6 year-old boy suspended from school for boy scout utensil

[deleted account] ( 17 moms have responded )

What do you guys think?



http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/12/educat...



NEWARK, Del. — Finding character witnesses when you are 6 years old is not easy. But there was Zachary Christie last week at a school disciplinary committee hearing with his karate instructor and his mother’s fiancé by his side to vouch for him.



Zachary’s offense? Taking a camping utensil that can serve as a knife, fork and spoon to school. He was so excited about recently joining the Cub Scouts that he wanted to use it at lunch. School officials concluded that he had violated their zero-tolerance policy on weapons, and Zachary was suspended and now faces 45 days in the district’s reform school.



“It just seems unfair,” Zachary said, pausing as he practiced writing lower-case letters with his mother, who is home-schooling him while the family tries to overturn his punishment.



Spurred in part by the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings, many school districts around the country adopted zero-tolerance policies on the possession of weapons on school grounds. More recently, there has been growing debate over whether the policies have gone too far.



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.



But the question on the minds of residents here is: Why do school officials not have more discretion in such cases?



“Zachary wears a suit and tie some days to school by his own choice because he takes school so seriously,” said Debbie Christie, Zachary’s mother, who started a Web site, helpzachary.com, in hopes of recruiting supporters to pressure the local school board at its next open meeting on Tuesday. “He is not some sort of threat to his classmates.”



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.



Critics contend that zero-tolerance policies like those in the Christina district have led to sharp increases in suspensions and expulsions, often putting children on the streets or in other places where their behavior only worsens, and that the policies undermine the ability of school officials to use common sense in handling minor infractions.



For Delaware, Zachary’s case is especially frustrating because last year state lawmakers tried to make disciplinary rules more flexible by giving local boards authority to, “on a case-by-case basis, modify the terms of the expulsion.”



The law was introduced after a third-grade girl was expelled for a year because her grandmother had sent a birthday cake to school, along with a knife to cut it. The teacher called the principal — but not before using the knife to cut and serve the cake.



In Zachary’s case, the state’s new law did not help because it mentions only expulsion and does not explicitly address suspensions. A revised law is being drafted to include suspensions.



“We didn’t want our son becoming the poster child for this,” Ms. Christie said, “but this is out of control.”



In a letter to the district’s disciplinary committee, State Representative Teresa L. Schooley, Democrat of Newark, wrote, “I am asking each of you to consider the situation, get all the facts, find out about Zach and his family and then act with common sense for the well-being of this child.”



Education experts say that zero-tolerance policies initially allowed authorities more leeway in punishing students, but were applied in a discriminatory fashion. Many studies indicate that African-Americans were several times more likely to be suspended or expelled than other students for the same offenses.



“The result of those studies is that more school districts have removed discretion in applying the disciplinary policies to avoid criticism of being biased,” said Ronnie Casella, an associate professor of education at Central Connecticut State University who has written about school violence. He added that there is no evidence that zero-tolerance policies make schools safer.



Other school districts are also trying to address problems they say have stemmed in part from overly strict zero-tolerance policies.



In Baltimore, around 10,000 students, about 12 percent of the city’s enrollment, were suspended during the 2006-7 school year, mostly for disruption and insubordination, according to a report by the Open Society Institute-Baltimore. School officials there are rewriting the disciplinary code, to route students to counseling rather than suspension.



In Milwaukee, where school officials reported that 40 percent of ninth graders had been suspended at least once in the 2006-7 school year, the superintendent has encouraged teachers not to overreact to student misconduct.



“Something has to change,” said Dodi Herbert, whose 13-year old son, Kyle, was suspended in May and ordered to attend the Christina district’s reform school for 45 days after another student dropped a pocket knife in his lap. School officials declined to comment on the case for reasons of privacy.



Ms. Herbert, who said her son was a straight-A student, has since been home-schooling him instead of sending him to the reform school.



The Christina school district attracted similar controversy in 2007 when it expelled a seventh-grade girl who had used a utility knife to cut windows out of a paper house for a class project.



