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Boardman writes: "Even it weren't plagued with evidentiary difficulties, this application of draconian educational discipline raises questions of all sorts of rights and abuses of rights."

A Pennsylvania 10-year-old was suspended for pretending his pencil was a bow that he used to make an imaginary arrow shooting motion. (photo: Shutterstock)
A Pennsylvania 10-year-old was suspended for pretending his pencil was a bow that he used to make an imaginary arrow shooting motion. (photo: Shutterstock)

Zero Tolerance Policy Rooted in Zero Smarts

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

14 December 13


The precipitating event, an imaginary shootout, lasted only moments

he fifth grade boy needed a pencil and, with his teacher's permission, he went to the front of the classroom to get one. As he returned to his seat, his friend, another ten-year-old boy, pointed a folder at him and pretended to shoot him, as if the folder were a gun. The boy with the pencil responded by pantomiming as if he were shooting back with an imaginary bow and arrow. Then he sat down.

That's the entire episode that occurred in rural Pennsylvania during the week of October 14. But this behavior was enough to get each boy a one-day, in-school suspension, and a black mark on his permanent record, because the school has a "zero tolerance" policy on "weapons." Both boys have since served their suspensions in the office of the principal at the South Eastern Middle School-West in Fawn Grove (pop. 452, down from 463 in 2000). The school serves a district along the Maryland border with a population of almost 20,000 people (up from about 18,000 in 2000).

The motto of the South Eastern School District is "Providing Progressive Education to Strengthen the Global Community." The district has 243 fifth graders and 217 sixth graders, 96 of whom qualify for lunch subsidies due to family poverty. The district has a median family income of almost $56,000, more than $6,000 higher than the national median family income. Principals in the district are paid in the $85,000-$100,000 range, and district superintendent Rona Kaufmann was paid $135,000 in 2012. Presumably these professional educators thought the fifth grade imaginary shootout episode was closed once the suspensions had been served and noted in the record.

This "progressive education" didn't strengthen the local community

Ordinarily, that probably would have been the end of it. But the parents of Johnny Jones (his real name), the boy who needed the pencil, objected. They didn't find the process or the decision or the stain on their son's record fair. They worried that a "weapons" offense on his permanent record could cause him endless future harm. When the school refused to respond to their appeal, they turned to attorney John Whitehead, whose Rutherford Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia, bills itself as "dedicated to the defense of civil liberties and human rights" and provides pro bono legal services to people like the Joneses.

Johnny Jones's experience with school justice was unknown to most people until the Rutherford Institute made details of the case public on December 4 with a press release and a letter the same day to district superintendent Rona Kaufmann, asking her to rescind the suspension and to expunge any record of it from Johnny Jones's files. To date no school officials have made any public statement on the case, nor has the Jones family. The other boy's family has not objected on behalf of their son. On December 13, John Whitehead said that he and lawyers for the school district were talking but he didn't expect a settlement before January, if then.

So how does in-class horseplay get to the verge of going to court?

After the phantom "shootout," according to the letter from Rutherford Institute senior staff attorney Douglas McKusick: "The two children laughed. Seeing this, another girl in the class reported to the teacher that the boys were shooting at each other." If an as yet unidentified ten-year-old girl was needed to make the as yet unidentified teacher aware of the event, then any class disruption by the "shootout" was apparently minimal to nonexistent.

As for the teacher, her response was not minimal: "The teacher took both Johnny and the other boy into the hall and lectured them about disruption," the letter said, although there's no specific disruption cited. Later, the teacher sent an email to Johnny's mother, Beverly Jones, "alerting her to the seriousness of the violation because the children were using 'firearms' in their horseplay, noting that Johnny was issued a referral to the Principal."

In due course, Principal Jon Horton called Johnny's mother "and asserted that Johnny's behavior was a serious offense that could result in expulsion, although Mr. Horton offered to 'merely' require that Johnny serve a one day in-office suspension," McKusick's letter stated. During this same period, the principal also met with the teacher and the two ten-year-olds to sort out the event.

As John Whitehead described it, having spoken to the Joneses, this meeting was more like a kangaroo court than any kind of neutral evidentiary hearing as part of normal due process. The principal was present as judge, jury, and prosecutor. The teacher was there as a fact witness, even though she had not witnessed the event and could provide only hearsay testimony. But worse, in Whitehead's view, was the power imbalance of two adults facing off against two ten-year-olds, who had no adult present to stand up for them.

