Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Zero Common Sense

The news over the weekend included a story of another child who has become a victim of his school's "Zero Tolerance" policy regarding weapons. This time it was a Staten Island fourth-grader who had a two-inch long toy gun that he put into the hand of a Lego policeman. Because of the school's policy, the boy faced suspension, despite the fact that this "gun" is just a tiny piece of molded plastic.

Last fall, a six-year-old first grader in Delaware was suspended and sentenced to 45 days in the district reform school. His crime? He brought a combination knife-fork-spoon that he received as a Cub Scout to school to use to eat his lunch.

A year earlier in Delaware, a third-grade girl was expelled for a year. Why? Her grandmother sent a birthday cake to school and included a knife to cut it. The teacher reported it... after using the knife to cut and serve the cake.

Similarly, there have been cases of students being suspended and expelled because they have violated their school's zero tolerance drug policy because they had in their possession aspirin, ibuprofin, and antacids. But perhaps the most absurd of these is the child who was suspended because he gave a classmate a cough drop!

Clearly, there is something wrong if school administrators are unable to determine the difference between a two-inch piece of plastic and a real gun and need a strictly black-and-white policy to determine what they do. And while the original purpose of zero tolerance policies might have been to prevent discrimination or unequal punishment, all they really do is allow situations like the above to occur, making a mockery of any good they are actually intended to do.


  1. Mr. Rozakis,

    I think that the biggest point is the one that is being missed in most of American society today - it's not the zero tolerance policy, it's the zero JUDGMENT policy. The rules, laws, policies, etc. are in place for a reason, and that's usually pretty good - but when they are applied, they are being applied as if by machinery. No judgment, no qualifications, no human intelligence is making any consideration at all in these cases.

    If a fifteen year old brings a switchblade to school, then yes, there is reason for concern. If a nine year old girl bring a cake knife... well, it is so obviously a patent overreaction that any intelligent person would weep out loud at it. But people in authority are hamstrung by their principles of follow the rules with zero tolerance... and zero judgment.

    So what happens at school when some teacher has a Swiss army knife, and accidentally drops it, and the smartest kid in the senior class picks it up and gives it back to Mr. Johnson? WHAM! Out of school, into jail, records are made for the rest of the student's life, and he's finished in society.

    The rules need to be reconsidered and changed. And for God's sake, some human judgment and mercy and intelligence have to come into play, or the terrorists win...

    I remain,
    Eric L. Sofer
    The Bad Clown...

  2. It sends a disturbing message to youngsters all the way in Kindergarten. The paranoid administrators are taking away their childhood. What's next? Detention for littering during recess? No, wait......