Thursday, May 19, 2011

School Boards And Rigid Zero Tolerance Policies Strike Again!

[Photo from]
Today, I feel the need to climb back up on the soapbox and protest against school systems' "zero tolerance policies!"  Following the tragedy at Columbine, many school boards around the country have, in my opinion, over-reacted by enacting overly rigid zero tolerance policies concerning situations in which students bring toy guns to school.  Simply put, if the kid violates the policy, by bringing any toy weapon to school, (no matter how small), he or she gets zapped -- i.e. suspended and/or prosecuted.  No room for discretion, (or common sense), is allowed.  In my opinion, such lame-brained policies have led to some absurd results.

For example, have you read the news reports this week about the 9 year old Palmer, Massachusetts elementary school boy who was referred to juvenile court after taking a plastic gun on a school bus?  The kid reportedly forgot the toy was in his jacket pocket!  But school officials, in my opinion, exercised poor judgment, and discarded their discretion and common sense, by making a criminal case out of it! 

But the list of such absurd cases goes on and on!  For example, another 9 year old boy in New York recently faced suspension, according to various reports, simply because he took a toy policeman holding a two-inch gun to school.  And I will bet you all will also remember the reported case of the little girl who got into trouble simply because she had a plastic butter knife in her lunch box!

This is outrageous!  Look, as a former state and federal prosecutor, I realize that, generally, the criminal laws must be enforced.  And I also know that we cannot afford to have kids taking dangerous weapons to school.  But, in my opinion, these cases demonstrate that zero tolerance policies are not the right answer!  Instead, school systems should use a little common sense by affording school officials more leeway to simply tell a kid, "Hey, hand me that toy.  You can pick it up after school.  Don't bring it back here again." 

Now, I feel better!  I can climb down from my soapbox!  What do you think?

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