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The sknork and the zero-tolerance policy

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

 

Comments () | Archives (33)

The comments to this entry are closed.

John Williams

It's worse: What if a child got into a fight (how many times has this happened with 6-year-olds?) and poked out an opponent"s eye with a finger?

Clearly, children's fingers should be duct-taped to their waists as they arrive at school each day.

One can't have too much security. It's all for their own good . . .. And don't even think about the educational shortcomings caused by school security: There aren't any, because security and safety are the purpose of a school! And there must never be any compromise on security or safety.

Especially on legislators' or educators' job security.

RH

"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."

Studies show that the section of the brain which handles our ability to see things from others' perspectives is not completely formed by age 6 (its around age 7 where we start seeing the first signs of this section forming and it keeps forming until at least 13). Its not such a surprise that, since he had a "good reason" to bring the sknork to school, he doesn't understand why others don't see his good reason. It is literally a higher order thought which the average 6 year old's faculties simply cannot have.

windrider

When are we going to stop waging war on our children? This is outrageous. The punishment in no way fits "the crime", which was very minimal infraction to begin with. We have law enforcement hauling 5-year-olds off to jail and charging them with felony assault when they have a tantrum, we're charging 8 and 9 year old children as adults in criminal proceedings. When does it stop? When do we realize that these are still kids, and stop treating them as very short juvies? I'm very glad my kids are no longer in school because if they were, I'd pull them out for something like this and home school them myself. Truly nuts!

idahostevens

When I went to school I wore a hunting knife and on occasion took a bow and arrow with me. That was in a one room country grade school. High school I carried a rifle in the car. That was fifty years ago. I would just be getting out of prison now if the "rules" and laws were in force then as they are today.

What stupidity prevails in the land today. Where is common sense?

kidshaverights

"If you are under 13 years of age you may read this message board, but you may not participate.
Here are the full legal terms you agree to by using this comment form."

It is a shame that you are allowed to deny young human beings their fair and equal right to free speech based on age.

A rule/law is not RIGHT or JUST because it exists.

"Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison." - H. D. Thoreau

Cary Kassebaum

And we wonder why our schools are in crisis. No wonder tens of thousands of kids are now home schooled or sent to private schools where some sanity prevails. Hiding behind the excuse that the school had no choice makes you wonder who needs to grow up - this kid or his teachers.

Randy Carlson

Dumb!

When we insist on electing legislators lacking the wit to deal with nuance and complexity this is what we get.

crazyhorsewon

The adult dork responsible for this kind of idiocy needs to be tarred and feathered!

Lupine Wonse

Why is “not reassuring to read quotes from Zachary in which he asserts that the rules are wrong?” The rules are wrong –and their application is insane. Zachary’s comments suggest that he has a functioning brain, unlike most of the official players in this drama. And you say Zachary must not let on that he has noticed this, let alone dare to point it out?

rich

It's Delaware. Not Maryland. He was suspended from the Christina school district in Delaware.

Hunter

This is absolutely out of control. We have lost this country anyone thinks this kid was going to use it as a weapon. Come on!! Now, he will have this on a permanent record. OMG! If this were my son, I would own that school.

John Breland

And you wonder why kids aren't learning....

How can they when the schools are run by idiots and fools?

Ken

"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."

Wow, I hope you will not defend slavery nor Holocaust since it is important for you to follow the rules.

Morover, the rule specifies possession of deadly weapon. Does rock, with or without a jagged edge, classify as one? How about a sharp bramch/

ABA recommends exercising of sound discretion along with a zero tolerance policy. Looks like none were exercised in this decision by the school board nor the writing of editorial.

http://www.abanet.org/crimjust/juvjus/zerotolres.html

Keith

I agree with Zachary; the rules are wrong. Children need to be taught to be responsible members of society and to handle potentially dangerous items with care. I am not certain what kind of knife was on that implement, and I do not support the possession of carving knives or other sharp cutting tools in school. However, I think even six-year-olds should be permitted butter knives, since these tools factor into daily existence, are not especially harmful, and are something to be used properly and respected. Perhaps they pose some minuscule element of risk, but that's nothing compared to the psychological damage from a lifetime of education in a rigid, rule-based, and often arbitrarily administered thought environment.

bbb

The parents are absolute morons (boy, that's a new twist [sarc]). It's certainly debatable whether a 6 yr old should be handling a spring folding knife (that is what it is) Hell most 6yr olds fingernails are not even stiff enough to open the blade using the little fingernail pull-slot without the blade snapping back closed (maybe on a finger). All that aside; these idiots then let the 6 year old take the knife to school. (yeah, brilliant parenting right there).
And when the hell did Cub Scouts start admitting 6 year olds, hmm??

All this aside the response by the school administration was wrong. They should have called Child Protective Services, and reported the parents.

Ah, what the hell. Give it another year or two and these parents will have the kid squeezing off an Uzi at gun show with same results as the 8 yr old boy in Westfield, MA this time last year.

