The New York Times had an article today on a ridiculous zero tolerance situation: a kid in Delaware who was so excited to get his Cub Scouts camping utensil — a fork, knife and spoon combo — that he took it to school to eat his lunch with. Yeah, a Cub Scout: Zachary Christie is just 6 years old.
Wait: it had a dull, kid-appropriate knife included? Why, knives are weapons! Run in circles! Pull out your hair! Scream like a little girl!
You guessed it: Zachary is out of there — suspended, and he must spend 45 days in reform school before he can return to classes with his friends. And they had the frigging gall to say they “had to” suspend him because knives are banned “regardless of the possessor’s intent.”
There was a case in Delaware awhile back when a third-grade girl was expelled — thrown out of school, not just suspended — when her grandmother sent a birthday cake to school with the girl …with a knife to cut it. The teacher called the principal in …but only after she used the knife to cut the cake up, since she had no other way to serve it to the kids!
Yep, that’s the mentality behind this garbage!
Enter the 1,200-lb Gorilla
State legislators were outraged by this and introduced a law — which passed — to allow(!) school boards to, “on a case-by-case basis, modify the terms of the expulsion.” But that doesn’t help Zachary: he’s not expelled, he’s “just” suspended and sentenced to a term in reform school.
She set up a web site appealing for help (now offline) — and is trying to get legislators to modify the state’s zero tolerance law yet again to make it rational in all discipline cases, not just expulsions.
Imagine that! They again have to address rationality and force schools to be reasonable in punishing kids, rather than terrorize them and screwing them up for life over minor transgressions.
The previous law even acknowledges, right within the law’s text, that “the American Psychological Association recently reported that zero tolerance policies do not effectively improve school safety.” When will this madness end?
The 800-lb Gorilla
But at least I’m not the only one beating on this drum anymore (and I started on it in June 1995!) This story was on the front page of the New York Times today. After nearly 13 years, it’s finally getting major national news treatment. Welcome aboard this issue, NYT. Glad to have the 800-lb gorilla behind me at last.
Let’s see if they stay on the case.
Zero tolerance is destroying children under the guise of helping them. It’s causing more harm than good. It’s not time for state laws to be adjusted to address the outrage of ZT. It’s time for changes in federal law.
- The New York Times has published an editorial on the subject. “‘Use Common Sense’ should be at the top of the list for the state — and for the Christina district,” it concludes. And, showing that it truly grasps the problem, adds, “If teachers and administrators don’t follow that rule, how can they expect children to?”
- “The school board made a hasty change to its code of conduct,” reports NBC’s Today Show. “The seven-member board voted unanimously to reduce the punishment for kindergartners and first-graders who bring weapons to school or commit other violent offenses to a suspension ranging from three to five days.”
Well, it’s a start: kindergartners and first-graders get the benefit of common sense; second-graders up don’t. Law rewrites are still desperately needed.
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