For an innocent kid, intimidating adult accusations can be traumatic

After more than twenty years of fighting zero tolerance school cases, Whitehead now says the one-sided face-off of adults against kids can be devastating to the kids, especially when they have no understanding of what they've done wrong and can't make sense of the adult anger and judgment raining down on them in an over-matched confrontation. Whitehead says he has seen kids who were severely damaged by the process, some needing years to recover. So far, he sees Johnny Jones as coping well, being a good student with a good record, and having a very supportive and outspoken mother on his side. But his mother told a reporter that the boy was "walking on eggshells," focused on not getting in trouble more than on learning.

When Principal Horton played the magnanimous punisher - "merely" a suspension - with Beverly Jones, she wasn't grateful. She wanted to know just what policy the boys had violated with their imaginary shootout. "Horton replied that Johnny had 'made a threat' to another student using 'a replica or representation of a firearm,' through his use of an imaginary bow and arrow," said McKusick's letter.

Beverly Jones wanted to know how her son could violate a weapons policy when he had no weapon, and when no one had even accused him of having a weapon.

Apparently "having a weapon" is in the eye of the beholder

South Eastern School District policy 218.1 defines "weapon" this way: "the term shall include but not be limited to any knife, cutting instrument, cutting tool, nunchaku, firearm, hotgun, rifle, replica of a weapon, and any other tool, instrument or implement capable of inflicting serious bodily injury." [Another official document titled South Eastern School District Student Code of Conduct on the middle school website conveys almost identical information: "the term 'weapon' shall be identical to the provisions of Section 1317.2 of the Public School Code which reads: 'The term "weapon" shall include, but not be limited to, any knife, cutting instrument, cutting tool, nunchaku, firearm, shotgun, rifle and any other tool, instrument or implement capable of inflicting serious bodily injury.' Replica weapons and 'look-alike' weapons are also prohibited."]

Clearly this definition (and the rest of the three-page policy) has in mind a thing, a physical object, something that can inflict actual harm. Any other interpretation seems to suggest the need for some remedial reading lessons. Even with the most expansive reading, it's hard to see how an invisible bow and arrow could be a "representation of a firearm" or a look-alike weapon, as the principal reportedly claimed. Given the policy definition of a weapon and the current facts of the episode, the closest thing to a real weapon involved may have been a sharpened pencil, an implement that has done plenty of serious bodily injury over the years.

The same school policy states: "Any student who brings a replica of a weapon or hazardous materials onto school property shall be subject to disciplinary action that shall be reviewed by the Superintendent and may include expulsion." The principal may have acted in violation of school policy by taking disciplinary action without review by the superintendant, given the principal's determination of the presence of a weapon (regardless of whether that determination was fanciful).

The policy further states: "The Superintendent or designee shall immediately report the discovery of any weapon prohibited by this policy to local law enforcement officials and inform the student's parent/guardian." Since the police were not involved, the school also appears to have violated this policy, although a defense might be that notice of imaginary weapons is properly in the jurisdiction of imaginary police.

Imaginary weapons lead to imaginary consistency

For a period of time, Beverly Jones challenged the principal to make a rational review of the case, but to no avail. As Nikelle Snader of the York Dispatch reported, "Despite her protests, Jones recalls Principal Jon Horton saying the punishment needed to stay consistent with other violations of the zero-tolerance policy and that the policy determined the threat with a weapon would go into John's permanent school record. Jones said it was then she decided to contact the Rutherford Institute, which she had heard about in the past."

The consistency in this middle school apparently is that weapons are treated as weapons, no matter whether they're real or imaginary. It's hard to see how the conflation of the real and the imaginary qualifies as "Progressive Education to Strengthen the Global Community," or any other kind of education to strengthen any other kind of community. In fact, the inability to distinguish between the real and the imaginary is one measure of mental health, and is sometimes labeled hallucinatory perception.

Even it weren't plagued with evidentiary difficulties, this application of draconian educational discipline raises questions of all sorts of rights and abuses of rights. The middle school's handbook declares that students have rights, and sets them in this context:

"Every right that students have is attached to an obligation. Student rights must be balanced against the rights of others. The purpose of school and the requirements of the educational process must be weighed in deciding who has a right to do what and what behavior is deemed inappropriate. Students must give their names, when requested, to any teacher, administrator or staff member."

