School officials in Newark, Delaware have given the nation another example of mindless “zero-tolerance” abuse. In this case, officials suspended 6-year-old Zachary Christie because the boy brought his new cub scout camping utensils to school to eat his lunch. Because the utensil had a small knife, he was suspended and ordered to spend the next 45 days in the district’s reform school.
I have previously written about the lunacy of these zero tolerance policies and the decision by many school officials to sacrifice children rather than exercise a degree of common sense. For earlier entries, click here and here and here. For a prior column on the issue, click here.
This camping device has the standard knife, fork and spoon for kids. Nevertheless, Christina School District believes in blind punishment where teachers do not have to exercise judgment or discretion — regardless of the harm to an innocent child. The district stood by its decision by proudly citing its refusal to consider relevant facts: “At this time, the Student Code of Conduct does not take into consideration a child’s age in a Level three offense.” What type of citizens are we shaping under the care of such adults? These children are learning that the law is arbitrary and authority figures can mete out punishment on an arbitrary and capricious basis.
For the full story, click here.
33 thoughts on “School Suspends Six-Year-Old For Bringing Cub Scout Kit to School”
My father was a principal of a high school in the 1970s and 1980s. From his tales, I can tell you how “zero tolerance” started:
A black kid brought a lock-blade knife to school and started terrorizing others with it. My father took it away from him and suspended him for a good period, with a warning that he was going to be expelled if he kept up the behavior (he had done innumerable other things to intimidate students, not just involving knives or other weapons).
Then we get the dumb white boy who had a small whittling knife in his backpack one day for whatever reason. He didn’t intimidate anyone, he didn’t do anything with it, it was just seen in his backpack. He claims he forgot about it. My father took it away and gave him a warning about bringing knives to school.
That brought on a shitstorm from the parents of the black kid and the black public in general. My father was a racist piece of scum. He got death threats. He got call-and-hangups at 3:00 a.m.
OK, then just have the same policy for everyone who brings a knife. Problem solved.
“I just think there is way too much reliance on these standardized tests to determine where kids fit on the educational ladder of success.”
As I just wrote above standardized tests actually pulled the brawling underachiever, who refused to do homework through. Long years of therapy and much thoughts about life have made me somewhat sanguine about them, even though they worked to my benefit. Somewhere in my 20’s I learned that there is no substitute for hard work and diligence if one wishes to achieve. It gave me new perspective on those drones I knew in high School that would work so hard to achieve academic success, whereas I could game the system. I write well only because i’m very well-read and have some idea of how to construct sentences. I’d write better if I had taken the time to learn the basic rules of grammar, rather than watching TV. I regret the fact that I’m nowhere near multi-lingual and that is a direct effect of my lack of effort way back then. My children have surpassed me and that gives me pleasure and luckily despite earlier peccadillos I di pretty well myself.
“I don’t need to try a parochial school–I’m the product of a parochial school education.”
Congrats on your survivor status!
I don’t need to try a parochial school–I’m the product of a parochial school education. Once I was safely away from the tentacles of the Sisters of Notre Dame I learned how not to be submissive…with a vengeance!
You wrote: “The second is the “no child left behind” concept, that actually rigs the system to “dumb down” education further by relying on standardized testing as the test of effectiveness. The need to prep students for theses tests leaves out the most important part of education which is to teach people to think with a modicum of logic.”
The over-reliance on testing to determine the educational effectiveness of schools and teachers and to chart the scholastic achievement of students follows along the same path as the “zero-tolerance” policies. The machine-scored results are presented in black and white. The results place children in different categories of achievement/lack of achievement. There’s no input from the teachers who actually work with the children and have insight into what the kids know and can do. But that kind of personal human evaluation can’t be quantified. It’s so much easier to use standardized tests.
What’s happening in education now is a process of pushing kids along through subject matter quickly–often not providing them with time to reflect upon the things they’ve learned, to explore their creativity, to contemplate. I’m worried about the effect this will have on our youth after years spent prepping for tests in school.
I’m not anti-testing. I believe there are tests that can actually provide valuable information to educators. I just think there is way too much reliance on these standardized tests to determine where kids fit on the educational ladder of success. The tests are becoming the driving force in American education. That’s sad.
