Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Scouts Punished by Zero Tolerance

Here are some more bizarre examples of zero-tolerance foolishness in public schools whereby good students are punished when they accidentally commit technical violations of school policies.

Matthew Whalen, a senior at Lansingburgh High School in Troy, New York, kept a Boy Scout survival kit in his car, consisting of a sleeping bag, water, and a kit that contained a two-inch-long utility knife. Matthew is an Eagle Scout and the recipient of a Life-Saving Heroism award from Boy Scouts of America. He is well schooled in knife safety and the uses of knives in camping and other outdoor activities. The tiny knife never left his locked car. One day, another student told a school administrator about the knife. The school superintendent then gave Matthew a 20-day suspension which will remain on his permanent record. The school refused Matthew's family's request that his suspension be removed from his record. They are appealing, but that process will probably take a year.

Another zero tolerance incident took place in Delaware. A six-year-old boy named Zachary Christie, who had joined the Cub Scouts, was so excited about his new Cub Scout camping utensil that he brought it to school to use it with his school lunch. This Cub Scout utensil folds out and serves as a combination, spoon, fork, and knife. School officials charged Zachary with violating the zero-tolerance policy and sentenced him to 45 days in the district's reform school. After this event received national media attention, the school relented and reduced the mandated punishment for kindergartners and first graders to three- to five-day suspensions, instead of 45 days.

With all the serious discipline problems in public schools today, it seems like the zero-tolerance policies are completely lacking in common sense.

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