Friday, October 21, 2005

I Have Zero Tolerance for "Zero Tolerance"

I've written before about the ridiculousness of "zero tolerance" policies in schools when they try to make Mt. Everest out of an anthill-sized problem. Here are two more examples of administrators who've just gone off the deep end:

Exhibit A: The Paper Gun
Here in North Texas, three students at Amber Terrace Intermediate School in DeSoto were suspended for folding a piece of paper into the shape of a gun:
Destiny Thomas, 11, and two other classmates were suspended from school because of a folded piece of paper that resembled a gun Monday.

The students were also told they would be placed in an alternative school for 30 days.

"I just thought they would tell us to throw it in the trash or just cut it up and don't make no more," Thomas said.

Destiny said she made the paper gun after a fellow classmate at Amber Terrace Intermediate School in Desoto showed her how to fold a computer paper. She said she had no intention of doing anything that would get her kicked out of school.
Officials noted that the student code of conduct for the district "clearly states" that "no weapon or replica of a weapon" is allowed at school. But, c'mon....paper?? This is going way over into Ridiculous-Land here.

(Thankfully, clearer heads prevailed in this case, and the students were allowed to return to their classes after their punishments were revoked late Tuesday.)

Exhibit B: The Phalloween Costume
A student in Washington state was suspended for three days for wearing an inflatable penis costume to another school's homecoming dance.
A Steilacoom student is fighting a decision by school officials to suspend him for three days after he appeared in an inflatable penis costume outside another school's homecoming dance, KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reported.

Pioneer Middle School student James Watkins bought the costume last weekend and later showed up outside a dance at Steilacoom High School wearing the outfit.

His parents described Watkins as a straight-A student, an athlete and a "good kid" who made a mistake. They said the three-day suspension, along with a sexual harassment citation, are too severe.

"He wasn't even on his own school grounds," said Mark Watkins, his father. "Poor decision, I agree. Disciplinary action? I agree. I think they went way too far."
Did you catch that? A sexual harassment citation? I have no doubt that people were offended, but harassed? I'm doubting that.

This story came to me through Dave Barry's Blog, where the commenters were having fun with the subject, but there are serious undertones to the whole thing. It reminds me of the time when a five-year-old kid was charged with sexual harassment for kissing one of his kindergarten classmates. Also, as one of Dave's commenters points out, the harassment charge could dog the kid for the rest of his life (when he tries to get jobs, etc.).

I've said it before--this whole "zero tolerance" thing is idiotic; it's an idea started by people who are too lazy or uncaring to handle each case on an individual basis. As I wrote last spring, in the "assault with a deadly rubber-band" post,
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 [talk show host Charley Jones] pointed out [last spring]). 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.
There are plenty of other examples of intolerable zero-tolerance at this site, in a section called Zero Tolerance for Stupidity.

I could write a book take a picture: I really wish I had a digital camera--for a lot of reasons, but certainly so that I could post more cool pictures on this blog. Tonight, while walking through Firewheel (since my schedule doesn't allow me to go to the gym very often, I walk the entire "streetscape" section whenever I have an errand there), I glanced in the window of a women's clothing store that was nearing completion, and I was confronted with the sight of a small army of naked, headless mannequins. It would have made quite a picture, and it also reminded me of that rock band called the Screaming Headless Torsos, who could have perhaps used such a picture for their CD cover art.


Gary P. said...

"Zero Tolerance" policies are nothing more than an outgrowth of the Political Correctness craze, where administrators need an inflexible crutch to try to remove any possibility that they might be accused of showing any kind of favoritism to anybody for any reason.... otherwise why can someone bring a rubber band to school but not a .357? That's not fair, and -- of course -- always racist or sexist or whatever other -ist works in the situation. [Insert rolling eyes icon here]

Zero Tolerance always seems to wind up at Zero Sense.

Shawn said...

You're right. And I should take more pictures. I don't know why I do. "A day in the life." I remember doing one of those once.