Outrage of the Week: Boy Suspended for Cub Scout Utensil

Six-year-old Suspended for Bringing Beloved Cub Scout Fork/Spoon/Knife To School.

That’s about all you need to know. Oh — and now he has to be homeschooled for 45 days (no problem for any parent to suddenly take off a couple months of work, right?). Or he can go to reform school.

I guess with all the other bloodthirsty Cub Scouts.

Read all about it here, in this New York Times article. But basically, I think you can guess what transpired. A little Delaware boy, thrilled with his new scouting utensil, brought it to school to use it to eat his lunch. Officials suspended him under the “zero tolerance” policy for “weapons.”

Which apparently is bureaucratese for “zero tolerance for common sense.”

While there seems to be some regret on the part of Delaware, where state legislators have tried to make disciplinary decisions a bit more flexible (but didn’t quite finish the job), the president of the school board told the Times, “There is no parent who wants to get a phone call where they hear that their child no longer has two good seeing eyes because there was a scuffle and someone pulled out a knife.”

That is indisputably true. But no parent wants to get a call to hear their child is going to a school where the president of the board cannot distinguish between “Show and Tell” and Saw IV.

The kid’s mom started a site, Help Zachary, where you can sign a petition saying what needs to be said…except in much more polite language.

“Zero Tolerance” has resulted in crazy things in other districts, too. In Baltimore, for instance, 10,000 kids have been suspended thanks to that policy. Time to stick a spork in it. — Lenore

103 Responses

  1. What’s absurd is that the article you linked to clearly states that the item was not a spork, but a camp tool that included a knife. I highly doubt a spork would have caused this incident. I’ve noticed that your articles tend toward sensationalism in the opposite direction. If you’re actually interested in your movement, I would highly suggest against hyperbole.

    It IS crazy that a butter knife counts under the Zero Tolerance act, but call it what it is.

  2. I agree that the problem is that the tool does include a knife (I had one as a Scout myself). I don’t agree with the severe punishment, especially considering his intentions were innocent enough.

  3. This kid brought a pocket knife to school. It’s not a spork, it’s a fork, spoon, and knife. Even though his intentions were “pure”, he still deserves to be punished. He clearly brough a weapon to school.

    The punishment is too severe though.

  4. Wait. Your article is about Delaware, but you are citing stats from Baltimore. Baltimore is in Maryland. Close by, but not the same state.

  5. A friend of mine was expelled from school in NYC for wearing a black trench coat and a dragon necklace to school on halloween, because the necklance was pointy on the bottom, and could be considered a weapon (though it was in no way meant to be a knife, or a weapon) and they “suspected” he was a part of some “trench coat mafia”. This was after Columbine, but his fashion choice had nothing to do with some shooting up the school pact. In fact, it was a birthday gift from grandma. Ugh. I understand the need for safety, but they really take it too far.

  6. Kevin, why does every disciplinary matter have to end in punishment? Couldn’t he just be told “Yo, don’t do it again!” and have it taken away until he goes home?

  7. Kevin – When did a eating utensil become a weapon? Oh right, when the crazy people took over. This six year old does not deserve to be punished nor does any one who brings a dinner knife to school to use for their food. The adults who were so concerned about the children that they can’t use their brains should be. Shame on all of them.

  8. Yeah, take it away, hand it over to his parents, and tell him not to let it happen again. A teenager, maybe, but a six year old? Nah.

  9. Thank goodness my school has more sense. 3 years ago, my then 7 year old son had gone with his father for some “Man Time” and left his pocket knife in his cargo pants. He wore the same pants to school the next day (I don’t know if they were still clean – I let him dress himself) and the knife was still there. When he found out that he hadn’t emptied his pockets, he told his teacher and she called our home to come get it. We did. The principal was informed but she saw the situation for what it was and no disciplinary action was taken. End of story. These days it seems that common sense has left the buiding.

  10. And seriously, if a kid wanted to bring a knife to school to do harm, they would find a way to do it. Busting the innocent kids for mistakes does NOTHING to increase the safety. It’s not like the Columbine shooters went up to their teacher and said “Um, I accidentally brought a gun to school today…”

    Might as well ban anyone from entering a bank. They might have a concealed weapon and be a bank robber!

  11. “he still deserves to be punished” seriously?! he’s six! that’s as ridiculous as the statement, “They had to suspend him because, “regardless of possessor’s intent,” knives are banned.” They didn’t HAVE to suspend him. They could have called his mom. They could have confiscated the utensil (not weapon) until his mom or dad could come fetch it. They could have sent him home for the day, if it was really that serious. by his mom’s description, this is a little boy who takes school seriously. he’s not a miniature homicidal knife-wielding maniac.
    @ jennifer- the original article is about a boy in delaware, but cites statistics from several other places as well.

  12. Yes, the crazy people have taken over. Zero tolerence policies are not the solution. That’s not my point… my point is that he brought a knife to school.

    He should have been punished by being sent to the principal’s office and maybe sent home. Nothing like what happened.

  13. That’s not my point… my point is that he brought a knife to school.

    That didn’t used to be a problem. People used to be able to bring pocketknives to school to sharpen pencils, cut apples, and the like. Your point still doesn’t follow. Even sending him to the principal’s office is overkill for the first time if this is against the rules – tell him he can’t do it anymore and be done with it.

  14. It’s sad to see the same twisted zero-tolerance logic showing up here in the comments. I’d expect better from the readers. Unless someone can make the case that this six year old intentionally brought a knife to school to harm others then his punishments is absurd. Not allowing school officials the ability to make such a distinction is absurd. Taking the position that he broke the rules and therefore must be punished–is absurd. As someone else said, admonishing the boy not to do it again should have been enough.