Don McNulty

When one believes a law is wrong, one should work toward changing that law. Yes, apparently, his eating utensil was a banned item.

I'm curious: does that school district insist that students eat with their hands? After all, a spoon can gouge out an eye, a fork can poke an eye out, and a knife - omigosh, consider the carnage! And surely, pencils are banned.

If not, then the school district itself should be suspended, while all teachers, administrators, custodians, and cafeteria staff are taught to recognize and remove such dangerous items as spoons, forks, knives, pencils, wood rulers with metal edges (throat-slitter), plastic rulers (can be broken into multiple shards for mass attack) glass windows (same as plastic rulers), drawing compasses, backpacks (a heavy blow could break a skull), belts and sashes (strangling), etc.

If they are not willing to do that to themselves, they can in no way inflict such punishment on this child. A class-action suit including all children previously punished in this manner should be brought against them, seeking lifetime psychiatric treatment for each such child.

Now, see how ridiculous this stuff gets.

I'm surprised I made it to 60 years old without being killed. I was, however, once knocked out accidentally by a boy wielding a baseball bat practicing his swing, back in 1966. Maybe I should sue the school for the resulting concussion. Grow up, life isn't perfect and never will be.

Zero-tolerance policies are in place only to make it easy on "educators" to babysit while not having to think. They can just say "you're suspended" and go on pretending to educate children while enjoying their well-paid (yes, I said well-paid) jobs with great benefits.

Try volunteering at a Boys and Girls Club or your town library as a homework helper and see how poorly schools do in teaching our kids. I did.

cornplanter

Zachary Christie has been charged, tried, convicted and sentenced by the bureaucrats of his school for carrying a (non) weapon, without redress to a court of law. This is the new non-judicial judicial system devised and created into law by elected lawmakers. The system is patently unconstitutional.

Where is Zachary's day in court? Where is his right to jury trial by his peers before being sentenced to reform school? Where is his right to legal representation, either hired by himself (family, friends) or court appointed?

Under the Un-American system of bureaucratic regulations, government agencies, and "police authority" of bureaucrats, 6 year old Zachary is being abused by the his school, his school board, and all the State legislators who mandated the "zero tolerance policy."

There are several rights not specifically enumerated by the Constitution, which include Zachary's right to go to school and be treated appropriately for his age. No one in their right mind believes he was treated appropriately.

One right guaranteed in the Constitution is the right to "due process." People like to argue about "due process." But whoever argues that Zachary was given any form of "due process" is a bald faced liar.

Is this America, land of the free? ..... No, it is the land of the free-wheeling bureaucrats who can (and do) trample all the rights our founding fathers thought were inalienable.

Zachary is but a glaring example. However, all citizens have been bushwhacked by the same variety of illegal and non-redressable (and sometimes secret) laws enacted by bureaus and agencies throughout all our governments ... and corporations.

I have read no comments relating to the real problem of illegally charging, trying, convicting and sentencing of a "minor" citizen without recourse to defense in court. Therein lies the tragedy.

As long as Constitutionally illegal "puppet courts" rule this nation, our Constitution and the freedoms guaranteed by it have been nullified.

This is not "government by law." This is both the State Legislature and the School Board disregarding the Constitution of the United States. Unfortunately, very few people understand enough to care.

Cornplanter
(Republican Precinct Committeeman, Navajo County, Arizona)

Lou

Weird thing is I'm not even sure this falls under that school boards own definition of a weapon. Their handbook: http://www.christina.k12.de.us/CodeOfConduct/0910/pdf/EN.pdf lists as a "dangerous instrument" on page 48

"an instrument, article or substance which is readily capable of causing serious physical injury or death. If the full blade of a knife is less than three inches, the item will be considered a dangerous instrument."

Well, I can't find a picture of the Sknork online but none of the butter-knives in my cutlery tray have a blade more than 3 inches. If this thing was a combination, surely they only mean the "sharp" part.

Are the school administrators really saying that the Sknork is -readily- capable of causing serious physical injury or death? (For that matter, would the TSA allow you to take it on a plane?)

Matt

What if two teachers got in a fight, and one bludgeoned the other with a child? Clearly small children, too, should be banned from school, as they constitute potentially deadly weapons.

Papercuts can be pretty serious, too, come to think of it...

Bob Soxx

The school board is made up of total morons.

Cathy

Zachary was wrong for bringing the pocket knife to school but is 45 days of punishment just? I don't believe so considering he was only 6 years old. 45 days is a life time for a 6 year old. Plus your taking precious educational time from him. I really don't understand why his mother is trying to protect him from things more dangerous than a "sknork". Once a child has turned 6 years old they have already seen thousands of commercial advertising violent movies or shows.

Safetyfirst

I remember a few years ago when there was a very terrifying spate of School Sporkings.

In one incident, two boys ran through the school armed with sporks. The other students hid behind desks. The boys were scooping out the eyes of the other students and collecting them in one of those Trick or Treat jack o' lanterns meant to hold candy.

