A first grader was suspended for 45 days from school for bringing a Cub Scout combined knife-fork-spoon utensil to class, triggering an uproar among parents. Zachary Christie, 6, was booted because his Newark school has a zero-tolerance policy on knives. Horrifying episodes like the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings have heightened penalties for school contraband, but critics say some anti-violence policies have gone too far.
Advocates of zero-tolerance policies stress that it's difficult for teachers to distinguish pranks from serious threats. In addition, studies have shown that allowing teachers’ some discretion in applying punishment has led to uneven application—with African-American students receiving a disproportionate share of expulsions and suspensions, the New York Times reports.