    Are the schools run by such complete idiots that the legislature has to decide for them what the rules and punishments are, without any room for common sense? If so then this state has much larger problems than supposedly armed and dangerous six-year-old cub scouts. I’d suggest the real issue is legislators armed with pens and a complete lack of sense.

  15. Uly, why doesn’t my point follow? The school has a “no knives” policy. Why is that a bad policy? Forgot malicious intent, kids make mistakes and accidents happen. The policy is in place to protect everyone. I don’t see that as a bad thing.

    Where do you draw the line? Butter knives: OK. Steak knives: OK. Pencil sharpening knives: OK. Bowie knives: Prohibited.

    I don’t see getting sent to the principal’s office as a big deal. It’s an easy way to explain to this kid that he did something wrong and why it was wrong. Nothing further needs to be done.

  16. I only had one full year of school before grade 7, so I wasn’t acquainted will with all the ‘common sense’ rules. First day of grade 7 I brought my knife to school. Not a pocket knife but a 6″ blade. Not a weapon- a tool.

    Teacher calmly pulled me aside with no fuss, told me I couldn’t have it at school, and put it in her desk. I got it back after school and never brought it back. Problem solved.

  17. Yes, kids make mistakes and accidents happen. For example: One kid makes a mistake of breaking the rules. An accident. Why drag it down to the principal? It IS a big deal to go to the principal’s office when you’re a kid. Everybody goes “Oooooh, what you did!” and “You’re in TROUBLE!” and all that. Why is having the teacher take it away and give it back at the end of the day insufficient?

    The school has a “no knives” policy. Why is that a bad policy? Forgot malicious intent, kids make mistakes and accidents happen. The policy is in place to protect everyone. I don’t see that as a bad thing.

    Well, we can look at the statistics – how many kids were harmed *before* policies against penknives became common as compared to how many were harmed after.

    Where do you draw the line? Butter knives: OK. Steak knives: OK. Pencil sharpening knives: OK. Bowie knives: Prohibited.

    How about “Knives with a sharpened blade longer than such-and-fuch a length aren’t okay”? That removes the niggling that you seem to think this requires.

  18. Um, Kevin, is a six year old even physcially capable of doing any serious bodily injury with an eating utensil?

    Maybe that would be an argument for more physical education in schools…

  19. If the teacher took the knife away for the day, that would be fine by me. That’s still a punishment in my book.

    I’m not saying that niggling is appropriate. We were not safer when schools allowed penknives. This policy of no knives is perfectly acceptable.

  20. Zero tolerance is just an excuse for school administrators to get out of making judgment calls and thus avoiding responsibility. It’s not helping our children, it’s helping school officials act like children. For an offense such as this, a warning system is called for so that children who make an innocent mistake don’t have things like reform school on their permanent record when it clearly doesn’t belong there.

  21. Layne, that’s not the point. No knives means no knives. Why is that so wrong?

  22. He brought what looks to be a dull knife, part of a camping kit that they give to scouts (beaver scouts? cub scouts?). A knife, therefore, that the Scouting organization is perfectly happy to arm lots of 6 year old boys with.

    If I were to think of things that were more *dangerous* at school – in the context of putting eyes out – then surely pencils or pens would rank higher on the list than would a dull knife, right?

    Let’s just take away pens, pencils, and anything else with an edge! Zippers? They can cause harm… What else? Scissors! Unbelievably, many schools actually require children to bring scissors!

    This is absolutely ludicrous, and I hope that the people in charge of this policy are ashamed of themselves.

    There’s more Zero Tolerance weird stories here, if you’d like to be further disturbed…
    http://www.thisistrue.com/zt.html

    Good luck, Zachary!

  23. Hopefully they homeschool for 45 days, realize how wonderful it is, and go happily on their way.😉

  24. We were not safer when schools allowed penknives.

    Maybe not, but are we more safe now?

    If the teacher took the knife away for the day, that would be fine by me. That’s still a punishment in my book.

    Not in mine. And anyway, why does it have to be a punishment? Why can’t it just be an explanation of why this isn’t allowed and a reminder not to let it happen again? Not everything really requires punishment!

  25. Required #2 pencils are undoubtably more likely to take out an eye than a butter knife. Stupid rules like this exist because parents and administration apparently do not trust their teachers to make judgement calls on what constitutes a reasonable threat. Anything can be used as a weapon, and personally, if I had to choose a weapon from a set of utensels, I’d go for the FORK.

  26. Maybe “zero tolerance” really means “zero common sense.”

  27. Reading the artical made me sad… It sounds like the extreme use of 0 policy came about not because of a fear of butter knives, but because it was being employed more strictly among non-white students. Rather than deal with the issue of racism they decided to just pnish everyone with uniform harshness. This is not a saftey issue… at least, not a knife saftey issue.

  28. Did anyone else catch the other outrage in the NYT article? The spoon/knife/fork-wielding 6 year old got off easy with only got 45 days.

    “For Delaware, Zachary’s case is especially frustrating because last year state lawmakers tried to make disciplinary rules more flexible by giving local boards authority to, “on a case-by-case basis, modify the terms of the expulsion.”

    The law was introduced after a third-grade girl was expelled for a year because her grandmother had sent a birthday cake to school, along with a knife to cut it. The teacher called the principal — but not before using the knife to cut and serve the cake.”

  29. my head just exploded. I think I might have just accidentally turned into a libertarian.

    This is what happens when you give authority to people that do not deserve to wield it.

    Did anyone bother asking whether a “zero tolerance” policy would have prevented Columbine, VA Tech, or any of the countless lesser violent crimes? I mean, USING a knife in school for the purposes of injuring another person was already not allowed, right?

