Sunday, November 29, 2009


After initially suspending a first grader and requiring him to spend 45 days at an alternative school for having brought a camping knife to school _ he planned to eat his lunch with the knife's fork and spoon _ a Delaware school reassessed its position and suspended him for three to five days and required him to undergo counseling.

Of those readers responding to an unscientific poll on my column's blog, 65 percent believe that, based on the child's age and circumstances, the school was right to alter its ruling, while 35 percent believe that the school should have stuck to its zero-tolerance policy.

"School officials who come up with nonsense like `zero tolerance' policies have no business making rules for anyone," writes Maggie Lawrence of Culpepper, Va., "much less for children whose only intent with their so-called `weapon' is to eat their lunch."

"Our legislators need to drop these zero-tolerance overreactions and allow our schools the discretion they need to work properly," writes William Jacobson of Cypress, Calif.

"Let's have a little sympathy for the schools," another reader writes. "How high is up? How big is big? How sharp is sharp? Do we really need teachers measuring knives and making judgments about how sharp the blade is?"

Check out other opinions here, or post your own by clicking on "Comments" or "Post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of "The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business" (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing(at) _ the (at) represents the symbol on your keyboard _ or to "The Right Thing," New York Times Syndicate, 630 Eighth Ave., 5th floor, New York, N.Y. 10018.

c.2009 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)


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