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The sknork and the zero-tolerance policy

October 12, 2009 |  3:17 pm

I thought all the craziness about schools' zero-tolerance rules on weapons (including such deadly implements as a plastic knife for a child to spread his peanut butter with) had gone away. Then I read the New York Times article about a first grader in Delaware who was suspended for 45 days because he brought his prized Cub Scout eating utensil to school. It's not exactly a spork because it also has a knife built in, thus... the sknork.

Not just suspended -- relegated to reform school. The mother is wisely not allowing him to spend his days in a place where he might learn about far worse things than sknorks. She's home-schooling him while she challenges the school district.

Some measure of discipline was in order. No matter how proud little Zachary Christie was of his scouting prize, a knife is a knife and a rule is a rule. It's not reassuring to read quotes from Zachary in which he asserts that the rules are wrong, not he. No, Zachary, you were wrong. Still, 45 days in reform school for a first-time infraction by a 6-year-old? Delaware law, though, gives school officials no room to fit the punishment to the crime.

Though even counting on those officials' reasonableness can be a mistake. The president of the school board defended such strict rules, asking what would happen if children got in a fight and one had his eye poked out by such an implement? In which case I can only guess that pens and pencils will be next on the banned-weapons list.

-- Karin Klein

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