Zero for common sense

Zero tolerance stupidities are creating pressure to modify rigid school rules, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

HOUSTON — Unaware it had turned cool overnight, Eddie Evans’s 12-year-old son bolted out of the house in shirt sleeves. He was on his way to the bus stop when his mother called him back for a jacket.

In third period the boy discovered that the three-inch pocketknife he had taken to his last Boy Scout meeting was still inside his coat – a definite no-no under the school’s zero-tolerance policy. Unsure what to do, he consulted a friend before putting the knife in his locker. The friend turned him in and, after lunch, police arrested him and took him to a juvenile-detention center without contacting his parents, according to senate testimony.

Mr. Evans says the school then expelled his son for 45 days and enrolled him in an alternative school for juvenile offenders. By the end, the First Class Boy Scout, youth leader at church, and winner of an outstanding- student award was contemplating suicide.

There’s no substitute for judgment.

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  1. From the article:
    “Defenders of the zero-tolerance approach say that, whatever its flaws, it at least brings a measure of equality to punishment: A child at a posh suburban school in theory faces the same consequences for ‘bad behavior’ as does a student from a more chaotic or disadvantaged environment.”

    Good grief. I don’t suppose that poor kids’ pocket knife is still lying around? I think I might want to stab myself with it a few times.

  2. Bluemount says:

    Sean, Sean, Sean, now I’m gonna have to report you for being a potential violent terrorist with homocidal/suicidal tendencies; so you can be evaluated. Seriously, lawyers are recommending students never speak to authorities when they are not in the presence of their parents or counsel. The only way an authority is going to be able to find out what is going on in their school is through interrogation, snitches and threats. Where is a kid suppose to turn when they have a problem if adults are not safe?

  3. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Zero tolerance is suitable only for minimum wage jobs. Pay more, expect judgement.

  4. This is fucking insane. The kid was punished for someone else’s actions. “Zero tolerance,” by making everything theoretically “equal” diminishes the seriousness of real crimes.

    “More than a dozen bills that try to bring a less rigid approach to school discipline have been introduced in the Texas legislature this session, including one that requires school officials to consider a student’s intent.”

    Make intent a necessary consideration…what a novel concept, eh? I mean, it’s only been an essential element of criminal law for something like 1000 years.

  5. Boy, this just bugs the hell out of me.

    What does anyone expect from government employees who’s strongest motivation is job security?

    This isn’t Sir Edmund Hillary or Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise we’re talking about. It’s a public school administrator who’s job security and pension depend on not breaking any rules. Any rules. They want the shield afforded by a thicket of rules because these aren’t the kind of people who are big on taking chances.

    If you want to attract the sort of people who are comfortable with the responsibility that ought to come with authority then you have to have the sort of job environment that rewards good judgement and allows for the exercise of good judgement. The public education system isn’t and doesn’t.

  6. This is hadly new. Philip Howard detailed the problem well in “The Death of Common Sense.”