School Suspends Six-Year-Old For Bringing Cub Scout Kit to School

t25183aSchool 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”

  1. mespo727272–

    I agree that educators should be willing to speak out and to exercise their best professional judgment. Unfortunately, few people care to hear what we teachers have to say. And all too often teachers fear losing their jobs and not finding another. That’s a fact of life–not just in teaching but in other professions and other lines of work as well.

    I know well the consequences of a teacher having differences of opinion with an administrator–being yelled at in in front of one’s peers in staff meetings, is just one of them. There’s also the practice of principles giving “troublesome” teachers more than their share of challenging children. Some of us didn’t mind that so much. But when the new craze for high stakes testing came into vogue and I could see that prepping my students for them would probably become the main focus of my work–I knew it was time for me to take an early retirement.

    And because I’m now retired, why, I’ve got plenty of time on my hands to follow Professor Turley’s blog…and to comment from time to time.

  2. Update.
    According to the BBC News website, the school has seen some sense and reduced punishment to a 3 to 5 day suspension. Still extreme but a big step in the right direction.

    Mike. As to what’s going on over here in Blighty, it’s a long story, basically of a decline in standards due to a decline in simple dicipline – teachers can’t punish kids so the kids misbehave, knowing they are untouchable. This means that kids cannot be taught to as high a standard as previously. So exams are made easier. A general decline in standards right across the board.

  3. Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men.

    –Douglas Bader

  4. Elaine M:

    “It isn’t the teachers who make up these dumb rules. They’re usually the ones, however, required to follow through with them–because they’re the ones who are interacting with students.”

    “But there are a lot more who are dedicated professionals–teachers who put in long hours and spend their own money on other people’s children. I know that from firsthand experience.”


    Speaking for me and in the paraphrased words of my deceased father who was a fine educator, one can never be regarded as a true professional until one exercises independent professional judgment and is willing to bear the consequences of that decision. When one reaches that level of integrity, he/she ceases to be a mere employee; he/she becomes a professional. I see employees here.

  5. Mike,
    I have to agree with Elaine that this kind of policy is made by the school board and the administration. The teachers are the ones who are stuck with trying to follow the rule or face discipline themselves. The zero tolerance policy is just an excuse for the administration to not have to actually use their heads with each individual situation.

  6. Mike,

    Your chronology is a bit off. The Columbine tragedy accelerated an already established trend toward “zero tolerance.”

  7. Elaine,
    I’ve no wish to bash teaching and it is an honorable profession in general. However, quality, like with any profession varies. I suspect that this is also a factor of the State and the individual school district. My girls also had some wonderful teachers along with some bad ones and we were in a highly rated school district.

    you’re quite right about this being an after-effect of 9/11, because there is a slippery slope down from illegal wars, torture, hatred of a class of people, etc. that bottoms out with authoritarian mindsets at local levels. There has also been a concerted effort by fundamentalists and certain conservative elements to “dumb down” the curriculum and leave students uneducated about science, the world and even the way their government run. In this teachers are for the most part innocent bystanders.

  8. Mike,

    It isn’t the teachers who make up these dumb rules. They’re usually the ones, however, required to follow through with them–because they’re the ones who are interacting with students.

    In one way, I think these policies are instituted to relieve the fears of parents–to help them to feel that their children are safe in school.

    Look…our country went crazy after 9/11. Look at the Patriot Act, starting a pre-emptive war, the torture of detainess…I could go on. But you rarely hear the same kind of outcry from the news media or the public about such things as you will about the situation of poor little Zachary. I just wonder about the mindset of many of my fellow citizens.

    BTW, there certainly are educators for whom teaching is just a job. I know–my daughter had a few of them during her thirteen years spent in public school. But there are a lot more who are dedicated professionals–teachers who put in long hours and spend their own money on other people’s children. I know that from firsthand experience.

  9. Maaarrghk!,
    What is happening over there? I always thought Great Britain was more sensible than the US, but lately we’ve seen some strange stories circulationg.

