Thursday, February 24, 2005

Zero tolerance run amuck

The full story sure sounds ridiculous. In particular:

Rojas said she was shocked to learn that her son was being punished for a Level 4 offense -- the highest Level at the school. Other violations that also receive level 4 punishment include arson, assault and battery, bomb threats and explosives, according to the Code of Student Conduct.

What are these school officials thinking?

A couple of the columnists that I read regularly (James Taranto and his excellent Best of the Web Today newsletter, and Randy Cassingham's hysterical newsletter This is True) frequently highlight these zero tolerance crazinesses. And there is a good web site devoted to exposing these incidents with the goal of changing the zero tolerance policies: From their site:

Zero Intelligence is a play on "Zero Tolerance", the knee jerk reactionary policies that plague our school systems. The implementation of a zero tolerance policy is the equivalent of giving up on common sense, reasonability and intellect. All infractions are grouped into types with uniform punishments regardless of the individual facts of the incident. Possession of Advil is treated as if it were equivalent to pushing crack. An honor student with the wrong type of pencil sharpener is punished the same as a known delinquent with a switchblade would be. Improper use of an inhaler leads to arrest as assault with a weapon. It is easy to see why we call these "Zero Intelligence Policies".

The most frightening part of the above paragraph is that all of the examples cited are real. They are not hyperbole or fiction for effect. They all actually happened in various school systems in the United States. These and countless other incidents show just how badly zero tolerance policies fail our children.

Personally, I find these "zero tolerance" policies very disturbing. I can only hope that our young people are born with enough sense to realize that the real world they will face as adults doesn't work the way their schools do. I fear, however, that what is actually happening is akin to some of the other grand experiments we've made with our schoolchildren Ᾱ a disaster in the making that will result (again!) in lowering America's competitiveness with the rest of the world.

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