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Georgia school lifts suspension of girl with Tweety bird 'weapon'

chain
The controversial chain  

AUSTELL, Georgia (CNN) -- Cobb County schools Friday reversed the "zero tolerance" suspension of an 11-year-old girl for bringing a "weapon" to school -- a 10-inch long chain attached to a Tweety bird wallet.

The school board said it was lifting the 10-day suspension of 6th grade student Ashley Smith, removing the disciplinary action from her record and revising the district's weapons policy "to more clearly reflect what types of chains are permitted."

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CNN's Sean Callebs reports on problems associated with some school systems 'zero-tolerance' policies (09-28-00)

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Under existing policy, the trinket chain fell into the same category of weapon as swords and nunchakus seen in martial arts movies.

"I thought, when I first heard about (the suspension) ... give me a break," said School Board Chairman Lindsey Tippins. "It makes us look stupid."

The disciplinary action was actually taken by the principal of the Garrett Middle School. The girl's parents said they couldn't believe it and were very angry.

A statement released by the school board late Friday said:

"The Cobb County School District continues to hold student safety as its highest priority. In 1992, the Board of Education adopted the first zero-tolerance discipline policy in Georgia. Since that time, the district has maintained one of the safest records of any school system its size in the nation. This safety record is a direct result of a strong zero tolerance policy.

mother
Ashley Smith's mother shows her daughter's Tweety bird key holder  

As times have changed, the district has continued to update and improve the policy. Situations like the one involving the Garrett Middle School wallet chain have pointed out where specific improvements are needed. If an error is made in interpreting the policy, it always is best that the error be on the side of student safety."

The suspension raised a local uproar and the school board initially said that the disciplinary action was not open for debate.

Tippins said school principals need to have the authority to make tough decisions.

"It's never, ever the clear-cut decisions that get challenged," he said. "It's the ones where there's a fine line, and it could go either way. People make mistakes sometimes."



RELATED STORIES:
Georgia girl's Tweety Bird chain runs afoul of weapons policy
September 28, 2000
Expulsions for weapons in schools down nearly a third
August 10, 1999
Study: School violence down, but still too high
August 4, 1999
Kindergartner suspended for bringing beeper to school
October 29, 1996
'Midol suspension' ends: Honor student returns to class
October 3, 1996

RELATED SITES:
Cobb County School District Home Page
  •  Garrett Middle School
ACLU: American Civil Liberties Union


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