Feature

Punishing Zachary Christie

Should zero tolerance apply to a Cub Scout who took a folding camping utensil to school?

America's "zero tolerance idiocy" has gone too far, said Jacob Sullum in Reason. According to an article in The New York Times, Zachary Christie, 6, was "so excited about the all-in-one eating tool he got when he joined the Cub Scouts that he brought it to school" to use at lunch, but thanks to a no-knives policy he's facing 45 days in reform school. Come on—anybody can tell the difference "between an overeager Cub Scout with a nifty camping tool and a budding thug" with a switchblade (watch Zachary Christie in a film he made before his zero tolerance troubles).

Nobody in his right mind, said Karin Klein in the Los Angeles Times, would defend school officials for sending a little kid to reform school for packing a sknork—a camping utensil that folds out into a spoon, a knife, and a fork. But "it's not reassuring" that Zachary Christie was quoted saying that he isn't wrong, the rules are. No matter how proud the Delaware first-grader was of his Cub Scout prize, "a knife is a knife and a rule is a rule."

So change the rule, said Allison Kilkenny in True/Slant. No 6-year-old is "going to shank someone with his Swiss Army knife," period. Zero tolerance policies arose out of the national freakout over school shootings, but they have evolved into a farce. There are ways to make a school safe without turning it into a "hyper-totalitarian state within a state where children are all treated as suspects, including little Zachary Christie."

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