Where does one go to get one's rights un-violated?

The handbook goes on to list ten, sometimes oddly-expressed rights, two of which are plainly at issue here. The "Right to Fair Discipline" cannot survive in a rational system if punishment is based on imaginary behavior.

That "Students have the: … Rights Under the Fifth Amendment," while awkwardly expressed, is even more problematical for a school system that wants to behave constitutionally. Since the Fifth Amendment concerns criminal prosecution, presumably the school board adopted its protections more metaphorically that literally. But whatever the intent, the process used on Johnny Jones was not only bereft of anything akin to "due process of law" but it also coercively put him in the position of being a witness against himself.

In school district policy 218, "Student Discipline," the school board promises to "establish fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory rules and regulations regarding the conduct of all students in the school district…." Should the board consider reviewing its weapons policy for fairness and reasonableness, it could do worse than consult its own online curriculum tool, "The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools," which warns that: "Shoddy thinking is costly, both in money and quality of life."

Conflating imaginary weapons with real weapons is shoddy thinking that, in this case, has already exacted an unjust toll on the quality of at least two lives, and may yet exact a significant toll in money.

A cure for the official stupidity of the professional educator?

The critical thinking guide is "designed for administrator, faculty and students" and goes on to explain that: "Its generic skills apply to all subjects. For example, critical thinkers are clear as to the purpose at hand and the question at issue. They question information, conclusions, and points of view. They strive to be clear, accurate, precise, and relevant. They seek to think beneath the surface, to be logical, and fair. They apply these skills to their reading and writing as well as to their speaking and listening. They apply them in history, science, math, philosophy, and the arts; in professional and personal life."

In the case at hand, the phantom shootout at Fawn Grove, there were few critical thinkers. On the available evidence, Beverly Jones seems to have thought critically about it from the start. The two boys weren't thinking critically in their pantomime, but how relevant is that? It might have helped if the tattletale had paused to think critically before she acted. The absence of critical thought on the part of the teacher and the principal not only created a mess, but were indications of professional failure.

Whether the superintendent has the capacity to apply critical thought to this particular absurdity or to the general idiocy of policies of zero tolerance remains to be seen (policy reform is supported by the National Association of School Psychologists as well as the American Bar Association, among other groups). But the board's own shoddy thinking in creating such policies has led to this failure, and to the possibly costly presence of attorneys thinking critically on both sides.

And who knows, if enough educators start thinking critically and with integrity, the lemming-like fad of zero tolerance might be mitigated into policies that are reasonable, responsible, and reality-based. It's at least worth a shot with a metaphorical imaginary bow and arrow.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+24 # reiverpacific 2013-12-14 23:26
It's really an attack on creativity and burgeoning young minds being put in mental splints by those who don't have a creative bone in their bodies or skulls but wish to appear progressive, cushioning the lack of real enforcement against the availability of lethal weapons by a power structure owned in part by the NRA gun lobby.
They had -maybe still have- a thing called "ASBO" (Anti-Social-Be hviour-Order) created in Blair's "New Labour" o'-so-Political ly Correct spell in Westminster UK, to try and show the world how "understanding and caring" they are -in reality creating boundaries where all one kid has to do is kick a ball or "trespass" into the wrong street or neighborhood and act out a bit, to be served with one of these repressive hits to youthful liberty.
Kids learn things like "gun-ownership is a right" from parents but act out all the time with their youthful imaginations in one way or another. If you take liberty away in one area, it will find it's way out somewhere else in perhaps more destructive ways and the more it is suppressed, the more you are likely to get an "I'll show them" response like -well the US list is so long here, take your pick.
I've heard of ASBO's being sought as a badge of honor as in "So there".
I'm glad I grew up in a time and place where my imagination, creativity and yes, warrior-like characteristics were tolerated, not squashed and if the latter was getting out of hand, steered into more team oriented channels (in my case, rugby).
+36 # backwards_cinderella 2013-12-15 04:16
there's nothing "progressive" with stupid rules.

they were being kids. the two boys with their imaginary shoot-out & the girl, telling on them. she should have been told to mind her own business & that should have been the end of it.

between the endless stupid rules & the endless stupid tests, no wonder the children of today are so lost.
+16 # Glen 2013-12-15 09:59
Stupid rules will be followed by medication. It will happen.
+31 # DaveM 2013-12-14 23:35
Our young people are being trained to be obedient servants of a dictator--those who do not end up imprisoned for some imaginary offense before finishing school, at least.

