Reform school for a 6-year-old

Zachary Christie, very cute six-year-old boy, made the front page of the New York Times. He’s been suspended from first grade and sentenced to 45 days of reform school for bringing his Cub Scout camping tool, which includes a fork, spoon and knife, to his Delaware school. He wanted to use it to eat his lunch.

. . . based on the code of conduct for the Christina School District, where Zachary is a first grader, school officials had no choice. They had to suspend him because, “regardless of possessor’s intent,” knives are banned.

School officials are afraid to give themselves discretion for fear that they’ll be accused of favoritism or racism. They can’t look at Zach’s age or his excellent behavior record till now and just tell him not to do it again. They prefer to send a very small boy to a school with older delinquents who’ve actually harmed others.

Zach is being homeschooled by his mother, the PTA president, while the family appeals the suspension. They’ve set up helpzachary.org to mobilize support.

Last year, Delaware legislators gave school boards flexibility on zero-tolerance expulsions.

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.

But the law doesn’t cover Zachary, who was suspended rather than expelled.  The Legislature is working on a new law that will give school boards’ discretion on suspensions too. Call it “Zachary’s Law.”

Update: Waco, Texas trustees have dropped zero tolerance for weapons, instead telling principals to consider mitigating factors such as self-defense, intent, the past behavior record and disability.

Update II:  Turns out Zachary’s school board did have discretion. Under media and parental pressure, the board redefined a blade less than three inches long as an “instrument” rather than a weapon and cut the penalty for kindergartners and first graders to five days of suspension. Zach is back in school.

Meanwhile, Instapundit points to more zero-tolerance idiocy:  A 17-year-old Eagle Scout in upstate New York is serving a 20-day suspension for keeping a two-inch pen knife in a survival kit in his car, which was parked in a school lot. The pen knife was a gift from the boy’s grandfather, who’s the police chief in a nearby town. The senior fears this will kill his chances of getting into West Point.