  30. OK, maybe punishment is too strong of a word. The kid should have been told by an authority figure to not do this again. He should have been corrected, not punished.

    Still, a no knives policy is a good policy in my opinion.

  31. Okay, I guess I can concur with you, Kevin.

  32. kids also used to bring guns to school, but they’d use them to shoot rabbits for dinner on their way home, not to kill their classmates.

    Are we safer now that they’ve banned guns from school? I’d argue no, we’re not. You can ban all sorts of “weapons” (knives, guns, nunchucks, nail files) from school and the violent kids will still find something to use to hurt other people. The good kids, like Zachary, are being punished for the policies we’ve made to combat the bad kids.

  33. What is a “weapon”?
    One school in California has prohibited lapel pins on the premise that the 3/8-inch post might be used as a weapon.
    Common sense and reality both died when “politiclly correct” became the law of the land.

  34. In the new article it states that the Dad bought it for him for Boy Scouts. Here is some facts about Scout being able to carry knifes:
    The dad, Curtis, certainty didn’t read nor learn about the Boy Scouts knife usage policy. A boy scout cannot carry or use a knife without getting the boy scout Whittling Chip card whenever he has his pocketknife. The Scout must be at least a Bear and complete Bear Achievement 19. This child being 6 would be a Tiger, two ranks more away from a Bear.
    The Scout must also:
    Demonstrate knowledge and skill in the use of the pocketknife
    Take the Pocketknife Pledge
    and agree to:
    Treat my pocketknife with the respect due as a useful tool
    Always close my pocketknife and put it away when not in use
    Will not us my pocketknife when it might injure someone near me
    Will never throw my pocketknife for any reason
    And use my pocketknife in a safe manner at all times
    The Scout must then sign and carry the Whittling Chip Card whenever he has his pocketknife and is expected that if an adult leader should ask to see his card. If he can’t the knife is confiscated and is returned to his parents.
    This isn’t really the schools fault it is Curtis (Dad) that would buy a 6 year old a pocketknife for Boy Scouts.

  35. Your article mentions that the mother started a site, but the link is botched up and also goes to the same NYT article as the first link.

    Anyone have that website?

  36. Yes, it’s a knife – have you ever tried to actually cut something with that particular type of knife?!? I have finger nail files that are sharper… oh, is that covered in the Code? NO, it’s not, nor are matches or lighters. ???

    The larger horror here is the recommendation from the School District committee to place this 6-year-old at The Douglass School, a reform school for juvenile delinquents. A K-12 school for children with severe behavioral problems and who are guilty of such offenses as assault and battery, rape, and drug offenses. Note it’s K-12; Zachary’s current school is K-5.

    THIS is why we are suing everyone over everything – common sense seems to be in very short supply in our society nowadays!

  37. How about removing the tool from the child, reminding him that we don’t bring those to school, and then just handing it to his parents at the end of the day? Hmm, that’s how it was handled when I was in school.

  38. @Mommys Midlife Crisis, here’s the link. http://www.helpzachary.com/

  39. “This isn’t really the schools fault it is Curtis (Dad) that would buy a 6 year old a pocketknife for Boy Scouts.”

    Yeah, the nerve of that guy! Not realizing that how, in the modern world, all policies are driven by an irrational fear of lawsuits rather than sense. Just once I’d like to meet a lawyer who would go ahead and say, “Oh don’t worry about it, the chances of that happening are vanishingly small.”

    We live in a zero tolerance society. If something bad happens to one person out of hundreds of millions then we must make sure it never happens to us–at all cost. And that cost? Typically it is the loss of our sense of community and our quality of life.

  40. “Zero tolerance” in which a given action leads directly to a severe consequence with no consideration of the circumstances is a dumb idea which springs, I suspect, from the desire of people in charge to avoid responsibility for making decisions. In real life, we have prosecutors and judges and juries (responsible people all) to weigh the circumstances and decide what punishment if any is appropriate.

    A sensible policy assigns decision-making responsibility at the level where it belongs. In the case of weapons at school, it probably belongs with the principal. Perhaps a “zero tolerance” policy at the level of teachers makes sense. It’s not their job to deal with it so any weapon would be confiscated and sent, along with its owner, to the principal. The principal then must weigh the circumstances and decide what ought to be done. This would require the principal to grow a pair and take responsibility for the decision rather than blindly following some policy.

    This is roughly the model of the mandated reporter laws for suspected child abuse. Educators (and many others) MUST report suspected child abuse, there’s zero tolerance for it. However, the consequences of this report are that someone responsible (a children’s services case worker for example) looks into all the circumstances and, along with a judge if necessary, makes a determination about what should happen and takes responsibility for it (ideally at least).

    The question then is, why are principals afraid to take responsibility? I suspect that they are afraid at both ends of the spectrum. They worry about failing to remove someone who turns out to be a problem which is very very very rare event but which has potentially severe consequences, and they worry about someone they do suspend,or more likely their parents, raising a stink about it (much more common). It’s much easier to point to a rigid policy and say “sorry, I have no choice” than to say “I made a decision and I take responsibility for it”. But isn’t that why we pay them the big bucks?

  41. My son is 9 and carried his swiss army knife to school two weeks ago. The NC laws says he should have been suspended for 10 days and the police called. The principal sent him home for 3 days. This man knew that my son meant no harm to anyone but did have to make an example.

  42. Zero tolerance policies have to be some of the silliest, most nonsensical “weapons” that school officials have come up with, in the last few years, to “protect” the kids! We’re letting the inmates run the asylum! I believe they’re related to the same nitwits that run airport “security”.

    I’ve carried a pocket knife since I was about eight years old, (I’m forty-eight now), and, to date, I have never used it on anyone, (and, yes, I used to carry it to school, everyday). Strangely enough, I’ve always considered it to be a tool. I didn’t know I was such a danger to everyone around me through all these years.