Two years ago in my home town (rural Minnesota), a high school student came to school during hunting season. He was inside the school (and by rule, not permitted to leave until the end of the day) before he realized he was wearing his hunting jacket. In one pocket he had five shotgun shells from the previous day's hunting (note for future reference: he was old enough to possess firearms and ammunition as well as a hunting license--he did not have a gun).

Fearful of the school's "zero tolerance" policy, he hid the shells behind a fire extinguisher rather than locking them in his locker with his jacket. He then went to class.

Another student found the shells and reported them. Alarms went off, the entire school was "locked down", police including a SWAT team arrived and cut the locks off every locker in the building to search the contents. They patrolled the halls with a dog for the remainder of the day.

The student eventually realized he was the cause of the incident and explained to the principal. He was suspended, faced expulsion, and was hit with criminal charges. The expulsion and most of the charges were eventually dismissed. Damage done by police to property and to everyone's sense of well-being was not addressed in any way.
+26 # ptalady 2013-12-15 00:21
How thoughtful of the principal to impose in-school suspension: that preserved Average Daily Attendance funding for the suspension days, while a stay-home suspension would have cost the school some dollars. So it can't be said that the principal is completely irrational. He can see his own best interest well enough.

As nuts as it is to suspend a student for using a pencil as an imaginary bow (as a mom, I do see that you could accidentally put someone's eye out with a pencil, so there is a conceivable safety concern...) the other student apparently used a piece of paper! I mean, I have heard that the pen is mightier than the sword, but...that is just ridiculous.
-6 # backwards_cinderella 2013-12-15 04:19
how does a stay-home suspension cost the school?

schools have in-school suspensions because when a child is suspended out of school, they get into more trouble. in-school, they can study & they are safe.
+20 # Glen 2013-12-15 07:40
Plus the school receives the money for those attending. They receive money per head. The kids suspended at home bring no revenue.
+12 # WBoardman 2013-12-15 15:21
Attorney John Whitehead told me that the pencil was NOT
used in this episode, that the "bow and arrow" was
entirely imaginary.

Just like the weapons "offense."
+23 # Majikman 2013-12-15 00:25
Perhaps the principal imagined he was at Hogwarts.
+14 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-12-15 09:45
Hogwarts is better than Pennsylvania; far, far better....
+25 # Artemis 2013-12-15 01:23
Excellent article. I can say in all certainty that my parents standing up for me at school when I was unreasonably or unjustly disciplined, diminished my feeling of standing alone against harsh and vindictive adults and gave me a strong sense of justice, for myself and all others. Johnny Jones is fortunate to have such a mother!
+22 # WestWinds 2013-12-15 03:13
If this is an example of "progressive education" I'll eat my hat!

Both of my parents were educators (my father from Harvard and my mother from Columbia University in NYC.)

What this is, is an example of old fashioned spare the rod spoil the child totalitarian authoritarianis m. The teacher salaries in the instant case are from the 1960's and Ms. Kaufman is unresponsive. (My guess is that she is a raging Republican of the political gopher kind.) And this is what you get with the typical NeoCon mentality that is so prevalent today. These people are not interested in the best interests of the child. They are interested in stealing whatever these children have of themselves. Kids can't even be allowed to go through normal growth and development phases; how VERY VICTORIAN!!!

This whole thing has been handled badly, but what do you expect? This society sits around and let the foxes run the hen house, and then they are appalled at what they get. We REALLY need to stop doing learned helplessness and dependency; especially upon sociopaths.
+29 # Kiwikid 2013-12-15 04:09
What! 30,000+ real gun deaths every year, where using real guns is apparently an integral part of everyday life, a right protected by the constitution, and two 10 year old boys are threatened with expulsion from school for doing what every normal boy does - for play acting at guns? The shear societal hypocrisy, not to mention the mixed messages being sent to these boys, is breath taking. What are they suppossed to think?
+16 # LeeMG 2013-12-15 05:46
That teaching staff needs sensitivity training about creative imagination and anti-social tendencies. " Cowboys and Indians " game may not appropriate in the classroom, but does not deserve recorded discipline. I suspect there is a fear among teaching staff that underlies the strong reaction.
+28 # kalpal 2013-12-15 05:51
When a local kid was was suspended for having a Tylenol tablet and another for having a set of fingernail clippers I announced that zero tolerance equaled zero intellect. I was slammed for not understanding why it was so important. I stand by my assessment that zero tolerance is about as downright stupid as human ever manage to get.
+24 # Nel 2013-12-15 05:52
The zero tolerance policy is just one aspect of the TERRORIZE PEOPLE national policy.
+26 # kalpal 2013-12-15 05:55
Back in the 1970s there was graffito outside of OSU that read, "Sit still, shut up, listen, get a job, reproduce and die." That in effect is the lot assigned by the powers that be to all of us who are non-rich.

