Monday, June 18, 2007

Zero Tolerance Idiocy

Zero tolerance.

Fifth-graders in California who adorned their mortarboards with tiny toy plastic soldiers this week to support troops in Iraq were forced to cut off their miniature weapons. A Utah boy was suspended for giving his cousin a cold pill prescribed to both students. In Rhode Island, a kindergartner was suspended for bringing a plastic knife to school so he could cut cookies...

Reynolds also questioned what lessons zero-tolerance rules teach, citing reports that a 10-year-old girl was expelled from a Colorado academy after giving a teacher a small knife her mother placed in her lunchbox.

"What she learned from the school was, 'If something happens and you break a rule, for God's sake, don't tell anybody,'" Reynolds said. "Zero-tolerance policies completely ignore the concept of intent, which is antithetical to the American philosophy of justice."

The principal at Portsmouth High School in Rhode Island -- whose mascot is sometimes depicted carrying a rifle -- censored a yearbook photo because it showed a student who enjoys medieval reenactments wearing chainmail and holding a sword.

I believe in having zero tolerance for genuine weapons, drugs, and sexual harassment. I don't believe in suspending children because of butter knives, plastic army men, baggies of parsley that look like marijuana, or kissing a fellow kindergartner on the cheek.

I can understand why such policies are created, though. There are a couple reasons. First, schools want to be seen as doing something (typical liberal approach) to combat societal ills. Second, to shield themselves from attacks by parents, school administrators want rules and policies that eliminate the need for any judgement. Third, Mark Twain was right when speaking about school boards.

Call me old-fashioned--it wouldn't be the first time--but I expect adults, especially those who run our schools, to exercise judgement and common sense. They should at least be expected or allowed to use those skills, even if they choose not to. Stupid zero tolerance policies, or the stupid application of those policies, rightly deserve the backlash mentioned in the linked article above.


Tony said...

Regardless of one's political leanings, Zero Tolerance is about as un-American as you can get. I agree with you whole-heartedly (and I have NEVER been accused of being old-fashioned.)

Law and Order Teacher said...

Isn't it a shame that we pay school administrators a lot of money and don't allow them to use common sense to make basic decisions. It is much easier to make policies that take common sense out of the equation and rely on political correctness by allowing no leeway in making the decisions. If everyone is slammed regardless of circumstances it doesn't allow for accusations of bias. Schools fear nothing more than allegations of bias. What you end up with are a whole lot of bad decisions that cheapen school discipline.

David said...

One of the most amazing examples of ZT idiocy was the student who got in trouble for saving his girlfriend--who has having an asthma attack--by using his inhaler. See my post Zero Tolerance- Zero Judgment- Zero Compassion. Also on this theme, Philip Queeg Public High School.

denever said...

Bright-line rules require no thought and no exercise of judgment. If you don't like to think and you don't trust your own judgment, zero tolerance is a godsend.

Ellen K said...

Zero Tolerance is the result of a court system that rewards the most petty and ignorant complaints with monetary gain. So we end up with a system designed by lawyers to avoid lawsuits. Common sense doesn't matter, but an angry parent with a lawyer at their side, does. What a world, what a world.