    I so enjoy having our children, grandchildren, and ourselves, being judged guilty before the fact. And, let us not forget that oh-so-secure feeling of being protected by the authorities, (for our own good, of course), against any and all threats to our well-being. I never knew that I needed such protection until “they” decided it for me. Silly me…

  43. I have zero tolerance for zero tolerance policies. By their very definition common sense reasoning must be ignored.

  44. I know that this site had statistics about violence and about how many kids have been poisoned with Halloween candy…

    Are there any stats about how much more or less violent schools are than 30 years ago? I’d be curious to know if schools did get more dangerous or if the media just reports every incident and makes us fee like they are.

  45. Again I recall my own childhood, when having a pocketknife on school grounds was considered perfectly normal for a young boy.

  46. After reading all the above posts, it seems, for the most part, everyone agrees that the no knife policy is good but the enforcement and punishments are ludicrous. I agree, but the bigger issue here is that a group of educated adults want to send a six year old to a school attended by violent juvenile offenders.

    Let’s ask this question. If the mother decided to leave the boy at an after school activity where most of the participants were violent juvenile offenders, would she be considered neglectful by child services? My guest is that the answer is yes. She would be investigated and probably, at the least, be made to remove her child from that activity. I also think that child services would be correct in doing so.

    Maybe the parents should call child services on the school board.

  47. Two days a week my husband actually works in a school like they want to send this young child. Those are NOT the kind of people you want young children around. The least harmful of these kids, in the school he works in twice a week, filled a lightbulb with gasoline and put it in his teacher’s desk lamp to see if when she turned it on it would blow her up. Yes, let’s send this innocent little boy there. That would do him a world of good.

  48. someone needs to overturn that decision. also, they need state-level policy specifying that a suspension over one week may not take place without state-level authorization.

    45 days is so punitive, so ridiculously not constructive, and will be so detrimental – i’m wondering who is this stupid, really.

  49. A long time ago I decided on a zero-tolerance policy for schools. I got tired of overly-harsh punishments being handed out to everyone, including the innocent.

    So I don’t tolerate schools, and don’t subject my children to them. Mine are totally free-range, including being free-range learners.

    Some of the stupidity, just from my local school district:

    * A kindergartner, who didn’t even legally have to be in school yet in my state, was expelled for her mother having packed a plastic knife for her to use to spread peanut butter from a little container on her crackers.

    *A high school honor student was expelled for accidentally forgetting to remove a knife used in a physics class from his lab coat. This was only a week before graduation. He didn’t bring it to school; he just forgot to set it back on the desk and then wore his lab coat to his locker.

    *and again and again: the kids being bullied, who are jumped on and beat up, are the ones punished along with the person who chased them down and beat them up. They weren’t fighting. One was being assaulted, but it’s happening in school so both must be punished.

    Thus, my zero-tolerance policy. I don’t want my kids subjected to the kindergarten mentality of the bureaucrats, especially if it could affect their college educations, as it did for the kids who was expelled just before graduation. He had great grades and was captain of just about every sports team he was on, and had multiple scholarship offers. All that was jeopardized by the school expelling him and refusing him a diploma. Talk about an organization that needs to get its head out of its rear.

  50. We had a ‘zero tolerance’ issue in Colorado a while back…a 17 year old girl was suspended for “bringing a gun to school”.

    Turns out some concerned student was walking by her car and noticed the butt end of a rifle. The administration investigated and found that the captain of the drill team, a sanctioned after school activity, had her drill ‘gun’ in the car; a piece of wood sorta resembling the shape of a gun in her car.

    Stupid. Zero Tolerance is stupid.

  51. Lenore,

    Thanks for showcasing how silly so many
    public school administrators can be these days.

    Parents – talk to your kids about stories
    like these. They can be great “critical thinking”
    learning opportunities…good examples of adults
    not being as “smart” as most children are.

  52. have most of our teachers lost their minds?? I can remember being in HS back in the 60’s and most of the boys had shotguns in their trunks, the minute school was out they would go duck or pheasant hunting, sure wouldn’t happen today. Anything can be made into a weapon, just ask the prison officials, so a little boy so proud of being a cub scout has to go through this, what is our FREE country coming too?

  53. Let’s get this straight. If he brings a flick knife to school he still only gets 45 days?

    Need it be pointed out that knives aren’t necessarily weapons. Some clearly are. A butter knife is not a weapon. Can he take knitting needles to school?

    As we say in Australia: “that’s not a knife…that’s a knife!”

  54. Keep in mind also, that he brought an EATING UTENSIL to school, not a knife, pocket or otherwise!

  55. When will we get past this zero tolerance, black and white thinking? Why is it so far-fetched to address these situations on a case-by-case basis, to embrace the inherent grays in every scenario? Thanks for the link.

  56. Keep in mind also, that he brought an EATING UTENSIL to school, not a knife, pocket or otherwise!

    No, Layne, it’s this combined spork-knife thing. A Spife!

  57. @Uly
    You are clearly ignoring the fact that the words “spork” and “knife” CANNOT be combined into the contraction form “spife” because this leaves out the central, and IMHO most dangerous of plastic utencils, the fork. This oversight is terribly irresponsible and really just serves to weaken your entire pro-knife argument.

  58. @Bill

    The Scout policy you quote at some length does not apply here, as the knife in question is part of an eating utensil set…not an edged pocket knife.

    I admit to being of an age who remembers when boys of middle school age or above routinely carried pocket knives. But those were the days when educators were still capable of thinking and exercising judgment.

