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It’s a Fork, It’s a Spoon, It’s a ... Weapon?
by Mustafah Abdulaziz for The New York Times
Published: October 11, 2009
NEWARK, Del. — Finding character witnesses when you are 6 years old is not easy. But there was Zachary Christie last week at a school disciplinary committee hearing with his karate instructor and his mother’s fiancé by his side to vouch for him.
Zachary’s offense? Taking a camping utensil that can serve as a knife, fork and spoon to school. He was so excited about recently joining the Cub Scouts that he wanted to use it at lunch. School officials concluded that he had violated their zero-tolerance policy on weapons, and Zachary now faces 45 days in the district’s reform school.
“It just seems unfair,” Zachary said, pausing as he practiced writing lower-case letters with his mother, who is home-schooling him while the family tries to overturn his punishment.
“There is no parent who wants to get a phone call where they hear that their child no longer has two good seeing eyes because there was a scuffle and someone pulled out a knife,” said George Evans, the president of the Christina district’s school board. He defended the decision, but added that the board might adjust the rules when it comes to younger children like Zachary.
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.
For Zachary, it is not school violence that has left him reluctant to return to classes.
“I just think the other kids may tease me for being in trouble,” he said, pausing before adding, “but I think the rules are what is wrong, not me.”
Soldier suspended from school
By MARK O'BRIEN
LANSINGBURGH -- High school senior Matthew Whalen is the kind of student any parent would want.
He's an Eagle Scout, on the honor roll, taking Advanced Placement classes, and never been in trouble with the law. He's received commendations from the City of Troy and the Boy Scouts of America for saving a woman's life, and this past summer, he completed Army basic training. All of it was accomplished before the age of 17.
But the dream could be in jeopardy, thanks to a two-inch pocket knife that officials at Lansingburgh Senior High School found in Matthew's locked car last month. The pocket knife was a gift from his grandfather, Robert Whalen, who's the Hoosick Falls Police Chief. Matthew says he kept the knife in a side compartment and never tried showing it off or threatening anyone with it. Instead it was a part of the survival kit that was his car.
"My car is designed in a way that if I ever broke down, I'd be OK," Whalen explains. "I have a sleeping bag. I have bottled water. I have an MRE. I believe it's better to be prepared and not need it than need it and not have it."
The Lansingburgh Central School District has a zero-tolerance policy on weapons. According to the district's Codes of Conduct, students are not allowed to have "a weapon of any kind" on school grounds. Even though a pocket knife is not considered a weapon under New York State penal code, the district also prohibits students from possessing anything "that reasonably can be considered a weapon."