I thought you'd like to know how Zero Tolerance is being applied in our local schools.
This recent incident happened at Cumberland Elementary School in Sunnyvale. My daughter's third grade friend brought his pocket knife to school by accident. It was just in his pants' pocket from the weekend. An hour after school was dismissed, he and his friends were still playing on campus and he showed his knife to them. One of them, because the blade was pointing in her direction, decided he was "brandishing it" and went to tell her mom, who told the office, who told the district, who told the cops, one of whom said if he saw him with a knife again, he could shoot him. (That's right -- preserve and protect -- bully the eight-year-old.)
He's being expelled because California's Zero Tolerance rule requires that the principal issue a mandatory recommendation for expulsion with complete disregard for age, circumstance, or intent. To his credit, our principal tried to have him suspended -- harsh, but reasonable -- but to no avail.
I spoke at the district board meeting on this issue, but they all feel like their hands are tied because of the CA Ed code. They did say, that it is likely he will remain in the district, but will have to attend a different school (so he is dangerous to kids at Cumberland, but safe for students elsewhere?).
I wrote to Lenore Skenazy who is an advocate for children in these situations. Lenore writes for the WSJ and NYTimes, so she has a fairly broad audience. You can read her posting on this incident at: http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/.
I am hopeful that by raising awareness, parents will be less fearful of applying pressure to our lawmakers to amend the Zero Tolerance rule. Even adults in our criminal justice system are not punished with the same heavy-handed blind sentencing that Zero Tolerance mandates for kids.
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