We Need a Zero-Tolerance Zero-Tolerance Policy

OK, so I was on Facebook this week and couldn’t help but notice that all the ice buckets have been replaced with enough first-day-of-school photos that I’m actually beginning to miss cat pictures.  This can only mean one thing:  ‘Tis that special season when everyone under the age of 18 has a permanent shoulder slump and every one of their parents is high-fiving and rediscovering the lunch date.  ‘Back to School’ ain’t just a sale at Wal-Mart.

I look forward to this TIMe of year, not only for the lunch dates, but because I get to read all about the zero-tolerant administrators and their vigorous tolerance for zero-tolerance policies, which has them doling out more suspensions than a bridge-builder because at some point along their 100k graduate education they found that teaching rules is easier than teaching character.  Perhaps you are familiar with the famous ‘Pop-Tart gun’ incident I wrote about here.  Turns out this incident is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce wedge. With bacon bits.  And bleu cheese crumbles.

For example, last week in Tennessee a girl served an in-school suspension for saying ‘Bless you’ after a classmate sneezed.  The teacher reportedly said that such “Godly speaking” was “reserved for church.”  The girl evidently violated the school’s zero-tolerance free speech policy.

(As an aside, this situation begs the pragmatic yet philosophical question:  What do you say to atheists after they sneeze?  Perhaps we could come up with something else that ends in ‘you’.  Hmmm…)

At least she wasn’t doing drugs.  Or worse, not doing drugs.  An Indiana seventh-grade girl was suspended for violating her school’s zero-tolerance drug policy by momentarily holding an Adderall, an ADHD drug that a fellow student offered her and placed in her hand.  Despite declining the pill and returning it to her classmate (who had already forgotten about it and moved on to something shiny), the girl was “in possession of a drug” and thus “broke the rules” according to her brainiac school officials.  I think their actions were politically motivated.  Saying ‘no’ to drugs was a Reagan thing wherein the rich just got richer.

At least she wasn’t in possession of Kool-Aid.  Three seventh-graders in a Chicago school were suspended and charged with ‘possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver’ after school officials cought them selling plastic baggies of purple powder for 25 cents each.  The kids’ story was that the powder was grape Kool-Aid, when in fact the powder was actually grape Kool-Aid.  After three months of legal wrangling, prosecutors finally consented to test this mysterious purple powder as to its composition.  The powder was grape Kool-Aid.  The suspensions as well as the charges were dropped.

At least they weren’t playing hangman.  A 13-year old Portland boy was suspended after officials discovered he had drawn a doodle of a stick figure hanging from some sort of primitive platform that egregiously violated zero-tolerance word-puzzle policies.  What’s worse is that inexplicably, there was an assortment of short dashed lines beneath the figure.  I’m surprised they didn’t go into lock-down.  The boy was interviewed by local police and given a risk assessment by the school psychologist before being allowed to return to class.  This violent, hateful (and probably racist) kid obviously poses a clear and present danger to his classmates.  Thankfully, the warning signs were seized upon before he began using their names in acrostics.

But at least he didn’t have a butter knife, which violates all kinds of zero-tolerance stainless policies.  A 13-year old Massachusetts girl was suspended for bringing a butter knife to school so she could—get this—cut her fruit.  Homophobe.  And a six-year old Omaha boy was suspended for a butter knife that fell out of his backpack at lunch.  Subsequent investigation showed that it was probably planted there by the boy’s violent, hateful (and probably racist) four-year old brother.  (Curiously, lunchtime is when the vast majority of butter-knife violations take place, the cause of which is to be studied by a major university just as soon as the government grant is approved.)

And a Texas teen was suspended after a butter knife was spied in the back of his pick-up.  As he should be.  Nothing is worse than sneaking out to the high-school parking lot for a quick cigarette and being confronted by an oleo-wielding ruffian.  Any kind of knife is wicked, of course, because—all kidding aside—knives are actually considered a violation of zero-tolerance weapons policies.  This is why all of my daughter’s classroom dissections have been accomplished with popsicle sticks and/or cotton swabs.  The earthworm was less than successful.

But at least these kids hadn’t attended a professional baseball game.  A Fort Worth teen was suspended for having an 8” wooden Major League souvenir baseball bat in the front seat of his car.  The bat was deemed a ‘weapon’ by school officials.  The collection of full-sized aluminum bats in the back of his car was perfectly acceptable however, as the teen was a star on the school baseball team.

At least this guy didn’t refer to or discuss or think about guns.  Nothing gets school administrators lathered up like the zero-tolerance policies with regard to owning, referring to, or implying something maybe might be associated with guns.  Just ask the seven fourth-grade boys from Colorado who were sent home for pointing their fingers at each other like guns in a playground game of ‘Army-and-Aliens’.  Six of the seven spent their time off playing Grand Theft Auto until they were fully rehabilitated.   The seventh was more of a HALO guy.  To be fair, other schools do allow kids to point fingers at each other, but only after they have gone through a thorough background check.

One South Carolina teen has been suspended this year for completing a classroom assignment in which he invented a story about killing a dinosaur with a gun.  Suspicious that an American student actually completed an assignment, officials sprang into action.  Police were notified and the student’s backpack and locker were searched.  No gun was found.  Nor, thankfully, was there any evidence of a recently shot dinosaur.

And this is just a sample of today’s top child-criminal minds.  It’s a wonder that I made it through school without a suspension.  Of course, it helps when you work hard to keep your nose clean.  And brown.

I think if I were a school administrator I would have a zero-tolerance policy against all zero-tolerance policies.  But I suppose if I did my zero-tolerance policy would violate my own zero-tolerance policy.  I would have to suspend myself.

2 thoughts on “We Need a Zero-Tolerance Zero-Tolerance Policy

  1. Would you be suspended like the kid that drew the hangman game, or like the guy he was drawing? I tend to be for suspending a lot of school administrators, but I haven’t decided which way.


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