Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Zero Tolerance For Toy Guns

This "zero tolerance" business regarding firearms is out of hand. Is there any reason, common sense, or justice in expelling a 7-year-old boy for bringing a clear plastic "gun" to school?

Samuel, now 8, has been out of school for almost a year. His parents have home-schooled him since he was expelled for bringing a clear plastic, spring-action toy gun to school, which fired plastic beads.

"He has been deprived of an education. My son made a mistake, and they kept him out a year," said Samuel's mother, Karen Burgos.

And it may be longer than that before Samuel is permitted to rejoin his classmates. A hearing will be held this month as his family fights his expulsion. Because the school board's order has not yet been finalized, his punishment could be extended into next year.

"I miss my friends," Samuel said.

Samuel spends his days playing baseball and practicing his studies with his parents. He should be in third grade now, but he's already missed most of second grade and may find himself two years behind by the time this matter is resolved.

In an interview with CNN correspondent John Zarrella, Samuel said that he was playing "army" with his friends one weekend, and he decided to hide the toy gun from his brother, so he placed it in his school bag. He went to school on Monday and said that he forgot he had the toy with him.

Samuel told one of his friends the gun was there but said he never took it out.

When the toy gun was discovered, according to school board records, the principal of Pembroke Pines Charter Elementary School West determined the gun to be a toy, but she felt compelled to report the incident to the school board. The school board classified the toy gun as a weapon because it fired a projectile device. The punishment: mandatory expulsion.

Besides shielding administrators from the burden of actually having to make reasonable decisions, is there any valid purpose behind enforcing so-called zero tolerance rules in this manner?

9 comments:

Eric Turner said...

I work in an rural county alternative program and see the result of "zero-tolerance" policies everyday. Example: 11th grade girl with two friends were at a football game and one of them had brought a container with alcohol in it. She had never been in trouble in her life. No write-ups, no suspensions, no nothing. She is a A/B student. She was automatically sent to alternative school with no consideration to her past. That is just one example. There's not a teacher in my school who doesn't believe zero-tolerance policies are, for the most part, ridiculous and some sanity needs to return to these disciplinary hearing decisions.

Ellen K said...

Zero tolerance policies are the result of overzealous helicopter parents who sue at the drop of a hat. Your daughter didn't make the cheer squad? Sue. Your kid isn't valedictorian? Sue. So we end up with these draconian rules which penalize good kids while often allowing bad kids to go scot free because they and their parents know the loopholes. Here's another example from Texas. A track meet. A girl has an asthma attack and can't find her rescue inhaler so her boyfriend gives her his so that she won't die. Both are expelled for sharing prescription drugs. Both were honor students, both were college and scholarship bound and both suffered due to this kind of stupid administration of rules. So while people complain, this is in reaction to the very parents that are doing the loudest complaining.

High School Tchr said...

I keep saying.....today's administrators are teachers who couldn't hack it in the classroom so they moved on to a bigger arena...running an entire school, and they still can't handle it!! Why, why, why don't we have a system where the best....meaning the best teachers.....are promoted to administration?? But instead we have a system where you just have to take some classes and get certified, or licensed to be an administrator. It doesn't mean one will be any good at it. Case in point, these stupid cases of zero-tolerance gone a-muck.

pseudotsuga said...

In my town, the local fencing clubs can't do demos in many schools because of zero-tolerance policies.
Look out, they've got SWORDS!

Bill said...

But it isn't obvious that the skill set required to be a top classroom teacher is identical to the skill set required of an administrator.

Perhaps the issue is that we don't weed out the failures in either group.

Anonymous said...

Just goes to show that COMMON SENSE is dead!!!

DADvocate said...

You're a math teacher. Here's a simple equation.

Zero tolerance = Zero intelligence

gbradley said...

My seventh grader repeated a saying from his teacher that I liked.
She said Common sense needs to be renamed Sense, because it's not that common. :-)

maxutils said...

The only things we should have zero tolerance for are zero tolerance policies