January 19, 2009

Zero Tolerance Gone Wild

I’m reminded of that oft protested cable television show, Girls Gone Wild. This episode might be titled School Administrators Gone Wild. I mentioned earlier the plight of 13-year old Savana Redding. Since then I’ve done a little surfing, looking for information on similar phenomena. Indeed I did find a few.

Waco, Texas – 4-year old boy charged with “inappropriate sexual contact/Sexual harassment” after he hugged a teacher.

Azel, Texas – 16-year old Junior Varsity baseball player given one year suspension after an 8-inch mini baseball bat was spotted in the back seat of his car, parked in the school lot. After it was determined the mini-bat was a piece broken off of a baseball trophy, the suspension was reduced to 5 days. Ironically, the boy has a full size aluminum bat in his trunk (along with his other team gear), but that was okay. On a sidebar, the boy seems to have overcome this stupidity as my web search found him doing pretty darn well playing for a AAA team.

Hurst-Euless-Bedford, Texas – A 16-year old who had helped move his ailing grandmother’s stuff to the Goodwill box was yanked out of class by an assistant principal and security guards who had spotted a suspicious item in the bed of his pickup. It was a butter knife that had fallen out of the boxes. No matter the explanation, the boy received a 1-year suspension. Public outcry got it reduced to 5 days.

In my search I found hundreds of accusations of overzealousness by school officials enacting Zero Tolerance policies. Several fit into the category of those mentioned, but many had some suspicious ring to them. In a lot of the cases I felt pretty certain the rules were followed and punishment meted out appropriately. The reports were whining parents claiming their little darling could never be guilty of such behavior. So there are two sides to the ZT story.

From reading some of the reports I got a feeling that school administrators were being hemmed in by bad policies and were left with little discretion in their decisions. I sympathize with them. Mandatory sentencing guidelines are pretty much a crock, both in the criminal justice system and in school policy. We have a lot of good educators in our systems, but they are shackled by unwise policy.

We also have more than a few wiener head teachers and administrators, who should not be allowed any closer to a school than we allow a strip club.



Rogue Medic said...

Now you have inspired me to add my own post on this topic. Zero Tolerance I.

chuckr44 said...

You forgot the case, a few years back, where the 5 year old girl brought a plastic butter knife to school to cut brownies to celebrate her birthday. School policy was "no knives allowed". She was permanently expelled, no appeal. I don't know if the parents sued.

The lack of commen sense here is (need I spell it out?) that plastic butter knives are not dangerous weapons. But a pencil is.

Rogue Medic said...


According to Rogue Medic, Jr. - when in middle school, a project on Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart was banned because there would have been a little paper knife.

In the high school, they were not allowed to wear any clothing that had an image od a weapon. It was a violation of the zero tolerance rules on weapons.

They probably cannot discuss the Second Amendment without violating this rule, so they probably cannot even discuss the First Amendment, either.

While these may have been misunderstandings, or temporary measures, they do represent the impression of the students.