Zero-Tolerance or Zero Discretion?

Zachary Christie holding the "dangerous weapon".
Zachary Christie holding the "dangerous weapon".

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.

Dangerous weapon or camping untensil?
Dangerous weapon or camping utensil?

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.


  1. Just heard about this on the news and the mom is home schooling while the case is on appeal. A friend of ours was suspending from playing baseball his junior year of high school for having a hunting knife in the glove box of the family car. He was a new driver, and wasn’t used to thinking about taking inventory of the glove box before going to school. The search of his car was due to a gun scope being spotted in the back seat of the vehicle. They had gone hunting over the weekend. So this kid, who was not a discipline problem, was taken out of class to have his car searched. I know that all of us face dangerous uncertainties each day, and something dangerous could have been found in that car. But nothing threatening or dangerous happened or was found, so why does the kid have to be treated like a delinquent?

    • Apparently, Zach’s mom is the PTA president. I’ve noticed that sometimes when good kids get caught they are made an example of because of who their parents are.

      A former co-worker’s son was an honor student and an officer in Jr. ROTC got suspended when the search dog found a spent shot gun shell in his truck. The boy and his dad had gone hunting the weekend before. \

      We had a friend’s daughter who was caught in the hall without her school ID. She had mistakenly put on her work ID. She was an honor student who had no previous school problems. The principal made it clear that she was being treated so harshly because of who her parents were.

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