School Climate & Safety

Zero Tolerance Gone Wild?

By Dakarai I. Aarons — October 12, 2009 1 min read

The Christina, Del., school district’s zero-tolerance policy has raised a few eyebrows and landed the district on the front page of The New York Times this morning.

The story tells the tale of Zachary Christie, a 6-year-old who found himself suspended from his school for 45 days after he brought a three-way utensil to use with his lunch. He got the camping utensil after joining the Boy Scouts and was so excited he wanted to use it at school.

Rather than having her son sent to reform school, Zachary’s mom is homeschooling him while his family appeals the decision.

Lawmakers in Delaware made some changes to the state’s zero-tolerance laws last year to give more flexibility to school districts after previous incidents in Christina and elsewhere, but that hasn’t helped in Zachary’s case yet.

UPDATE: I am scheduled to appear on CBS’s The Early Show tomorrow morning to discuss Zachary’s case and zero-tolerance policies nationwide. The show starts at 7 a.m. EST.

UPDATE 2: I didn’t end up on the show, but you can watch the interview with Zachary and his parents here.

In Texas, school districts are changing their policies after the Lone Star State’s legislature passed a law that has caused school district’s to scrub away such zero-tolerance policies, according to The Dallas Morning News. School administrators must now consider mitigating factors when doling out punishments, including intent, disciplinary history, and the mental capacity of the child.

Do you think districts should keep such Columbine-era zero-tolerance policies? Or should administrators have more discretion in punishing students?

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.