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[Susan notes: The writers make an excellent point. The adorable first grader makes headlines across the country; no one pays any attention to the more 'typical' zero tolerance victim.]

Published in New York Times
10/17/2009

To the editor

Re "Suspended Boy Back in School" (news article, Oct. 15):



Here in Delaware, Zachary Christie, the 6-year-old boy whose camping utensil was deemed a weapon, is back in school, but most cases like his donĂ¢€™t end as well. Across the country, harsh and unyielding school discipline policies limit opportunities for our most vulnerable children, especially students of color and those with special needs.



Schools suspend or expel students for trivial infractions even though we know that a child who has been suspended is far more likely to fall behind in school, drop out, commit a crime or become incarcerated.



Not every child who breaks a zero tolerance rule is an adorable first grader with resourceful and effective parents. Many of these children have difficult life circumstances and would benefit from extra counseling and support. Instead, these policies disrupt their educational and social development.



Schools should replace policies that isolate children from the school community with proven strategies to reduce school conflict like peer mediation, conflict resolution, guidance counseling, teacher training and support, and community and parental involvement.



The writers are, respectively, executive director and president of the A.C.L.U. of Delaware.

Drewry Nash Fennell & Helen Foss


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