Top 10 zero tolerance follies of 2014

Among Hit & Run’s 10 Outrageous ‘Zero Tolerance’ Follies of 2014:

A 13-year-old boy at Weaverville Elementary School in California shared his school lunch (a chicken burrito) with a hungry friend. For this, he got detention. Superintendent Tom Barnett explained, “Because of safety and liability we cannot allow students to actually exchange meals.”

. . . A second grade teacher at Chicago’s Washington Irving Elementary School was suspended for four days without pay for bringing screwdrivers, wrenches and other shop tools to class, and demonstrating how to use them.

A 79-year-old substitute teacher in Claremont, New Hampshire gave up her job rather than “un-friend” about 250 current students on Facebook.

Chapstick is gateway to bee balm

A Virginia fifth grader is asking the school board to let her use Chapstick at recess to prevent chapped lips, reports the News Virginian. School policy has defined Chapstick as an over-the-counter medication which must be requested by a physician and administered by a school nurse.

Chapstick could be a gateway drug to Burt’s Bees lip balm, warns Reason‘s Hit & Run.  “Beezin'” — putting bee lip balm on eyelids for a menthol tingle — is alleged to be a new teen fad.

Katherine Mangu-Ward wonders if the trend is for real.

News accounts can’t decide whether the tingle of menthol on delicate tissues is a pleasant complement to being buzzed—”Some who do ‘beezin’ said it adds to the experience of being drunk or high”—or a standalone activity—”others said it helps to keep them alert.”

What are the risks?

“The peppermint oil in the lip balm is a very strong irritant and can cause inflammation in the eye redness of the eye swelling,” Dr. Brett Cauthen told . . . KOKH in Oklahoma City.

. . . Temporarily puffy eyes? Nooooooooo!

News outlets are linking to a beezin’ video “with sincere alarm,” reports Mangu-Ward. It’s not just an obvious parody. It says it’s a parody at the end.

Don’t Nerf me, bro!

Scott and Ramsey McDonald with the fourth grader's Nerf gun.

Scott and Ramsey McDonald with the fourth grader’s toy.

Fourth-grader Ramsey McDonald was told to bring a favorite toy to his Houston school to share with the class. He brought a blue, orange and green Nerf gun.

He received a three-day in-school suspension for bringing “something that looked like a weapon,” a school official told Ramsey’s father, Scott McDonald.

Houston School Supt. Mark Scott said school officials realized the Nerf gun wasn’t dangerous. “We never viewed that as a weapon.”

At least, they didn’t call the cops.

16-year-old arrested for ‘killing’ dinosaur

Assigned to write a Facebook-style “status” update about himself, a 16-year-old South Carolina boy wrote that he’d “killed my neighbor’s pet dinosaur.” In a second “status,” Alex Stone used the word “gun” and the phrase “take care of the business.”

He was arrested for disorderly conduct and led away in handcuffs. Stone also was suspended from Summerville High School.

“Summerville police officials say Stone’s bookbag and locker were searched on Tuesday, and a gun was not found,” reports NBC.

But did they search for the dead dinosaur?

Honor student expelled for science project

A chemistry-loving, cello-playing honor student was expelled and charged with two felonies for her science project. Kiera Wilmot wanted to demonstrate a chemical reaction simulating a volcanic eruption. The Florida girl was charged with bringing an explosive device to school and discharging it.

She is a good kid,” said Bartow High School principal Ron Pritchard. “She has never been in trouble before. Ever.”

Kiera was sent to an “opportunity center” with easy classes and no homework, she wrote in the Huffington Post.

Prosecutors dropped the charges, but it will take five years to clear her record. That could interfere with her dreams of earning a degree “in technology design and engineering.” She wants “a career building robots that can do tasks like surgeries or driving cars.”

Opposition to “zero tolerance” policies continues to grow, reports Reason. The School Discipline Consensus Report  by the Council of State Governments Justice Center recommends scaling back suspensions and expulsions “handed down by school administrators over minor and even accidental rule infractions.”

War Against Boys: The boys are losing

The War Against Boys still rages, writes Christina Hoff Sommers in the revised edition of her 2000 book.

The boys are losing, writes Nathan Glazer in an Education Next review. Schools continue to ignore boys’ “distinctive characteristics” and “the gap in school achievement between boys and girls” is “even more substantial and troubling.”

Sommers describes trends in education that hurt boys, including “the
ednext_XIV_3_waragainstboys_coverdecline of recess, punitive zero-tolerance policies, myths about juvenile ‘superpredators,’ and a misguided campaign against single-sex schooling.”

“As our schools become more feelings centered, risk averse, competition-free, and sedentary, they move further and further from the characteristic sensibilities of boys,” she writes.

“The movement to give special attention to girls and their needs was part of the grand drive to equality that has dominated American life and politics for decades,” writes Glazer, a Harvard professor emeritus in education and sociology. “But the drive for equality for the sexes was accompanied by a litigious and bureaucratic fervor that often went beyond common sense.”