Charles P. Ewing, a professor of law and psychology at the University at Buffalo Law School who has written about school safety issues, said he favored a strict zero-tolerance approach.



“There are still serious threats every day in schools,” Dr. Ewing said, adding that giving school officials discretion holds the potential for discrimination and requires the kind of threat assessments that only law enforcement is equipped to make.



In the 2005-6 school year, 86 percent of public schools reported at least one violent crime, theft or other crime, according to the most recent federal survey.



And yet, federal studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and another by the Department of Justice show that the rate of school-related homicides and nonfatal violence has fallen over most of the past decade.



Educational experts say the decline is less a result of zero-tolerance policies than of other programs like peer mediation, student support groups and adult mentorships, as well as an overall decrease in all forms of crime.



For Zachary, it is not school violence that has left him reluctant to return to classes.



“I just think the other kids may tease me for being in trouble,” he said, pausing before adding, “but I think the rules are what is wrong, not me.”

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17 Comments

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[deleted account]

I can understand hy they did it, but it serves no purpose. The school system implements rules and follows them to the letter without even focusing on whether it will help anyone. This will not help anyone in the long run.

JL - posted on 10/14/2009

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I just saw on the news to that they lifted the suspension and changed the policy for k-1st in regards toward reform school, but I too wondered even before I saw that knife whether those parents were aware of him taking the knife to school in the first place, because even if he did not have any threatening or harmful intentions a sharp knife like that could accidently cause harm to him or someone else. I personally would not allow my 6 year to have a knife like that or even have access to a knife like that.



I don't let my 6 year old daughter use scissors without asking me first.

Amie - posted on 10/14/2009

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I was just watching this on the news. = | While I'm glad the boy's suspension has been lifted and a new policy has been enacted for kindergartners and grade 1's... Umm....

The knife is not like the ones the scouts here have. It's like a swiss army knife. Maybe I'm crazy over protective of my kids but our son is not allowed to have a knife like that. The little boy was showing it on the news. Now it may not be as sharp as some knives are but..
Either the parents knew and made a bad judgment call in letting him take it OR they didn't know which begs the question.. why on earth not?! =|

Amie - posted on 10/13/2009

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It is a school policy, one that needs to change. =| It's ludicrous to punish a child this way. It really should be done on a case by case basis and different rules for teenagers than children. Not everything is so black and white.
Glad we agree though.

Shannon Cassidy- - posted on 10/13/2009

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Amie, I agree with you he shouldn't be suspended either but I am just covering my own butt because you always get those people that will come on and say will its a school policy. Well I think its unfair because its his first time ever doing that and more then likely his last time I personaly think he should have another chance.

Louise - posted on 10/13/2009

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I posted the same thing, it's horrible. I mean, what next? Sharpened pencils? This is borderline insanity, what happened to commonsense? These are the people who are supposed to be educating kids, protecting our kids. You cannot put all offenders in one bucket. Imagine the trauma it can cause a child.

Amie - posted on 10/13/2009

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Quoting Shannon Cassidy-:



Quoting Holly:

I think that rules are rules and , depite the intent of bringing the knife to school, it is a knife. Accidents happen, and they happen every day. I really think the people at fault for this debacle are the boy's parent's, who let him take it in the forst place! Why would you allow your 6 year-old boy to take a knife to school?






Did you ever think that maybe his parents didn't know.  My little one has put  little toys or his favorite stuffed animal in his Backpack without me knowing I found them later when he got home and I took his stuff out of his bag.  Because of that incedent I will check now but he doesn't have anything like that anyways  . But the parents aren't always to blame  . He should not have brought that but he is 6 years old , what 6 year old would think all that crap would happen to him just for bringing  it to school . Suspension is enough though I don't think he should have to go to Reform School I think that is to much.





Suspension is even too much. He is 6 years old. I have only ever heard of one  child here ever getting suspended. He was 10 and a terror, I don't believe in hitting kids at all and I wanted to knock his block off after meeting him. After hitting his teacher the school had enough and called his parents yet again. He was yanked from school for a week and the school sent him to a see the psychologist that comes to each school to talk with problem students.



He is not in our school this year so he must have moved to be able to go to another one.

