Zero Tolerance and the Peter Principle

Oh look, it’s one of my former public school principals. Oh no, wait, it can’t be him; everything is spelled correctly. “Judgement” really should have an ‘e’ in the middle, but leaving it out is okay, too. I don’t like it, but it will pass. Lazy spellers. . . .

Zero Tolerance. This is one of those policies that looks good on paper, but which doesn’t work in real life.

Oh, it might work if those who enforced it used plain common sense, but when has that ever happened? Administrators are not typically blessed with discernment; at least, I’ve never met one who had any.

Zero Tolerance? On the bus, a special student opened the purse of a middle school student, found her Chapstick, and ate it. He got sick, and the girl was expelled for two weeks for bringing drugs to school and hiding them in her purse. Oh, and for injuring another student.

Zero Tolerance? A boy had a little packet of orthodontic wax in his wallet. Another student found it and ate it. The student got sick. The boy who had the orthodontic wax was expelled for two weeks. Concealed drugs.

Zero Tolerance? A high school student was expelled for a semester because, during the middle of the morning, the guard was walking around the parking lot inspecting the insides of the students’ cars and saw an empty beer can on the floor of the boy’s back seat. Students’ pickup trucks with guns in the gun rack were deemed “okay.”

Zero Tolerance? A middle school student was expelled for two weeks because she gave a Midol to her friend.

Zero Tolerance? All inhalers must be kept down in the office at all times, and you can’t go down there to use yours without a signed pass.

Zero Tolerance? A student’s purse strap caught on the fire alarm and set it off. She was expelled for two weeks.

Six-year-olds are being suspended for hugging a classmate. Little kids are being expelled for sharing their candy. Kids who say “G’day, mate” are being punished for using ‘racist epithets.’

A real sexual harasser is scum, but for the love of all that is holy, why can’t people use their brains and think before they report something that was meant entirely innocently?

Kids are being kicked out of school for bringing baking power to school for their science projects. Even when it’s established that it wasn’t a drug, the sentence still holds “because the kid KNEW it would look like a drug.”

Students who were caught calling 911 for a lark? Nothing. Their parents were somebody. Okay, I lied; the students were required to write a letter of apology to the police department. A few of the parents protested that it was too harsh.

Well, naturally it depends on who your parents are, as to how stringently the rules are applied.

I’ve already posted about our two plagiarizing valedictorians, and the principal who went over the heads and votes of his faculty and insisted they get that honor in spite of their academic dishonesty. I’ve also mentioned that he’s not the principal any more, thankfully. Unfortunately, he’s now the assistant superintendent.

In this area, the Peter Principle rules supreme.

I’m not kidding; I don’t think we’ve got a single administrator here who knows how to check his own e-mail. I’d bet money, if I had any, that some of them have to ask the secretary to turn their computers on in the morning.

Do I sound bitter? There’ s a reason for that. Several reasons, actually. The main one is, of course, that good kids are suffering because an adult is stupid. In fact, a lot of people suffer when an administrator is willfully ignorant.

Yes, there are times and circumstances when Zero Tolerance is a good thing; bombs, guns, pot, bullying, booze. . . . but couldn’t we make sure it’s not just cherry Kool-aid before we make a big deal out of it? And couldn’t a kid who was falsely accused get at the very least a sincere apology, made in person, from the adult who jumped the gun?

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