A Delaware mother whose 6-year-old son was suspended for 45 days for carrying a camping utensil to school is speaking out against the suspension and saying he should not have to face reform school as a consequence.
Debbie Christie's son Zachary, a first-grader at Downes Elementary School in Newark, Del., was suspended for carrying a camping utensil that contained a spoon, fork, bottle opener and knife to school.
"I wasn't really trying to get in trouble," 6-year-old Zachary said. "I was just trying to eat lunch with it."
"I got a call from the principal, telling me to come down, that Zach had carried a dangerous weapon into school and was going to be suspended," Christie told "Good Morning America" today.
School administrators deemed Zachary to be in violation of their zero-tolerance ban on weapons, and he may have to attend the district's reform school.
The decision has been widely criticized as being too harsh, and Christie started a Web site with a petition of support that has garnered more than 29,000 signatures.
"They are using black and white rules and applying them to everybody," Christie said, "and there is a lot of damage to the kids that happens in between who are innocent victims of this zero-tolerance policy. "
George Evans, the president of the Christina School Board, defended the decision to suspend Zachary, citing student safety, but he told The New York Times that the board might make changes to its regulations for cases involving younger students.
His parents bought Zachary the camping utensil for his trips with the Cub Scouts. They said Zachary has always been an enthusiastic student.
"Most fun is having to do work," he said, "and playing all that fun stuff and work and recess and math and science and all that and reading."
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Mom Says Son is Innocent Victim of Zero-Tolerance Policy
Christie said she is now home-schooling her son while she works to appeal the district's decision. She said that she understands that school shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech have merited tougher regulations, but maintains that her son was never a threat to anyone.
"I think the principal felt very bad about having to call me," Christie said. "She knows he is not a threat to anybody or the school."
The Christies say they will continue fighting the school's ruling and have the enthusiastic backing of their young son.
"It's just that when I'm standing up to the board, I'm kinda proud and I'm kinda scared," Zachary said, "but I know what I have to do and I have to do it."