A school in New Jersey has narrowly avoided disaster. Unbeknownst to the administrators, terror lurked in the hallways, stalked the children as they went about their daily duties. Slowly, quietly, it crept, moving from the playground in the morning, to the coat hooks at the back of the room where children tended to their lessons, to the lunchroom where children gathered to eat, until it could hide no longer. At the precise moment, it entered the child’s mind, forcing the boy to reach into the bag where it lay, and withdraw it.
Terror ensued. Quietly, of course, and without fanfare, but terror, nonetheless.
Fortunately, a teacher swooped in at the last minute and saved the entire student body from certain disaster. A massacre had been narrowly avoided, a hardened criminal thwarted once more. The weapon has been secured, the perp shamed, banished from the school grounds.
And what WAS the dastardly plot? What heinous crime was narrowly escaped?
A first-grader tried to eat his lunch. With a fork, a knife and a spoon, all connected together in a handy little case.
Welcome to the Christina School District, in Newark, New Jersey, where Zero Tolerance reigns supreme.
Zachary Christie, 6, has recently joined the Cub Scouts, and one of the cool things about Cub Scouts is that you get a taste of camping. And in order to go camping, you must have gadgets. One of those gadgets that Zachary has is a “multi-tool”, a fork, knife, spoon, and can opener nestled in a pocket-knife style casing. (similar to this, but the knife, I believe, is not as sharp. And the case is red, not brown.)
And now this Cub Scout is suspended from school for 45 days, given the choice between being home-schooled and attending reform school during that time. For wanting to eat his lunch with a metal knife and fork.
Why? Because the school’s Zero Tolerance Policy says so.
This is the same Zero Tolerance Policy that previously ordered that another young girl (3rd grade) be suspended for bringing a plastic serrated knife to school so she could cut her birthday cake. A teacher used the knife to cut and serve the cake, and then turned the knife over to the administration, who then suspended the student.
Because the Zero Tolerance Policy says so.
According to that policy, knives are banned regardless of intent.
Correct me if I’m wrong here, but isn’t the point of school to LEARN stuff? To learn how to apply rules to situations? To learn about how to think… oh, wait. This is modern education. We don’t teach kids how to think. We teach them to be reactive, because that’s what we’ve become. Reactive.
Someone might get hurt, so we must ban even the most innocuous of utensils. There is a school near me that does not provide utensils, except for plastic spoons, to students for eating their lunches. And the students are not allowed to bring their own utensils from home. Why? Because a fork or a knife might be a weapon. Mind you, this is a high school. That has a shop. With saws in it. And drills. And even a nail gun. And an art room where scissors are kept. And even a kitchen where sharp knives reside. But the students cannot be trusted with a plastic fork, because, well, they might actually use it to stab something. Like that mystery-meat trying to crawl off of their plates.
All sarcasm aside, what really got me in this story was this quote, from the New York Times:
“But, based on the code of conduct for the Christina School District, where Zachary is a first grader, school officials had no choice.”
The school officials had no choice. Really? The “school officials” are the ones who SET THE POLICY. They absolutely have a choice. They have a responsibility to make a choice. They have a responsibility to examine every situation, and apply the rules accordingly. But to say that they “have no choice” is to take the lazy way out. To abdicate all responsibility, hide behind a stupid rule, and teach their students that common sense truly is dead.