  10. Mike Spindell.
    Your comments are spot on. Welcome to the United States of Great Britain – it’s just as potty over here. They are trying to ban the Boy Scouts.

  11. Elaine,
    I think your have it right about the avoidance of responsibility.
    It causes me wonder though to realize that school personal would do something this ridiculous. Have they no shame or is it like some teachers I knew to whom it was just a job?

  12. America is obviously way ahead of the rest of the world in preventative incarceration/detention/punishment.

    We’re Number 1!

  13. nal—

    You wrote: I wonder if these “zero-tolerance” policies are in response to a perceived tort-happy environment. The schools may be trying to minimize their liability exposure with these policies.

    I can agree with that. I was a public school teacher for more than three decades—and believe me when I say that schools are often blamed for bad things that happen to their pupils even off of school property outside of school hours. That said, many of these “zero-tolerance” policies go beyond the pale…and beyond good judgment and common sense. Suspending that six-year-old for forty-five days is idiotic.

    I believe policies like these are instituted because they relieve administrators from making decisions in certain types of situations that may be called into question later if something bad happens. They can say: “I was just following the district’s rules.”

    A teacher or administrator could have taken Zachary aside and quietly explained to him that his camping utensils couldn’t be brought to school because of the rules. The utensils could have been taken away—and then returned to his parents…along with an explanation of the “zero-tolerance” policies.

    On another litigious school topic: One year, some parents in the affluent community where I taught threatened to sue the high school after they found out that their children weren’t nominated for the National Honor Society. You can probably figure out how this story turned out.

  14. I wonder if these “zero-tolerance” policies are in response to a perceived tort-happy environment. The schools may be trying to minimize their liability exposure with these policies.

    It still pisses me off.

  15. This is even more outrageous than reading about all the Republicans screaming in agony over the current Nobel Peace prize winner. What kind of dolts do they have in charge of the schools in Delaware, anyway? You don’t take a six-year-old out of his home, away from his parents and everything familiar to him, and put him in reform school because that little guy proudly wanted to show off evidence that he is now a cub scout. Where is the intent to “commit a crime?” Was it not possible for one of these so-called grown-ups to take this instrument of death and torture away from the child and explain to him (preferably without making him cry and feel like a criminal) that he can’t bring pointy things to school, and maybe explain it to his mother also? Or would that be too difficult?

    Somebody with a functional brain needs to step in here and put a stop to this kind of ignorance. I nominate Barack Obama for the job. Maybe if the President of the United States explained the child’s teacher, the principal, and the school board in Delaware that six-year-old’s do not always understand Big People rules and are not necessarily up on the latest court rulings, they might turn their attention to education instead of gestapo like tactics on children. Six-year-olds hardly ever go to school to commit mayhem and murder. Exactly what has this little boy learned from this experience, other than that being a Cub Scout is equal to joining a street gang?

  16. This decision is insane on many levels and the school administration and school board are fit to run nothing.

    None of these fools remember what it is like to be six years old.
    Here was an excited little boy, a new Cub Scout, whose parents had bought him his uniform and equipment. He brought it to school bursting with pride to show his friends he was a Cub Scout and these zero tolerance morons made it into a horrendous crime. Imagine that child’s feelings of shame and confusion.

    If you can’t remember what it is like to be a child, you have no right or talent for providing education for children.

    “Zero Tolerance” as a policy means “zero thought” and inevitably leads to abuse of this kind. This is the same as mandatory sentencing guidelines. The backers of both are almost all authoritarian personalities that have little tolerance for human differences. They believe in a system of morality that has no place in its concept for the visceral feelings that inform much of human behavior.

    We read Les Miserables, or see the musical and marvel at how the hero is hounded for years because of a particular act interpreted through the lens of “zero tolerance.” Yet an approving public follows crackpot politicians, educators and parents into the same trap.

    Finally, to have this boy spend 45 days in the Districts “Reform School,” takes the original error and compounds it many times. My heart goes out to this child and my contempt for his persecutors is boundless.

  17. How do we spell stupid? This is Delaware, Newark? “Nu Ark” Still sounds like education has lost it primary focus.

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