A middle-schooler in Orange County, Florida, was suspended for ten days because of a "level 4" violation. This highest level of offense generally has to do with things like making bomb threats, bringing explosives to school, assault and battery and arson. You might think that this kid brought a knife to school, set a wastebasket on fire, or beat up his teacher. But you would be wrong. This kid was accused of an attempted assault on his teacher, with...get this...a rubber band.
That's not a typo. A rubber band is now considered a weapon in this school system:
A 13-year-old student in Orange County, Fla., was suspended for 10 days and could be banned from school over an alleged assault with a rubber band, according to a Local 6 News report.Need I say, read the whole thing, including the comments at the bottom.
Robert Gomez, a seventh-grader at Liberty Middle School, said he picked up a rubber band at school and slipped it on his wrist.
Gomez said when his science teacher demanded the rubber band, the student said he tossed it on her desk.
After the incident, Gomez received a 10-day suspension for threatening his teacher with what administrators say was a weapon, Local 6 News reported.
I'm sorry, but I have zero tolerance for "zero tolerance" policies like this. Maybe there's more to the story than we've heard so far, but it sounds on the surface like the teacher was just a bit too thin-skinned, and the administration overreacted bigtime. Nobody got hurt; nobody even got as much as grazed. Give the kid a couple days' detention and make him write 500 sentences about how he'll be more respectful next time. Sure, the administration is trying to gain--or should I say force--the respect of the students by enforcing every rule to the letter in the most punitive way possible, no matter how small the infraction. So far, it's not working too well (just like it didn't for the Nazis, as Charley Jones, the host of the show I was listening to, pointed out last night). The problem is, if administrators keep making idiotic rulings like this, they're going to lose the respect of not only the parents in the community, but the students themselves.
I had the chance to call in to Charley's show last night, when this story took up most of the first hour. I had two points to make:
1) Charley asked if teachers had ever been known to throw things in classrooms. I told the story of my middle-school band director, who threw chalkboard erasers with regularity. They were mostly aimed at the drummers (who, ok, deserved it most of the time), and by the end of the year, he could hit them with pinpoint accuracy, making little chalk marks right in the center of their foreheads. If he tried this today, he'd probably get sued, or at least have to take classes in anger management.
2) I also proposed a theory as to why some administrators act like this: They simply don't get out enough. In other words, they don't hang out enough with people who aren't other school administrators. After sitting around in all their meetings long enough, making contingency plans for every possible horrible thing that could happen, eventually those things become part of their reality. Think like that long enough, and eventually, all those awful things that could happen become things that probably will happen, maybe even today. There's nothing wrong with being careful, but things like the rubber-band incident go beyond reality and into the realm of the absurd.
Please note that I'm not painting all school administrators with this broad brush; there are plenty of people out there who actually take the time to consider each infraction individually instead of lazily sitting back and letting a one-size-fits-all policy do the thinking for them. But it's evident, from stories like this and others recently, that this problem is not an isolated one.
One more sidebar here: It could be said that the reason that school districts have to react so harshly to even the smallest incidents is due to the total lack of respect given by many kids to adults these days. One could also counter that such respect has been eroded by the end of
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "All of my mistakes are giving me ideas."--James Lileks, quoting his six-year-old daughter "Gnat," in his Bleat for today. That sure sounds like a metaphor for jazz improvisation, doesn't it?