Shannon Cassidy- - posted on 10/13/2009

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Quoting Holly:

I think that rules are rules and , depite the intent of bringing the knife to school, it is a knife. Accidents happen, and they happen every day. I really think the people at fault for this debacle are the boy's parent's, who let him take it in the forst place! Why would you allow your 6 year-old boy to take a knife to school?



Did you ever think that maybe his parents didn't know.  My little one has put  little toys or his favorite stuffed animal in his Backpack without me knowing I found them later when he got home and I took his stuff out of his bag.  Because of that incedent I will check now but he doesn't have anything like that anyways  . But the parents aren't always to blame  . He should not have brought that but he is 6 years old , what 6 year old would think all that crap would happen to him just for bringing  it to school . Suspension is enough though I don't think he should have to go to Reform School I think that is to much.

JL - posted on 10/13/2009

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The Zero Tolerance policies are utterly ridiculous. Yes, this kid should not have brought the tool to school, so take it away, call the parents, and explain the issue. The parents should have not let the kid take the tool to school and if they did not know he did, well now they should take the time to explain to him why some things don't belong at school.



The punishment was way way way to severe. COME ON NOW. I agree with Esther that critical thinking skills have been totally lost. The biggest problem with the Zero Tolerance policies is that it is a black and white rule system. It does not take the circumstances or the child into question when the rules are broken. It is a SAD thing to treat all children as potential criminals.

Jeannette - posted on 10/12/2009

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Look at how much control we have given the "authorities" and let the control slip from our hands...to "protect" us. Wow, now 6 year old Boy Scouts..Trevor must be considered a possible terrorist, he's a 13 year old scout hoping to make eagle scout. I don't even know if he ever brought any of his camping gear to school, but it wouldn't shock me if he did.

Dana - posted on 10/12/2009

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Quoting Holly:

I think that rules are rules and , depite the intent of bringing the knife to school, it is a knife. Accidents happen, and they happen every day. I really think the people at fault for this debacle are the boy's parent's, who let him take it in the forst place! Why would you allow your 6 year-old boy to take a knife to school?



I don't think the parents need to be held responsible at all.  Talked to by the school yes but, chances are they had no idea he would bring that to school.  Like Amie said, it's probably a blunted knife, I doubt the Scouts or the parents would be letting him carry anything but that.

Dana - posted on 10/12/2009

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Quoting Esther:

OMG - have people completely lost their critical thinking skills?



I guess so.....



 



 

Lindsay - posted on 10/12/2009

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Quoting Jo:

Wow I understand the concern but suspension... that's just sad - sad because that's where the world has come too. Sad because this lil boy, who seems like a good kid is put in the position to feel bad about something that really is an everyday tool for people all arond the world... I think it's disturbing that the world has come to 6 year old boys being automatically treated like criminals rather than 6 year old boys...



Jo, you took the words out of my mouth!



 



People need ot start using some common sense.  Be it this boy or the girl who took the knife to cut a cake, those are obviously innocent incidents. I'm sure if it was just taken up and explained why they can't have these things at school, it'd actually be effective and much less tramatic!

?? - posted on 10/12/2009

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Wow I understand the concern but suspension... that's just sad - sad because that's where the world has come too. Sad because this lil boy, who seems like a good kid is put in the position to feel bad about something that really is an everyday tool for people all arond the world... I think it's disturbing that the world has come to 6 year old boys being automatically treated like criminals rather than 6 year old boys...

Amie - posted on 10/12/2009

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Wow that is crazy.
It doesn't require suspension, especially for a 6 year old. At the most they should have taken it away and explained it to the child and the parents. This is not acceptable because ____.
Even at that do any of you have a kid in scouts? My son is a scout. Their camping utensils have blunted knives. /:) They don't even have teeth. The older boys have sharp knives but not the young scouts.

[deleted account]

I think that rules are rules and , depite the intent of bringing the knife to school, it is a knife. Accidents happen, and they happen every day. I really think the people at fault for this debacle are the boy's parent's, who let him take it in the forst place! Why would you allow your 6 year-old boy to take a knife to school?

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