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February 10, 2010

Zero Tolerance is for morons - and other school issues

Those of you who read the excellent Randy Cassingham email newsletter "This is True" (and if you don't, why not? It's awesome) know that one of Randy's crusades is against the use of "Zero Tolerance" policies in schools. These are the policies that principals and school administrators use so that they don't have to think when it comes to keeping control of the kids there. 

If you have a Zero Tolerance policy against any drugs or pills in school?  Then you can suspend or expel a student for bringing Altoids.  No guns or any other weapons?  Then you can expel a kid for bringing his little Cub Scout utility knife to school.  Zero Tolerance has been running amok for over a decade now, and it only seems to be getting worse (though some are beginning to fight back).

This week's issue of "This is True" brings up two perfect examples of this, along with another story of school administration's cluelessness.  I'll do the Zero Tolerance ones first.

The first story you may have heard about.  Nine-year-old Patrick Timoney idolized his father, who is a retired cop.  Thus, his favourite figure in a Lego set was the policeman, which comes with a little toy gun.  He was playing with his Legos at lunch (not even in class!) and was hauled into the principal's office for his trouble.  "There must be no weapons in this school!!"  I think the new motto should actually be "There must be no rational thought at this school!!"  He wasn't suspended (surprisingly enough), but he was humiliated:
""They made me sign a statement," the tear-stained fourth-grader said. "She told me to write that I had a gun," he said. "She said, 'A gun is a gun'." The boy's mother had something to say about that. "This principal is a bully and a coward, and needs to be held accountable," said Laura Timoney, 44."

Randy writes all about it on the This is True blog (including a picture of the Lego figure and the relevant statutes that the principal should have followed), so I won't go into any more great detail, but I will say that this is another outrageous example of Zero Tolerance rearing its ugly head.  A gun is a gun?  What the hell does that mean?  How can anybody think a 2-inch piece of plastic is a gun?  Ok, maybe a choking hazard, but a gun?

The second story took place in Birminham Alabama.  Evidently, four elementary school girls have been suspended and are awaiting a hearing on their punishment.  For what reason?  Three of the girls were seen taking "pills" and the fourth was dispensing them to the other three.  Officials frantically called the girls' parents and rushed them to the hospital.  Supposedly, there were no drugs in their system.  The possible reason there were no drugs in their systems?  Because the girls claim the "pills" were Altoid breath mints.  I don't know if they've developed a test for breath mints (though maybe they could just stick their nose near one of their mouths and see if they smell minty fresh), but it doesn't matter.  They've been suspended and are awaiting the ruling.  Even though "The investigation is ongoing."

This one is a bit less cut-and-dried, because the article I saw says that the girls "claim" they were Altoids, so they could very well be lying.  However, the fact that "the investigation is ongoing" should mean that they're innocent until proven guilty, right?  Why should they be suspended for something they may not have done?  If the investigation concludes that they're like most of my former girlfriends (i.e. lying through their teeth), then suspend them.  To do so now is truly outrageous.

The final story isn't an example of  Zero Tolerance run amok, but it is a story of a "School administrator with his head up his ass".  It seems that Maurepas High School in Louisiana was staging a "Black-and-Gold" day to support their Saints and to commemorate the team's first appearance in the Super Bowl.  All students were allowed to wear the Black and Gold instead of their normal school uniforms.  However, Brandon Frost is a Colts fan.  So he wore his Colts jersey to class.  Freedom of speech and all that, right?

"But Frost didn't even have time to sit down in his first-period English class before the principal of his Livingston Parish school yanked him out of class and told him he was being sent home for the day because of his choice in attire."
Yep, thrown out of school for the day because he hasn't drunk the Black-and-Gold Kool-aid. I understand wanting to support your team, but this?  He wasn't being disruptive.  He didn't even have a chance to be even if he was going to be!  No, he just wore the wrong jersey.  I think the principal should be yanked out of school, preferably by his ear, and sent home for extreme idiocy.

What is going on in schools today?  Examples of stuff like this are happening all the time.  It just seems to be getting worse.  More and more I'm beginning to understand those parents who home-school their kids (I know a few people just in my small circle of family and friends who do so).  Do these people have common sense sucked out of them when they go through administrator training?

This has to stop.
Incidentally, I wrote about "This is True" before on this blog, so I'll just link to that post.  I love Randy's way of looking at things (even if I don't always agree with him) and I also love his humorous take on the news.  You should give it a try.


  1. I totally agree.

  2. Yep, that's all pretty silly.

    Of course I spent all of high school illicitly carrying Advil with me, so I may be biased. ;)

  3. See, you ARE twisted in all the RIGHT ways! I thank God every day I don't have kids and reading this makes me want to sacrifice something to the great turtle who carries the world on its back.

    I know for more than a decade parents who make the choice to homeschool have been looked at as pariah, but I think they are visionary.

    Cheers Dave, as always wonderful!

  4. Thanks for the comments, ladies!

    Sara: shame on you for taking Advil to school. We'll have to send the police after you. :)

    Widow: You certainly have coined a phrase, haven't you? :P

    And you're a Pratchett fan? I think it's love... :)

  5. I'm just happy that someone noticed I was twisted in all the right ways. Probably an accurate assessment!

    Luckily I don't think this idiocy is the rule - but rather the exception. Still - is it too much to ask for people to engage their brains?

  6. I guess while everyone realizes how stupid it is, people involved will never admit they acted in a wrong way.
    The scariest thing is that those people are teaching children, are supposed to set an example and be a role model. And if we have such role models what kind of a new generation will we see in 10 years?

  7. Sara, I'm the twisted one. LOL But you're right, it is accurate for you too. :P

    And while I don't know if this idiocy is actually the rule, it is far from the exception, unfortunately.

    Lena: these people will never admit it because they don't think they're doing anything wrong. Even when public outrage makes them change a specific instance, I wouldn't be surprised if they do it again.

    And the way society is being further bureaucratized (I made a word! :)), I'm sure this will all still be around when these kids are grown up, too.

    Thanks for the comments, ladies!

  8. Dave, have I told you lately, I love you? Of course in that totally platonic, cool friend kinda way. ♥

    As a mother, nothing really surprises me anymore. UNtil I read about dumb asses such as those above.

  9. LOL thank you. No, you haven't said that lately, but it's always nice to hear!


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