We the peasants must be taught to be quiet, respectful and totally obedient.
+12 # jorarmed 2013-12-15 08:05
Right kalpal, that's the duty of the non-rich. Be obedient and never challenge the status-quo. Now I think, the NRA is praising guns all the time and encouraging everybody to posess at least one or better several weapons. But if a 10 y/o brandishes such a "lethal weapon" as a folder, he is punished for making an innocent harmless joke with a class mate, which is what normal kids do all the time. Is it me or there is here a contradiction reflecting badly on society at large?
-34 # Sweet Pea 2013-12-15 07:43
It is true that the punishment didn't fit the crime. However-I'm sure that the other students are now very aware that the zero tolerence for weapons in the school will be enforced. It may someday save a life of a student.
-23 # tonenotvolume 2013-12-15 09:20
Sweet Pea seems to be one of the few sane folks in this comment tragicomedy. The real reason these consequences are so out of proportion is the continued horror of gun deaths in schools perpetuated by gun nuts and the NRA. What will it take for them to rip that weapon out of their own dead hands and listen to the commonsense raining down on them from every part of the country?
+14 # Pancho 2013-12-15 10:47
I don't share your feelings, in part.

There is no doubt that the NRA is writing gun policy (or keeping it from being written) in the U.S. It's awful. The NRA has stood up for the "right" of psychotics to have concealed carry permits, even though they've violated those permit conditions. It's stood up for the "right" of manufacturers to not have to tag explosives such as fertilizer bombs, so that the supplier of such as that truckload of explosives set off by Tim McVeigh, cannot be traced. Todd Tiahrt, my ex-congressman (who apparently put me on the TSA watch list after I called him a liar) introduced an amendment written by the NRA that made it extremely difficult for the police to trace the sellers of guns involved in gang crime.

The NRA organized the electoral defeat of two Colorado state senators this year who had voted to limit semi-automatic weapon magazines to 15 rounds, a larger quantity apparently endorsed by the Founding Fathers. A third senator recently resigned rather than face a recall on the same grounds.

However, the "awareness" that other students had forced upon them by the zero-tolerence (sic) fantasy of pea-brained school officials is most unlikely to ever "save the life" of any student. I'd be willing to bet a million to one it won't, but would be happy to take even money odds that it will unnecessarily inhibit and intimidate a good many unfortunate students who are subjected to that administration' s weird and misplaced authoritarianis m.
+13 # reiverpacific 2013-12-15 12:00
Quoting tonenotvolume:
Sweet Pea seems to be one of the few sane folks in this comment tragicomedy. The real reason these consequences are so out of proportion is the continued horror of gun deaths in schools perpetuated by gun nuts and the NRA. What will it take for them to rip that weapon out of their own dead hands and listen to the commonsense raining down on them from every part of the country?

I'm probably more anti-gun than you, being from a country where the police don't even carry guns but such blinkered perspectives are likely to be accompanied -in fact have been- by limiting creativity and the corralling of young minds into straight jacketed, obedient servants of the corporate "Yuss boss" culture in which all independent thought is limited to the "painting by numbers" mentality.
After all, the powers that be don't want these irritating writers (especially investigative reporters), artists, musicians and poets to poke fun or counter- propaganda at them, as searching questions or in any other way keep them honest! That way lies Orwellian 1984 (and many Southern US states, as witness the suppression of Latino and native books and authors in Arizona and mandatory bible-study in Tejas).
I and my peers played war games and had toy guns in our sproghoods but everyone grew out of it. Why? 'Cause REAL guns were NOT easily got and heavily regulated.
THAT'S the root of the problem re' the NRA lobby, not some li'l kid coin' a-what comes naturally!
+7 # mozartssister 2013-12-15 14:47
Nice try, but sometimes an imaginary cigar is just an imaginary cigar.
+8 # WBoardman 2013-12-15 15:46
Quoting Sweet Pea:
It is true that the punishment didn't fit the crime. However-I'm sure that the other students are now very aware that the zero tolerence for weapons in the school will be enforced. It may someday save a life of a student.

tonenotvolume considers this comment "sane,"
but it seems to me almost delusional.