BTW, I was an elementary school teacher. I taught all subjets–including English.
As someone who was in Highschool in Colorado at the time Columbine took place, I have a handful of zero tolerance stories that make this one look almost reasonable:
Like the honors student licensed life guard (who was one of the nicest people I’ve ever known) suspended for having a small pocket knife in the (unopened) first aid kit in her car at the far end of the parking lot from the school. Or the girl they threatened to suspend because she had a one inch long knife charm on her necklace (it was a religious symbol of some sorts). My personal favorite was the guy who was told he couldn’t wear his overcoat on school grounds (there were a couple of different buildings that classes were held in), In the middle of a fairly heavy snow, over a suit he was wearing to give his campaign speech for some student council position.
The point that I inarticulately attempted to make was that teachers’ views are rarely simply ignored. I think their views are not properly considered precisely because they do not make a ruckus when denied the relief they sought. I believe it has to do with the hierarchical nature of the school administration where dissent is rarely tolerated. This attitude of submissiveness is even being visited on the students as we have discussed many times on this blog. Mike S’s point about unions is a good one. In those states, teachers can speak their minds and enjoy academic freedom to promote both their interests and that of their students.
Finally, on your last point about the spelling of “principal” and old bromide — taught to me by one of the good Sisters of Charity — comes to mind: “One should always to remain ‘pals’ with the ‘principal,'” thus emphasizing the last three letters of the title which do cause the most problems. Talk about a submissive attitude–try a parochial school
Hmmm, I have been accused of the same.
If a former English teacher can make such a mistake then I should forever be immune from criticism about my run-on sentence structure and inability to know where to place commas.
Correction!!! I just realized I misspelled a word in my post at 2:50 am.
I wrote: There’s also the practice of principles giving “troublesome” teachers more than their share of challenging children.
“Principles” should have read “principals.”
That’s what I get for writing comments in the wee hours of the morning. Mea culpa!
Gyges, Rafflaw, Mespo & Elaine.
Good catch on Columbine Gyges, slipped my mind, that was a huge factor.
Re: the points about a teacher’s standing up to the system, that is a factor of where they teach.
In NYC for instance, with a powerful union, teachers have the ability to stand up to the system and confront administration without fearing loss of their jobs and ultimately being able to fight harassment. An NYC teacher, who then against their conscience, would not speak truth to power was just as bad as those perpetuating the particular bad policy.
In Newark, Deleware I suspect the same protection to speak one’s mind is not afforded and so the consequences are higher, especially to a middle-class person who needs the job. Then too as Elaine referenced there is the harassment element and many of us are unable to face the opprobrium of our bosses and peers.
To me the most problemmatic features of this is that the educational system has been intentionally “dumbed down” in perhaps the last four decades. This makes for many teachers who frankly are not as well educated as those they’ve replaced. The second is the “no child left behind” concept, that actually rigs the system to “dumb down” education further by relying on standardized testing as the test of effectiveness. The need to prep students for theses tests leaves out the most important part of education which is to teach people to think with a modicum of logic.
Finally, the organization of religious fundamentalists to take over school boards at the local level, empowers a pernicious element with a clear cut agenda, to transform local education into an arm of religious ignorance. To the extent they are successful, this produces students who are even less equipped to think.
“I don’t think teachers are routinely ignored by decision makers but I agree their views are not always adequately considered.”
Ignored or not adequately considered…I guess to me that would be like six of one–a half dozen of the other.
Often when teachers take principled stands, they’re accused of fighting for their own self-interest. Maybe that’s because what’s best for students can also be good for teachers–like smaller class sizes (especially in the early grades)–like having healthy buildings to teach and learn in.
It may be that my experience in teaching was atypical. I worked with many intelligent, principled teachers who had the audacity to speak truth to power. Unfortunately, there were too many times when our voices weren’t heard.
“Unfortunately, few people care to hear what we teachers have to say.”
I don’t think teachers are routinely ignored by decision makers but I agree their views are not always adequately considered. I do think their voices would be more persuasive if the leaders of the profession were more willing to take principled stands in support of their charges. A profession’s respect among decision makers is in direct proportion to its willingness to adhere to principle over base self-interest. That’s why physicians fair better than hair dressers in the legislature.
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