  59. A Scoutmaster I had a very long time ago commented concerning Zachery’s “weapon”, “Whoever invited that set should be sentenced to eat with it.”
    The folding tableware this boy has is not a pocket knife. The table knife in this set is about as dangerous as a tongue depressor.

  60. Meagan, coincidentally I left out the “fork” part of “spife” entirely, so we’ll just pretend I intended to say “spoon and fork” from the beginning.

  61. Honestly, if that school is wasting time and energy suspending a 6 year old boy who made an honest mistake, then school yard bullies at that school have nothing to worry about…

  62. Each year when our Cub Scouts are awarded their pocket knives they are given a stern lecture on not brining them to school. Every year, some kid invariably brings his to show his friends. The knife is confiscated, parents called, and kid suspended for two days. Seems very reasonable – I’m so glad our district hasn’t gone over the edge yet.

  63. I’ve carried knives to school. I’ve carried pencils to school. Guess which I’ve injured more people with?

    (Hint: there was an accident involving a crossbow built from school supplies.)

  64. What gets me about this is the age of this kid–6 years old. At that age, to react like this is so totally thoughtless.

    That–in my mind–is what ‘zero tolerance’ rules and laws are all about: zero tolerance for ambiguity, for ‘grey areas’, for thinking. The kid is a student, the rules dictate that students get long suspensions for bringing weapons, a boy scout mess kit utensil can be used as a weapon, ergo the utensil is a weapon, said weapon is in boy’s possession, conclusion: 45 day suspension, and the cold comfort that we can all rest more easily at night knowing that the making of yet another young criminal has been nipped in the bud.

    What nonsense. More likely the opposite extreme is true: another young angry, alienated man is in the making, or, perhaps, a cowed, scared young man is in the making. What’s got to be true is that a big message was sent to this kid (and in school no less) and that is that the grownups in control don’t allow thinking outside the lines.

  65. Jennifer, citing stats for Baltimore when relating a story that happened in Delaware isn’t a mistake. Both places are on the same planet, so if it’s a stupid policy with bad results in Baltimore (more kids getting kicked out of school than could possibly have been a real threat even in that fairly high-crime city, for example), that might have some relevance to whether it might be a stupid policy with bad results in Delaware, also.

    “This isn’t really the schools fault it is Curtis (Dad) that would buy a 6 year old a pocketknife for Boy Scouts.”

    It might have been a mistake to buy a pocket knife thinking he could use it in Boy Scouts, but there’s no “fault” in doing something that is not actually wrong. And buying a pocket knife for a child that IS old enough to be taught how to use it responsibly (even if the Boy Scouts choose not to do so) is not “wrong.” So nothing is the father’s “fault” at all.

  66. It is a sad day when
    a kid can no longer be
    a kid I remember when
    it was a positive experience to be
    a scout I guess kids have lost
    that right along with so many
    other joys of being a kid
    Does any one rember when
    Halloween was fun

  67. This story made http://detentionslip.org ! Check it out for all the crazy headlines from our schools.

  68. Teacher here. I have to ask… Do you people hear yourselves? I mean, really????

    First of all… Bill, Tom, et al… this article clearly says that it IS a fork, spoon, knife combo Cub Scout Mess kit…. no one’s disputing that. PLEASE google cub scout mess kit. THIS IS NOT A POCKET KNIFE! THERE IS NO SHARP BLADE! It is, at best, the equivalent of a butter knife, perhaps not as sharp as it is rather chunky and clunky. I had one in Brownies… when I was 6 or so. This knife, fork and spoon all connect together in one neat little package. Oh and Bill… You don’t take the Boy Scout knife wielding pledge for a mess kit because even they do not consider it a “knife”

    IT IS A TOOL; but then comparatively so are some of the people commenting on this article.

    I’ve been a teacher for 17 years in 3 different states. I have to say, NONE of the schools I’ve taught in would have had this problem.

    Even the dictionary (pick one) defines a weapon by its use (not its intended use) but its actual use. I’ve seen little dirtbags make a practical shank from sharpened pencils, rubber bands and tape (all legal at school). Kids can use a hefty math book as a weapon.

    And SO WHAT if a 6 -year old brings his little Cub Scout Mess Kit to school to eat with??? Who did he hurt? Did that school official really say the equivalent of “you’ll put your eye out???” Really??? Oh my god, I hope NONE of the kids use scissors, because they would be sharper than this so called “knife”

    Here is how any teacher, administrator or even the superintendent of my school district would handle the same situation.

    “Wow, Sweetie, that is a really neat mess kit” (YES, THEY WOULD HAVE KNOWN WHAT IT WAS)… “and it’s great for camp outs, but at school, only the grown-ups can use the knife part. You go ahead and use the fork and spoon, and I’ll hold onto the knife part for you.” Then, you politely call the parents and say, “hey, he can’t bring the mess kit knife to school, so I’ll put it in the school office for you to pick up later.”

    Where are all the “grown ups” at this school? Or, is this the type of school system that even orders scripted reading and math programs that actually tell the teachers.. “you say this, the kids say that” like a bunch of poorly trained circus ferrets?

    Could someone please loan these fools a cup of common sense? Perhaps a gram of professional judgment? Heck, they’d do well with a pinch of reality!

  69. to Ali, about the drill team. When I was in high school (late 1980s) if my principal walked out to the parking lot and saw the butt end of a rifle in the back of a car… he would have gone nuts.

    He would have immediately, without hesitation, called that student to the car and make him (or her) take out the rifle… so he could have a better look. Then he’d probably show them the one he had in his trunk because he and 3/4 of the school population was leaving at noon to go deer hunting.

