Monday, October 19, 2009

Zero-Tolerence for zero-tolerence

It seems the zero-tolerance monster is rearing its ugly head and the boy scouts are falling like dominoes.

Things are rough in Delaware's Christina School District.

Evidently, there is a gang of rampant, first-grade, ankle biters running around. And, their weapon of choice is a camping, knife-spoon-fork combination thingy. Cherubic, Zachary Christie was evidently so excited about joining the cub scouts that he brought his fork-spoon-knife thingy to school and that is where the iron fist of the law came slamming down.

For this egregious offence, suspension and the possibility (I’m not kidding) for reform school time.

Now, maybe darling Zachary is a holy terror and can’t be trusted with a down pillow, never mind a spoon-knife-fork thingy in school. Fair enough. Having worked many years with holy-terrors myself, I’ll give the school the benefit of the doubt. If that is the case, then the issue here is behavior of a particular child, not weapons in school. Somebody needs to have the cajones to deal with said child and parents as such and not hide behind a policy.

Next on the docket: Lansingburgh Senior High School student Matthew Whalen.

Now, where I might expect a kid like Zachary (above) to be a trouble maker, Matthew seems to be downright, goodie-two-shoes. Not only is he an Eagle Scout, Junior ROTC and has an award for saving a life, but he keeps an emergency kit in the trunk of his car. (The only emergency kit I ever had in my car was the spare change I kept in the ash tray in case I wanted a Slurpie on the road…until I lost the ash tray.) The problem? Matthew had the audacity to keep a two inch pocket knife in the kit. That, according to school officials is a weapon and for that he must be punished: 20 days suspension. Dare I state the obvious that this “weapon” was locked securely in the trunk of the kid’s car and next to it was probably a tire iron which is way more dangerous. Or perhaps, that anyone on the baseball team is likely to have a bat in their car which would inflict far more damage than the knife. Or maybe, even that Matthew was statistically an absolute menace to life and property when he got behind the wheel of the car and drove it and was much more likely to hurt or kill someone out of inexperience than intent with that knife.

Nope, none of that matters.

Here are the facts. Zero-tolerance policies don’t work. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, they do not reduce and even increase violent behavior in schools. They do not promote consistency in discipline in schools. They even seem to encourage drop-outs. All they seem to do is relieve school administrators from the responsibility of, oh I don’t know, being school administrators. I’ve always figured the reason adults teach the children is that the adults have better judgment. It doesn’t seem that way in these two cases.

In the interest of full disclosure, I've been carrying a pocket knife since I was 12. I've only ever stabbed myself, and that was an accident.

An addendum from my friend Becky!

Girls are trouble makers too! No knives here, but clearly a danger to herself and others...

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