No-tolerance policies must be tempered by common sense

The place to start is in Congress, which was the source of 1994 legislation that has morphed into nonsensical no-tolerances policies in the nation's schools.


Keeping all kids safe at school is an expectation of parents and society.

And that's why schools across the nation -- including those in the Walla Walla Valley -- have very strict rules banning all weapons. That's great -- at least in theory.

Unfortunately, common sense has been lost in enforcing those rules because it's become popular to proclaim these are "zero-tolerance" policies.

Common sense and reason are kicked to the curb on occasion. That happened earlier this month in Delaware when a 6-year-old boy was expelled from his first-grade class and reassigned for 45 days to an alternative school for children with behavioral problems.

So, what did Zachary Christie do that was so threatening and dangerous that he deserved such severe punishment? He ate lunch at school with his favorite camp utensil, a combination folding spoon, fork and -- eeeek! -- knife.

The folding knife is banned as a dangerous instrument under the Christina School District's zero-tolerance policy outlined in the student code of conduct, according to an Associated Press report. School officials said they have to take this action regardless of the boy's young age. It also makes no difference that his only intent for the knife was to eat a meal.

Thankfully, the youngster got a reprieve this week because a light was shined on this stupidity. The story was featured in newspapers and TV news shows from coast to coast. America was outraged.

This essentially forced the school district to rethink the matter and reverse the decision. The boy won't be punished.

But not all of these incident get this amount of publicity. Some get none.

The New York Times reported this overzealous enforcement of minor infractions is a growing trend. A civil rights group, the Advancement Project, did a study that found teens and young children across the country were being hauled off to jail and charged with adult crimes for things such as cursing in front of teachers, shoving classmates or participating in food fights.

Thankfully, local school officials seems to have addressed issues of cursing, shoving and the like in a more sensible manner. Yes, they take these matters seriously but the students are not treated as hardened criminals.

Nevertheless, much of the nation apparently needs a dose or two of common sense.

Perhaps the place to start is in Congress, which was the source of 1994 legislation that required states to pass laws mandating expulsion for students who bring firearms onto school property. Again, great in theory but some states added mandates that called for expulsion for any type of weapon.

Let's hope the outrage over Zachery Christie's proposed punishment leads to reform the allows for common sense.


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