    All the boys had rifles (and ammo) in the back of their trucks, on racks in the window. School shootings to date– zero. All the boys had pocket knives. ALL of them. School knife incidents– zero. That’s a lie, we did have one student hurt with a knife. As I recall, he slipped with the blade while he was opening a box of prizes for the senior class carnival and had to go to the nurse for a bandage.. no stitches.

    How did we all make it?

  70. I think we should have zero tolerance on every act that a child performs. When the child utters its first word, we should not tolerate silence. When the child doesn’t listen to others, we should not tolerate its speech. Every moment an adult should be watchful of the child and not tolerate anything less that a rejoicing in their life. Everytime we think we see an unsafe behaviour like backbiting or violence or failing to proceed with awareness, we should step right in and meet the child, and ask them, “Hi (darling thing), what are you doing at this moment?” and whatever their reply, there is another question that we can ask until we and the child becomes self-aware of the behavior and the solution. Sometimes we do need to create a protective shield for a moment eg grabbing the child from wandering into the traffic or cutting through noise with a commanding tone. We should have no tolerance for adult society that can’t use the dialogue, the demonstration, the caring, and the fairness, to produce a state of constant learning for the child. There may be some point in a child’s life in which segregation is necessary for the safety of the child and others, but in all the cases I have ever seen, there have been adults at the cause of that childs dangerous behaviour, and the failure of society to take that child under its wing, has eventually lead to the growing of another wayward adult.

  71. Ha ha, Silvermine, that was my first thougt reading this!

    Also, a little off the subject (in my defense, everyone has already said what I would have) but the parents do not have to stop working to homeschool their child. I work all day 4 days a week and I manage to do it. They could use weekends and afternoons/evenings. Homeschooling a 6yo should not take more than 2 hours a day so it is definitely manageable to work and homeschool.

    Lenore, if the parents would like some advice on how to manage it you are welcome to pass on my email address. I have been working full-time and homeschooling for 6 years now.

  72. This is ridiculous. As others have pointed out it is NOT a pocket knife. It is a mess kit and the knife is no sharper than any number of things. I know a kid who was deeply scratched in the face by someone with a pencil. Had to have the face derma-bonded. The other student got a ten day suspension. Giving this child a 45 day “prison” term stinks. Take it away, call the parents and tell him not to do it again.

  73. I had a student bring a pocket knife to school. He left it in his backpack after a camping trip. We turned it in in the office. AP locked it up and called Dad to pick it up. The boy was punished by his father for failing to clean out his backpack of camping equipment. He was 10.

    Last year a kid brought a sharpish knife to school with his lunch. A parent feeding her 2nd grader got all upset and insisted he be suspended. Thankfully the knife was within the rules. (Less sharp than the pointy scissors the older kids have). Principal told Mom to calm down and get a life – but he was more diplomatic.

    One of my 4th graders fork, spoon, knife, and chopsticks in her lunch kit every day. No-one blinks.

    4 years ago we had a kindergartner that tried on at least two occasions to stab another student “to see what would happen”. Once with a pencil, once with kinder safety scissors. We didn’t ban pencils or scissors – we started paperwork to force the family to get an evaluation of the child.

  74. Last year a kid brought a sharpish knife to school with his lunch. A parent feeding her 2nd grader got all upset and insisted he be suspended. Thankfully the knife was within the rules. (Less sharp than the pointy scissors the older kids have). Principal told Mom to calm down and get a life – but he was more diplomatic.

    You let the moms of the second graders come in and feed their children in the school instead of having the kids feed themselves? Wow. Just… wow. I can NOT imagine that.

  75. Time to follow the money…who is running the reform school?
    Who is paying for the reform school with whose tax dollars?
    Those are questions that need answering also.

    Home schooling? I highly recommend K12.com
    They are on line home based schooling. They get the money instead of your school district when you sign up.
    I believe it is the future of education.

  76. I have a permanent black mark on my right palm from where I accidentally stabbed myself with a pencil in 4th grade. I’m now 34. The pencil was one that I’d brought with me to school from home. Should I have been suspended and forcibly home schooled, or faced with reform school for bringing a dangerous weapon with me?

    I have never had, nor have I ever known anyone who has had, an incident where they injured themselves or someone else with a butter knife. (Not that it couldn’t EVER happen, I guess…) I think the kid’s punishment was excessive, but that’s just my opinion. Feel free to agree or disagree as you see fit. I just have one question: are there no knives allowed anywhere in the school? No plastic knives in the cafeteria? If the kids run into a particularly large chunk of…well, whatever they’re serving in school cafeterias these days…must they gnaw it into more manageable pieces like a dog chewing on a bone, or does the school actually permit them to use some sort of cutting utensils to get the job done? If the answer is yes, then how is that any different from what this kid brought in from home? (I was also a Girl Scout. I’ve used those combo camping utensils, and they bear no resemblance whatsoever to pocket knives, or bowie knives, or any of the more threatening items that some previous commenters have mentioned.) Why should it make a difference if the thing was brought from home, when in theory, the same accidents it could have caused (but didn’t) could have also been caused by knives provided to the kids by the school???

  77. Uly,
    There is no LETTING them come in and feed their kids. By law we can not ban them from doing this except on TAKS testing days – and for 3 years running now they have thrown mega fits on TAKS days. This year the infant class are 3rd graders.

    They have been repeatedly told they are infantalizing their kids and how bad this is for their kids. They respond with but s/he is my baby. This class is the by word of baby behavior in the school. We predict they will be eaten alive in middle school.

    Our social worker has been trying to get these parents into parenting classes since the kids were in kinder. The parents have a group picture in the dictionary beside helicopter parents.

  78. So it’s JUST that year?

    Oh, wait – these kids were all born in 2001, right? Maybe that explains it… I guess. Those poor kids!

