was so excited to become a Cub Scout that he brought his camping utensil to school. The tool serves as a spoon, a fork and a knife, and Zachary wanted to use it at lunch.


What Zachary didn't know was that the gizmo violated his school's zero-tolerance policy on weapons. And now the Christina School District in Newark, Del., has suspended the first grader and ordered him to attend the district's reform school for 45 days.


Zachary's parents insist their son did not intend to hurt anyone, and they are fighting to overturn the ruling.


"Zachary wears a suit and tie some days to school by his own choice because he takes school so seriously," Zachary's mother, Debbie Christie, told the New York Times. "He is not some sort of threat to his classmates."


The school district, in a statement, said rules are rules and defended its decision to suspend the boy.


"At this time, the Student Code of Conduct does not take into consideration a child's age in a Level three offense," the statement read.


"This is the first incident this year involving a student under the age of seven in possession of a dangerous instrument. Christina School District staff and the Christina Board of Education are constantly examining ways to improve policies regarding student discipline."


At a meeting with the school disciplinary committee last week, Zachary's karate instructor and his mothers fianc made the case for the boy's character.


And Zachary's mother has started a Web site to attract support for her son before a meeting of the school board on Tuesday.



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Zero Tolerance policies exist because the electorate votes in board members who decide to implement zero tolerance policies that either the senior staff come up with, or they themselves come up with, and no one cares enough to run against these board members and make this stupidity an issue.

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This is the other edge of a two-edged sword. In the past the first edge of the sword enabled persons with the authority to punish to make decisions to punish some rather than others...based on ethnicity, economic status, or how popular they were - decisions that exercised little if any of the wisdom we think would be exercised if there was greater latitude now.

The result was that some 'got away' with infractions of the rules and others were given unreasonably harsh punishment.

Zero-tolerance policies 'solved' this by removing the thought process from the decisions. And it introduced us to the other edge.

Yes, this boy is being treated too harshly if the news reports are correct. Yes, I know that back when I was his age I probably would have fared poorly if zero-tolerance was in effect then. But these policies are doing exactly what we wanted them to do most of the time. Instead of wringing our hands over this or that example, we need to THINK about a better way to address school safety and school discipline. It was a problem worth our intelligent consideration before zero-tolerance policies...and it still is.


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When I was in school back in the dark ages, I knew that when those in authority punished kids it was for their actions rather than the color of their skin or how much money they had. We kids knew who the trouble makers were, because we got trouble from them.


In today's society, I understand WHY zero tolerance rules have come to exist. That being said, I'm a big believer in personal responsibility for both those in authority and those subject to them. A kid should be able to carry a pocket knife to school. If he uses it to open a box for a teacher, he should be thanked. Should he ever pull it as a weapon, he should never darken the door of a regualr school again. That's the way the real world works.......shouldn't we be preparing kids in school for real life?

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SR540beaver, maybe your dark ages weren't as dark. I remember, for example, times when a fist fight between a black student and a white student resulted in permanent expulsion for the black student and a short suspension for the white one, when misbehavior in class resulted in the black student being sent home, the white student getting a visit with the assistant principal. The kid from the mill hill would get spanked hard if he skateboarded down the hall, the kid from the rich suburbs would have a private conversation. That's the sort of thing I was thinking about. These prejudices were SOP for that time.


The cub scout in this case was the perfect example of how a thoughtless policy that allowed no options (and no prejudice) was eventually over-ridden by a 'thoughtful' school district. If that boy had been a poor black kid or poor latino kid, would there have been a similar outcry or outcome?

If your answer is 'no' or 'probably not', then I maintain that you recognize, as do I, that prejudice is still available for a return to those 'dark ages'.

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There was a similar post related to this.


School admins and teachers are under incredible pressure from parents for many things. The states typically don't absolve them of personal liability.


I've spoken to the school chief in my county and Zero tolerance is there because 'what if' another kid took the and hurt someone or himself. Two years ago the daughter of a friend was suspended two weeks before graduation because she had a fake drill rifle in her car.


The big deal is 'what if' another kid stole the fake rifle and pointed it a cop. The cop would not know its fake and they would have a split second to decide to defend them self.


The fact that the boy is a scout makes it worse, because now people will think scouts are allowed to have the rules bent.


Because of the things I keep in my truck I don't even bother to park on school grounds when I have to go.


Have we gone too far?


Either way let your elected representatives know your position on this.



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A strict reading and enforcement of that school district's Code of Conduct would result in the suspension of any kid who rides a bike to school (bike chains are named on the banned list) and should result in the suspension of any high schooler who drives a car to school (more than likely has a tire iron in the trunk).

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pack, I would respond that it isn't a question of a child's ethnicity or race any more, as much as of their economic class. Poor kids - white, black, latino, asian, whatever- are more likely to have parents who either cannot or do not intervene effectively on their behalf. Maybe because they don't feel confident in doing so, or because they lack the educational background to do it well, or because they're working 3 jobs, all part time, to pay the rent and put food on the table and can't take time off to go to the school during the work day. Or (more cynical) maybe because the schools know the parents of poor kids won't be the ones to sue the school over policy matters- because they can't afford to hire lawyers.


Poor kids of all racial backgrounds get the short end of the stick as a result.

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You see this not only in schools but in the court systems. A few years back people got upset that criminals were being coddled. They took examples of terrible crimes committed by released criminals who they believed should have been in jail longer to get their legislators or by initiatives to enact laws like three strikes youre out and mandatory minimum sentencing. Both of then remove the uses of judgment from judges, to me a contradiction; judges are to use their judgment. Our jails are full up, the US is in the top three (maybe number one Im not sure) of persons incarcerated in the world. We all know the good kid poor or whatever that thrown in jail for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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