Career tech programs that have engaged boys are under pressure to enroll more girls, Sommers writes. Few girls sign up for welding or pipefitting. Few boys want to be cosmetologists or child-care workers.

The Obama administration hopes to use the $1.1 billion Perkins Act to push more girls into “nontraditional” vocational and technical training, notes Glazer.

Sommers points out that in 2010 women made up 64 percent of graduate students in social science, 75 percent in public administration, 78 percent in veterinary medicine, and 80 percent in health sciences. Will that attract the attention of politicians and of bureaucrats enforcing Title IX?

Thirty-two percent of 27-year-old women have earned a four-year degree, compared to only 24 percent of men, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Teacher suspended for kids’ science projects

A Los Angeles teacher was suspended because two students’ science fair projects shot dealt with shooting projectiles, reports the LA Times.

Students and parents have rallied around Greg Schiller after his suspension, with pay, from the Cortines School of Visual & Performing Arts, a very expensive new high school in downtown LA.

One project used compressed air to propel a small object but it was not connected to a source of air pressure, so it could not have been fired. (In 2012, President Obama tried out a more powerful air-pressure device at a White House Science Fair that could launch a marshmallow 175 feet.)

Another project used the power from an AA battery to charge a tube surrounded by a coil. When the ninth-grader proposed it, Schiller told him to be more scientific, to construct and test different coils and to draw graphs and conduct additional analysis, said his parents, who also are Los Angeles teachers.

Administrators told Schiller that he was removed from his classroom for “supervising the building, research and development of imitation weapons,” according to teachers union representative Roger Scott.

“As far as we can tell, he’s being punished for teaching science,” said Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

This may not have been zero tolerance gone wild, the Times suggests. As the union rep on campus, Schiller had been negotiating with administrators over updating the employment agreement. 

My first husband submitted a design for an atomic bomb for his fifth-grade science fair and nobody said boo.

Girl saves boy, faces expulsion

Sixth-grader Adrionna Harris saw a boy cutting his arm with a razorblade at her Virginia Beach middle school. She persuaded him to give her the blade and threw it away. The next day, she told a school administrator what had happened. She was suspended for 10 days with a recommendation for expulsion. She’d handled the razorblade.

After her mother complained to the local TV station, the administration moved up the disciplinary hearing and cleared the girls record. She missed four days of school.

“She thought he would bleed out, as he was cutting himself, and there was no teacher in sight,” said Rachael Harris, the girl’s mother. 

Adrionna said she’d do it again. “Even if I got in trouble, it didn’t matter because I was helping him.”

“The way school officials responded led to a question of if the school’s zero tolerance policy went too far,” reports WAVY-TV.

Ya think?

Defender of gay student won’t be expelled

life lesson: what's right and what's permitted doesn't always matchA Florida high school student was suspended, but not expelled, for defending a gay classmate who was being attacked in the cafeteria.

Mark Betterson’s 10-day suspension was reduced to two days after a disciplinary hearing. When James Griffin swung at the football player, he fought back, breaking “zero tolerance” rules. He says he’d do it again, if necessary.

Griffin was arrested for battery for punching Jonathan Colon in the face and head.

“I think it’s a good punishment as substitution for expulsion, but (Betterson) shouldn’t even have been considered for expulsion for what he did,” said sophomore Cody Lesie.

“I think it’s horrible because he got suspended for doing something right,” said sophomore Kyle Piogrim.

No kidding.

Zero tolerance for standing up to bully

When a bully attacked a gay student in the cafeteria, a football player stepped in to protect the victim. Rescuer Mark Betterson was suspended for 10 days for fighting, reports Gay Star News. James Griffin, 18, faces battery charges for the attack on Jonathan Colon, who’s openly gay.

East Lee County High School in Florida has a zero tolerance policy on fighting, reports Reason‘s Hit and Run blog. It doesn’t matter who started it.

Griffin reportedly threw milk in Colon’s face and shouted homophobic slurs before punching him twice in the head. “Jonathan was just going to stand there and get beat up … if I didn’t jump into it,” Betterson told WFTX-TV. “I was just trying to break up the whole thing because its not fair for somebody to get beat up for something that he is.”

Betterson said he had only gotten physical when Griffin had begun throwing punches at him too.

“He swung at me and was like ‘you can get it too’ so we got into a fight,” Betterson said.

” . . to be suspended for 10 days, I don’t understand. I’m not going to stand there and watch somebody get bullied.”

Colon didn’t know Betterson before the fight, he said. “I was protected by someone who had no reason to protect me, we have nothing in common – he’s on the football team and I’m the flamboyant gay boy.” 

Life imitates Glee.

Colon organized classmates to protest Betterson’s suspension, which will be reviewed on Monday.