    (And seriously? You can’t keep random adults out of the school? Man, I have *got* to tell that to the staff here! I’d love to be able to just come in and do whatever whenever I wanted!)

  79. Also, your name-link is wrong. It links to worpress instead of wordpress🙂

  80. they probably use safety scissors at that school. i brought mine from home so id have good scissors. actualy i broughtconstruction paper markers glue every thing with me in case the class room didnt have any.

  81. I’m reminded of a story I read a while back, where a high school senior was prohibited from attending her own graduation because school officials found a pair of scissors with a two-inch blade in the first aid kit in her car.

    I’ll repeat that last part – in her CAR.

    Yes, sixteen-year-old kids are allowed to have full control of motor vehicles – the most common killer of young people in your country (and probably mine, I haven’t looked up the stats) – but God forbid they be carrying a tiny pair of scissors around with them while doing so. Because that’s dangerous.

  82. If we’re going to ban from schools anything that could possibly be used as a weapon, let’s not go about it half-arsed. A sharpened pencil can become a weapon in the wrong hands. We need to introduce a zero-tolerance policy for pencils next. Actually, I’m surprised they haven’t done so already, along with pencil sharpeners. After all, all it takes is a small screwdriver and any kid has access to a razor-sharp blade. We’d better ban screwdrivers too. Horrible sharp things they are.

    Heck, let’s just limit all kids in school to writing with dull crayons and only using the safety scissors (under direct adult supervision, of course). Yeah, there’s a recipe for a better world.

  83. @RobC- Nothing adds to the frustration of a child like having crummy tools to work with. Dull scissors and crayons are a recipe for violence.

  84. I idolized my Grandpa, after whom I am named.
    He carried a small buck-knife that was so sharp he could whittle peach-pits with it. Yes, you read that right, peach-pits.
    Of course I had to have one just like it (the buck knife, not the pits) but could only get the what is now called the ‘hobo camp knife.’
    My Grandpa was very dismissive of the blade but was pleased I knew how to take care of it.
    I’ve carried a good pocket knife ever since, for nearly half a century.
    And why, yes, I carried it with me *everywhere*, including school and to paraphrase another older man, the school officials would have had to pry it from my “cold, dead fingers.” As they would have with any of us boys.
    I am deeply ashamed of my generation. Somewhere along the line these idiots smoked too much grass to ever be able to effectively use the gray matter within their pointy heads.
    Zero tolerance is one of the stupidest ideas these pinheads have inflicted upon the education system.
    And BTW, Lenore, thanks for your crystal clear voice of sanity in a world gone mad.

  85. That makes no sense! This kid didn’t do any of the things kids do to end up with that 45-day “get it together” period. This is a blatant mis-use of the Federal IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Kids who spend the requisite 45 days in an alternative setting usually have been physically violent, verbally abusive, self-injurious, etc.–they aren’t kids who brought their new “toy” to school to try out at lunch time.

    And could we let go of “reform school” as a term? I don’t know if that’s a term the NYT decided to use, or that’s what Newark DE uses…but the 45-day period indicates a kid with a disability of some sort (emotional, mental, physical, behavioral), NOT a kid who needs “reform” (a kid who has no disability and simply chooses to be rotten).

    I get it if the kid receives an afternoon of in-school suspension, just to make the point that you can’t bring “weapons” to school. (Stupid, yes. But it’s not going to follow the kid all his life the way his current punishment will.) But to immediately jump to 45 days in an alternate setting? What the heck! Makes me wonder if there was a list of other indiscretions/incidents that transpired before this, something the school administration isn’t talking about and Mom isn’t going to mention either. That’d be the only way the 45-day alternate setting makes any sense to me.

    If the facts are exactly as this article presented them, the administrators in the Christina School District need to get a grip. And be released from their jobs to pursue alternate employment.

  86. Intent.

    If a child intends to cause harm to others, a pencil will work as well as a knife.

    It’s the adults that confer intent to the knife.

    Let’s ban pencils.

  87. Has it ever occurred to anyone that schools with zero-tolerance policies have no business fielding baseball, softball or field hockey teams? You can beat someone to death with a bat or a field hockey stick. And the equipment isn’t exactly under lock and key all the time. Plenty of student athletes bring their equipment to school.

    I remember hearing a story about the importance of learning self-defense wherein a woman responded to her attacker by stabbing him with a pen, like, 20 times.

    Anything can be a weapon. A chair could be a weapon. So let’s ban chairs. The students have to stand in class. No, wait … hands and feet can be weapons. A student-free school would really be the most ideal situation.

  88. Any news on what happened at the meeting about this boy’s case last night?

  89. Simple answer.
    1) Confiscate the knife.
    2) Counsel the kid.
    3) Counsel/call the parents. Make the parents come in to pick up the knife.
    4) Use this as a teaching opportunity to explain to the school why this particular knife utensil falls under the “Don’t bring it to school” list.
    5) Get on with life.

  90. One more, and I’ll shut up…this young man and his mom were on The Today Show this AM. He was very charming and articulate.

    http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/33289924/ns/today-today_people/

  91. Does anyone remember the incident at a Burger King last summer when a mother was told to leave because her six month old baby wasn’t wearing shoes? The worker was enforcing the “no shoes, no shirt, no service policy.” Wanna bet that that worker was a product of a zero tolerance school?

  92. Well, one REALLY good thing about all of this is that it was on the cover of the NYT and it sounds like he was on a bunch of talk/news shows. This is EXCELLENT news for our FreeRange Kid movement. Everyone, even the idiots who created a policy that cannot accomodate the mistakes of a six year old, know that their “0 tolerance policy” is at best ludicrous and is obviously ineffective. Hopefully the outrage will continue and folks will start to let children be children again. I will be signing that petition after I post my response.