There's no apparent evidence that the students were not aware of the zero tolerance policy -- what they were clearly unaware of was that it would be applied in such a mindless and unjust fashion.

As it stands, the school has perpetrated an indefensible act of irrational oppression that, is a context of other offenses, could be expected to feed the very rage whose acting out is is intended (however thoughtlessly) to prevent.

It would be hyperbolic to expects these kids to become shooters based on this, of course. But the treatment vented on them doesn't reduce the odds, especially for the kid whose parents failed (so far) to come to his defense.

The shooter at Arapahoe High School in Colorado on Friday, according to early reports, is an illustration of the same kind of school failure -- on a much greater scale -- to respond rationally to a kid with obvious issues, including a spat with a teacher. His friends were apparently discussing the shooter's mental deterioration -- and perhaps it is telling that they saw no safe way to involve the school in bringing a bright student back from the edge.
+15 # Glen 2013-12-15 08:25
When did lightening strike to send the message to STOP HAVING FUN?!

Why are these schools, as if I didn't know, not educating students in the use/not use of guns and what a gun really is? Getting suspended from school without facts teaches them nothing but rebellion. Education of the young has expanded every year to include all manner of issues and concepts.

Why not guns.

There were at least 3 to 4 generations who grew up with cap guns, sticks, wooden guns, and more, playing cowboy and indian, war, the James Gang, etc., who did not grow up to kill with guns or anything else. The problem is enormous, within U.S. culture, and kids deserve to be educated and counseled in the issues.
+8 # Texas Aggie 2013-12-15 21:17
I belong to one of those generations growing up playing war and, except for in Viet Nam, none of us have ever shot anyone with a real gun.

One reason is that we were in general rational people. The other reason is that we didn't have the weapons available to us that are available today. When some idiot weeps and wails about the "lack of prayer" in school being responsible for the shooting deaths, he forgets to mention that during the time when school prayers existed, the most advanced weaponry available to the average kid was a zip gun. Now they have semiautomatic weapons with huge magazines that can blow away half a school without reloading. I submit that the availability of weaponry has more to do with recent multiple death incidents than not praying in school does.
+1 # Glen 2013-12-16 13:19
It is complicated, isn't it Aggie. Schools have been used as a football, getting bounced around according national and local politics, local community, and era.

I do know of rural kids in the past who would have rifles in their trucks when going to school after hunting, or just to show off a new purchase. On the other hand, yes, there were few major weapons handy. In urban areas, weapons of choice were chains, bicycle chains, tire tools, baseball bats, and the like. Gangs began getting handguns but usually only one, and that was a treasure that carried weight.

Availability is certainly a major deal, but also the culture of growing violence that influences kids, both culturally and domestically. By the time you include parents on drugs, smoking, drinking, and capable of neglect and abuse, you have the makings of some pretty volatile youth.
+18 # Susan1989 2013-12-15 08:32
Has anyone noticed that the human race is becoming more insane by the day? This is the real problem. Our system of laws and rules (all a result of rampant fear) has become so complex that we might not even know we are doing something wrong. This leads to more fear and craziness..and on and on. Look is infiltrating everything we do...and has become engrained in our cultural energy field.
+10 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-12-15 09:46
Well, Humans in the USA anyway. A lot of others are doing just fine....
+8 # Dbratton 2013-12-15 09:48
Actually, this sort of thing has been going on for a long time. When I was in high school in the 1960s, I burned my student ID card in a tin can outside the principal's office in protest of an stupid policy. To this day my high school transcript reads that I was suspended for a week for "starting a fire in the school building"!
+10 # mdhome 2013-12-15 11:20
When did the school administrators stop growing up? I don't know, but it has steadily become worse and worse, common sense is a long way from common, at least in today's schools.
+8 # Skippydelic 2013-12-15 12:13
'Zero Tolerance' is one of those things that SOUNDS good on the surface - it's a way of LOOKING tough - but inevitably, it winds up catching ONLY the innocent!