In another School Sporking incident, a boy with a spork cornered other children in a lunchroom and demanded of each one:"Plastic or metal?" The question meant - which did they prefer to use - plastic or metal utensils. Those that answered "plastic" were slashed with the spork or had their eyes gouged out.

In yet another School Sporking incident, a gang of over 10 girls armed with sporks waited outside for the girl's cheerleading squad. When the squad came out, holding only pompons, the spork wielding mob ran up and began pounding on them with the metal utensils.

There have also been strange School Spork incidents where kindergarten books were changed to read, "Hey Diddle Diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the dish ran away with the spork.." The administration understood this to be a threat from the Seventh Street Sporks, a notorious gang of 4-7 year olds.

School administrators throughout the nation are perplexed over the surge in School Sporkings, Experts say the problem begins at home with the problematic "stay at home mom." These women are said to be one notch away from being just like Osama bin Laden -- arming their young children with sporks hidden in lunchboxes and sending them out to terrorize the world.

__

Observer

He broke a rule - but the penalty should fit the crime.

In this case confiscating the knife and requiring his parent's to come down and retreve it should be adequate. Anything more violates the "unusual" portion of the constitutional proscription against "cruel and unusual punishment."

Tom

The school is in Delaware, not Maryland.

Jan Ross

This is the second article about this kid I have run across placing the incident in Maryland. Hello??? Since when did Delaware, the first state, home of our vice president, become part of Maryland? I want to know who is hiring these writers who don't even know their states? By the way, Zach might have thought that his "eating utensil" was ok, but why in the world did his parents think it would be ok to take it to school? They should be sent to reform school to learn how to exercise common sense.

Ashok

As the old expression goes "common sense is very uncommon"Purpose of a schhol teacher is to train a mind.

Karin Klein

To Jan and Tom: You're absolutely right, thank you. I have corrected the post.

Dan

I could take the opportunity to make a calm, reasoned, impassioned case against the sort of no discretion allowed zero tolerance policies against "weapons" that get kids suspended or expelled for having common eating implements, but I'm not going to do that.

Quoth Karin Klein: "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."


ACK!! What is this? "A knife is a knife and a rule is a rule"? That's the lesson you think Zach should take from this - mindless devotion to bad rules? Blind acquiescence?

Idiot. A knife is a knife, but not all knives are weapons. A rule is a rule, but bad rules should not be suffered nor allowed to stand. For a bad rule to fall, we must stand. It's called civil disobedience. It is your duty as a citizen to seek out and break asinine rules such as this. It is wholly reassuring to hear Zach call the rule out as wrong, and imminently disturbing that a 6 year old can see so clearly what some adults apparently cannot.

These rules are taken down only when the hot glare of the spotlight shows them for what they are. I don't want Zach to obey this rule in the future. I want more students to break these rules now.

anonymous Long Beach

When I was in high school and someone was caught doing something against the rules they were sent home. I don't know what happened with their parents or the law but they were back in school the next day where they belonged. Years later due to zero tolerance my son was expelled. I was devastated but he and his friends saw it as a reward not having to go to school and they all followed suit. I tried to warn the school that they were setting a bad example but zero tolerance meant they have no choice.

This system was put together because the people who run our schools have no common sense or judgment. I'm afraid until they are no more educated than the children they lead this will continue to be the case.

They took a kid who was in school and made him into a drop out. Now they are taking an innocent child and making him into a criminal.

Mara

What were the PARENTS thinking? Sure, the kid doesn't have the sense to understand what 'zero tolerance' means, but the parents who allowed him to carry the implement to school certainly should!


How oblivious were THEY not to know the rules that the vast majority of schools operate under? Everyone knows by now that you can't carry knives to school. Too bad about the kid, but the parents are the ones who sent him off to school with a weapon tucked in with his PB&J.

paul

Safetyfirst....well done!

stayinline

And does anyone think that a person any age who
plans to take a knife to school for wrong reasons is going to leave the knife outside because there is a "rule is a rule" in force?
Run these kids through a metal detector, non abusive, very discreet and doees the job with no rules. GET WITH IT!

OIFVet@USC

If six year old boys can’t reason, it’s because they were never taught in a society that promotes the use of diapers to the age of 4 or 5 and lets their children gain their only knowledge through “Barney the Purple Dinosaur and through product marketing and advertisement.

My son was born in China, and we were told that at the age of 4, he had the daily chore of lighting the pilot flame of a gas stove in the orphanage that he was assigned to. Here in the U.S. and at the age of 7, he was shooting in .22 rifle competition in the Cub Scouts at the local Marine Corps base that hosts the Scouts for activities several times a year.

Finally, when I was in Iraq, we marveled at the responsibilities displayed by young boys there who chopped wood, boiled water, cut up chickens for the family dinner, and even cleaned the family AK47 assault rifle without mishap. Why? Because they were taught properly, just like children in America once hunted with weapons, carried pocket knives, and performed household chores with sharp implements.

If American children don’t have the reasoning skills to get them through life, then it is because our lame society doesn’t have the reasoning skills to bring them up properly.


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