  93. Another thing to note is that Florida and Texas, two law and order states, have enacted laws limiting zero tolerance. Each school in their systems now have the opportunity to (are required to in Florida) consider the circumstances for each child and use their judgment. The laws were enacted because the states’ juvenile justice systems were being overwhelmed by children charged with petty school offenses that would not have been considered crimes if committed out of school. Now I’ll shut up.

  94. I just signed the petition and sent him a note of support–which I guess is really for the parents when you come to think of it. Almost 30,000 people have signed the petition. Fabulous!

  95. Thanks, I’m dysgraphic so dbp all look the same to me. I do ok unless they are sitting next to each other.

    Random people yes we can keep them out of the school. Parents no. They have the right to observe any class their child is in for up to 30 minutes. We actually have a code word that we say to aides or other staff if we need the admin to come remove a parent or we send an e-mail.

    The 1st year I was the tech teacher these parents were a nightmare. I had 25 kids 21 computers and none of them knew how to handle a mouse. To top it off, I had taken a tumble over some tech equipment and hurt my shoulder.

    I was using a rolling chair. Showing the kids the icon to click on, then rolling behind them helping each child with the mouse. Well the parents were livid because I kept telling the kids to keep trying and wasn’t immediately rushing to help their child.

    Now Principal was an AP then. He had enough of their complaints and had them watch through a window as I zipped around the room helping each child as fast as I could. He told them to either be quiet or volunteer to help 1 x a week in the lab – but not their child’s day. I didn’t get any help from parents but they did stop the complaints. We had a nasty flu go through the school and 5th grade recess was the same time as Kinder specials.

    I had a group of 5th graders that were over the flu but couldn’t go to recess or PE because of doctor’s orders that came and helped with the kids. By the time the flu ran its course, the kinders had learned to handle the mouse.

  96. Good grief, a kid being punished for bringing a pocket knife to school? This is stupid. Knives do not have a monopoly on being weapons, you know. Pencils can handily put an eye out too. The chain removed from a bicycle is pretty fierce, too. The less said about thumbtacks the better.

    Knives are tools, just like these other things. The whole thing is being taken to an absurd level. Instead of punishing the child after he has misbehaved, they are attempting to anticipate potential for misbehaviour and punish before hand. It defies logic and reason.

  97. The kid should not of been suspened.

  98. That knife had enough of a blade on it to do some damage if in the wrong hands. The kid should have been suspended REGARDLESS of intent and here is why… Even though HIS intent may not have been a negative one, some kid sitting next to him who saw the knife very well could have had bad intentions, pushed his little ass down, taken the knife from him and stabbed him with his own damn knife, along with any other kid. Not to mention the fact that he could have accidentally injured someone with it UNINTENTIONALLY. Do you really think the parent of some kid who was ACCIDENTALLY stabbed is going to give a rat’s ass about it being an accident that their child was stabbed? I think not. They are going to wonder what the HELL the kid was doing with a knife. There are good reasons for these rules and some parents and students out there want to get their panties all in a wad when some cute little 1st grader has to actually FOLLOW those rules…UNTIL someone gets hurt and then the same jerks who were screaming how unfair it was to punish this kid will be the first ones sitting in at a school board meeting asking why bringing ANY knife to school is acceptable. Those parents were morons to allow their child to take that to school in the first place. They obviously have no respect for rules and feel as though their child is somehow entitled to break what ever rules they as parents feel are unfair. That in itself is very poor parenting, by teaching their child to have a lack of concern for rules. But I suppose those parents or anyone else defending his actions failed to use their brains on this one and think about all the negative repercussions that could follow this situation.

  99. Angela, if you had looked into this you would have seen that the boy admitted he took the utensil to school without asking for permission. His parents didn’t know he was bringing it. He also stated that the lesson he learned from all this was to “ask his parents before he brought anything new into school.” Isn’t that what everybody wanted to accomplish? He understands what he did wrong and won’t do it again. But 45 days in a reform school, really? You have a point about someone taking the knife and using it but that would then that would be that kid’s problem not the little 6yo who brought it in to eat lunch with. Once again, we’re taking the blame off the kid who could have done the stabbing and blaming someone else. We need to stop making excuses for everyone and make people own up to their actions. I cannot live my life worrying about what other people could do with my pointed umbrella if a fight breaks out on the bus.

  100. Any zero tolerance rule is a mistake because it removes the opportunity for common sense and sound judgement to be applied to the particular situation at hand.
    For Kevin and anyone else who supports such policies, have you ever driven even one mile per hour over the posted speed limit? If so, according to that rationale you should be punished. You should be stopped, ticketed, fined, and sent to traffic school to be reindocterinated on following the rules, all the rules, to the letter. Anything else should be unacceptable. If you didn’t get caught, turn yourself in and confess.
    Sound rediculous? Of course it does, but no more so than the position you are attempting to support.

  101. Angela,
    I just read your post. Following your line of thinking, any child who wears shoes with shoe strings to school should be punished as well. After all, even though they have no ill intentions, some other child may have and decide to knock them down, steal thier shoes, remove the strings, and then use them to choke some innocent victim.
    Isn’t it time we as a society stop trying to make our world the equivalent of a padded room at the asylum?

  102. Honestly, this is a bit too much. The school would have been sued if he had choked to death because his food wasn’t cut up into little pieces and no knives were available.

    Pencils can be used as a weapon, I’ve seen it happen, and yet they are still permitted.

  103. So this is the only article in your blog that references home schooling and then in a negative light (which assumes all mothers must work outside the home).
    I wonder – how can you even suggest a child is “free range” if he is chucked off into an institution five days a week, 10 hours a day, and conditioned to dependent learning?
    Where is the freedom? Where is the range?

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