As an educator one of my biggest frustrations was the unfair enforcement of school rules. I tried to be fair with all of my students regardless of who they were or were not. I have been a supporter of zero-tolerance. However, I think that discretion must also be used when enforcing rules. There are times when the penalty may far exceed the offense. A recent incident in the Christina School District in Delaware is an excellent example of zero-tolerance out of control when six-year-old cub scout Zachary Christie was suspended for bringing a dangerous weapon to school. The dangerous weapon was a camping utensil with a knife, fork, and spoon. Zachary was excited about his new tool and wanted to use it at lunch. He was not threatening anyone but simply wanted to eat lunch. In an interview Zachary responded to the questions about his motivation by saying he simply wanted to eat lunch. Zachary has been suspended for 45 days and may be sent to a reform or alternative school.
Yes, Zachary broke the school rules by bringing a knife to school and there should be an appropriate consequence. Suspension and assignment to an alternative school is not appropriate for this case. Zachary willingly gave the utensil to the teacher. He was not threatening or belligerent. A better approach would have been to confiscate the tool and explain why it is was not appropriate for school.
It is Zachary’s teacher, school and possibly the Christina School Board that is way out of line in this case. It is obvious that Zachary is not a threat to anyone but he is being treated like an incorrigible delinquent. It is likely that making an example of this child will prevent any further similar incidents.