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Author: toni

~ 10/13/09


Ah, yes. Yet another example of the extremism that has taken over our country. I call it the pendulum effect. Something bad happens, people suddenly react in the extreme to every little thing thereafter. They swing from one side all the way to the other and it takes a really, really long time to get back to the middle.

Case in point. 6 year-old ZACHARY CHRISTIE of Newark, Delaware, joined the Cub Scouts. And like many scouts he was given the tools of the trade. In this case, it was one of those little camping utensils that you can use as a fork, knife and spoon…you know, if you happen to find yourself in the jungles of Bora Bora without proper dinnerware.

Well, Zachary, like any kid excited about a new toy, brought it to school so he could use it to eat lunch and undoubtedly, show it to his friends who would be so impressed he’d get to go first at handball during recess.

Guess what happened? No, he did not go first on the handball court. Zachary got suspended and is facing 45 days in the district’s reform school! Yep. Apparently school officials decided the gadget violated their zero-tolerance policy for utensils weapons.

Okay. It has a knife on it which, yes, can be dangerous. Especially in the hands of a child. But as far as I’m concerned, unless the FBI found an elaborate plot on his computer at home to shank the lunch lady who serves the mystery gruel, the kid is only guilty of stupid kid judgment. If kids even HAVE judgment which, based on my experience with that age group, seems pretty lamely developed at the age of 6. Let’s face it. At that age, any sense of judgment is almost always overruled by anything that might be remotely cool. You know, like taking your scout tool with a knife on it to school. Cooool.

Truthfully, his parents should have taken the tool away from him while he wasn’t using it in scouts. I’d keep it out of reach of my 7 year-old unless I was present. But not because I would be afraid she’d purposely “stick” somebody with it, but because she’d probably end up sticking herself with it…likely in the eye while running down the steps three at a time on her way to the TV to watch an iCarly episode for the 4th time. Because no matter how many times you tell a kid not to run with sharp objects in their hands, they always “forget”. Which, come to think of it, may be the reason they watch the same show over and over and over again.

Maybe, his parents didn’t take it away from him because they thought it was enough to tell him not to take the knife to school or not to use it when he wasn’t at Scouts. But again, at the age of 6, there’s a tug-of- war going on between good judgment (if there is any) and impulse. And where candy and dangerous items are concerned, impulse usually wins out. Ask any ER doc. Or Randy the perfekt husband who, as a kid, burned his eyebrows off playing with lighter fluid and water. Kids, never blow out fire in a bucket with your face too close. Or at all!

Look, I’m a believer in a zero-tolerance policy on weapons in school. I know it’s necessary after Columbine and Virginia Tech. But the school should also look at cases individually when rendering their punishment. Seriously, reform school? I doubt the kid had nefarious plans. I doubt he had the schematics to the school’s air duct system for a quick getaway after a first grade massacre.  I doubt this kid had anything more heinous on his computer than the URL for Webkinz.

Did the kid use poor judgment? Sure. Could someone have gotten hurt? Absolutely. Was this a premeditated act for which he should be severely punished. I seriously doubt it!

So what should be his punishment? A reprimand maybe. A strong talking to explaining WHY what he did was wrong. Followed by an explanation as to why it’s okay to use the gadget in Cub Scouts but NOT for eating lunch at school…And by the way, good luck on that one.

The most troubling part of all of this is that this poor kid will likely get labelled as a “problem child”. I mean, he’s already been suspended from school (he’s being home-schooled while his parents try to overturn his punishment). And the label alone could alter the course of his future. Because people will treat him as a problem child. And if he’s tormented or ostracized enough, he may likely lash out by behaving as such.

And even if he is emotionally unaffected (which is doubtful) – what about his school record? I wouldn’t want my kid’s record marred by an entry that said “sentenced to reform school for carrying a knife at school”. Because YOU KNOW that’s what it says. It doesn’t say, “sentenced to reform school by over-reacting administrators because he brought his Cub Scout eating utensil to school to eat his lunch.”


If you agree, go to a website started by Zachary’s mom Christie in the hopes of recruiting supporters to pressure local school officials to rethink their punishment. Also on the website, there is information about Zachary. About zero-tolerance policies as well as a petition you can sign.

Come on people! Let’s show a little common sense.


UPDATE: Ironically, after I did this post, I read that Dylan Klebold’s mother has finally (10 years later) spoken out about the Columbine shootings. Her interview is in the current Oprah Magazine.  Or see Diane Sawyer’s piece on it by CLICKING HERE.

SECOND UPDATE: It was announced today Zachary Christie has been cleared to go to school and will not face 45 days in a reform school. The seven-member Christina School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to reduce the punishment for kindergartners and first-graders who take weapons to school or commit violent offenses to a suspension ranging from three to five days.

Okay, I am glad for Zachary. But again, they’re being so short-sighted. Why do they have to make a broad ruling? Why can’t they go on a case by case basis. If a first grader comes to school with a knife and deliberately stabs people, I don’t think he should only get a 2 to 5 day suspension. Sigh.

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  1. See, things like this happen when administrators try to dodge liability but creating nonsense “zero-tolerance” plans instead of executing judgment and using authority to make a case-by-case deliberation. Thank the lawyers.

    Comment by Heironymousmortek — October 13, 2009 @ 10:23 am

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