So we get kids being suspended for IMAGINARY weapons, like paper, a finger, or even a HALF-EATEN POP-TART! We get kids being suspended for having an aspirin, or even for giving somebody a LEMON DROP!

Does it REALLY prevent gun violence, though? NO! In the year since the Sandy Hook massacre, we've averaged one school shooting EVERY TWO WEEKS! Would 'Zero Tolerance' have prevented ANY of these shootings? NO!

Unfortunately, if somebody REALLY wants to shoot up a school, they'll find a way! Do the suspensions of the imaginary shooters do ANYTHING to deter somebody who's a REAL danger? NO!

When we have unparalleled proliferation of REAL weapons in our society - thanks mainly to the clueless morons in the NRA - shouldn't we be trying to deal with the REAL problem?
+7 # MindDoc 2013-12-15 13:19
IMHO, having great respect for the influence of teachers as well as parents, who together instill values as well as thinking skills and facts:

(1) Parents and teachers (as well as psychologists) generally know how important the role of play is, in learning to think, try out behaviors, develop reciprocity, empathy, sense of fairness, goal orientation, problem solving skills, collaboration, etc., etc.
It's something children do, with pointing a make-believe finger-gun one example of play, another being shoot-em-up games, or 'make believe' with toys, dolls, games, whatever. Reality. Even adults know the difference between a finger and a (more dangerous) weapon.

(2) There is a huge difference between fantasy and reality, which in this case seems much better understood by 10 year-olds than the teacher. Rules are one thing, but reality needs to be respected too. Along with context. Fifth grade time is one of great social and factual and moral learning. Play is an important developmental activity, though listening to teacher and parents is also a necessary skill.

Anyone working with children - teachers especially - needs to know the difference between play and reality, between a gun and a finger, between a piece of paper and a weapon intended to do harm. Perhaps the teacher was wise to have a hallway chat about following rules diligently, but that wisdom ended if s/he then decided to make a weapons charge and/or the administration then modeled 'zero sense'.
+6 # Glen 2013-12-15 14:08
You have done a nice job laying it all out there, MindDoc. I have taught all ages or did substitute teaching in various age groups. That means having seen teachers subdue a young person's imagination or artistic endeavors, or observing those who were geniuses at bringing out the best in kids, allowing them to achieve their niche both in talent and scholastic efforts.

There is also that flip side: teachers pressed to follow mindless standards imposed on them by state and local education offices. These teachers are walking a fine line, often, to circumvent foolish rules. In the end, though, commonsense must rule, assuming good teachers are still available.

Society and schools are now rather schizophrenic in how to approach children. And - too uptight.
+6 # Glen 2013-12-15 14:10
It is an extraordinarily tough job to teach.
+2 # Texas Aggie 2013-12-15 21:25
And there seem to be so many nitwits who are incapable of relating to reality going into the profession. Maybe giving intelligent, capable women more societal options than teaching and nursing was good for them and society at large, but with the knuckleheads going into teaching, and worse, into administration, it has sure played havoc with our kids.

+4 # Glen 2013-12-16 06:14
I had students who wished to teach, but as soon as they studied No Child Left Behind regulations they quit. Their intent was to contribute, not make judgement on a child's entire family situation.

Also, more men should be teaching. If there were better salaries, there would be more men. In one elementary school where I substituted, there was only one man teaching. In the high school, only three. The balance of men and women can help prevent a one sided effort by the staff and a good man is an excellent model for all kids.
+4 # JSRaleigh 2013-12-16 07:56
With the definition "implement capable of inflicting serious bodily injury", they're going to have to outlaw pens, pencils & paper along with the silverware in the school lunchroom.

All of those can be used to inflict "serious bodily injury."
+5 # jazzman633 2013-12-16 14:42
Back in the day, we had cap guns that were quite realistic in appearance and explosive sound. I had a revolver that you loaded with a round, 6-part disc of caps. Very cool! Yet none of us became criminals or school shooters. When "air weapons" get you in trouble, PC has gone way too far.
+1 # loraxt10 2013-12-16 21:08
You know why Drs are famous for ordering tests? Because they are afraid they will get sued. Teachers and administrators are
also afraid they will get sued. What happened here was stupid, but overreacting
is a lot safer than having good judgement
cost you your job.

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