Zero Tolerance Archives
A New Trend in Schools
The term "Zero Tolerance" appears in a True story for the first time. A 6-year-old is suspended from kindergarten(!) for daring to bring a table knife to school ...to cut a cookie with.
Zero Tolerance: Time for a Rant
A lot of mail came in last week about my story on the kids suspended (and facing expulsion hearings) for playing with a "weapon" on school grounds -- a squirt gun. A few people didn't understand the story: it was not "about" water guns. It was "about" the "Zero-Tolerance" trend in schools.
ZT: The Readers Argue
Four days after my editorial about the ridiculousness of ZT, two students at Columbine High School in Littleton (suburban Denver) -- just a half-hour from my house -- went on a shooting and bombing rampage at school. They kill 12 students and a teacher, and themselves.
Response to ZT: Let's Mailbomb the Schools!
After yet more recent "zero tolerance" stories, the tenor of readers is "we want to do something about this!" I've had several questions like the one posed by Aaron in California: "I enjoy your passionate expose of Zero Tolerance mania. Quite frankly, this wave of political correctness and ZT have boggled my mind. I encourage and support your passion to wipe this crazy stuff out by taking action and making our voices heard. Do you think it would be helpful, when you publish such stories, to include an address for that school district so we can send a letter decrying these ridiculous actions they've taken? I don't know if school districts would be as concerned about letters from people who aren't in their district, but it would be one step better than nothing."
ZT: Reactions from Readers
I've gotten plenty of feedback on a recent rash of Zero Tolerance stories. Julie in Iowa (Iowa?! Sheesh. ZT has infiltrated!): "Wow, what a day to get an issue on zero tolerance. My six-year-old (kindergartner) came home today and told me that he has a girlfriend and that he kissed her on the cheek. I immediately thought of your stories of all the little people who have been suspended or worse because of doing something so innocent. I had to gently explain to him that it isn't allowed because some 'grownups' don't understand the kindness that children show to one another. He would get in LESS trouble for telling his teacher to kiss his ass than kissing his friend on the cheek!!" Send your son to this page when he's in high school, will you Julie?
ZT: Too Much Coverage?
A couple of letters regarding Zero Tolerance:
It is amazing sometimes what schools come up with. Those stories make wonder about the true example we are setting. These arguments all have a semblance of validity, and therein lies the danger. It seems like a good thing to do, but it is very, very wrong. As an aside, I think zero tolerance is probably being used because it is easier than having to monitor the situation and make decisions on a case-by-case basis. --Wayne in NWT, Canada
Most certainly they are. We wouldn't want the people that take care of our kids to think now, would we?! And indeed I even get "I-don't-want-to-think" reactions from some readers:
ZT: Legislative Action
I ran more "zero tolerance" stories last week, and I'm noticing a new trend: when I run the stories, I get mail from readers asking what they can do about this trend, since it obviously is a trend and not just an isolated happening. The new trend: many ask if I would please provide the mail/e-mail address of the schools involved so you can give the administrators a piece of your mind.
Reader Reaction to Airport ZT
I've had quite a bit of reaction to the latest airline (in)security story, which is posted on its own page. Some have told me the tagline was "mean", but far more have written of their utter frustration with jumping through hoops for officious morons. (I've indeed seen conscientious, intelligent, personable screeners. Sadly, who can argue that the few I've seen are the norm, rather than the exception?)
One Solution to Zero Tolerance
When a fourth-grade girl got nabbed by her school on "Zero Tolerance" grounds, her parents didn't lie back and take it. Here's the story, from my 26 May 2005 issue:
What Actually Works Against ZT
This week's issue had several "Zero Tolerance" stories. The stories themselves don't matter to the following point: Whenever I run stories like these, readers write to suggest I put the principal's/administrator's/school board's e-mail address in the issue to make it easy for you to write and berate them. Please don't; it's not useful for people to write nasty letters to these people.
Help! I've Been ZT'd!
My Zero Tolerance page is desperately in need of an update, but it gets lots of readers who presumably find it via web searches. One of those this week was David, a high school senior in California, who has some insight of his own into the problem. He writes:
Is There Too Much ZT in True?
After several ZT-in-schools stories over the last month, Laine in Utah complained:
Zero Tolerance -- the Next Step
The lead story last week brought an outraged response from a reader. First, here's the story, from the 2 July 2006 issue:
Zero Tolerance: The Backlash Has Begun
Here we go again: more Zero Tolerance stories. This week (7 January 2007 issue) is, I think, the first time ever that the entire issue consists of ZT stories, starting with this one:
The Public Be Damned
In the 28 January issue I ran a story about two murderers who escaped from prison in England. I noted the story was an example of "zero tolerance" mentality migrating to the real world:
Zero Tolerance: Fighting Fire With Fire
Just when I think there can't be even more outrageous examples of Zero Tolerance — in schools or in real life — I come across more that I just can't resist telling you about. But there is hope, which I'll get to in a minute. First, one of the ZT stories from this week's issue to illustrate:
Virginia Tech, Columbine and ZT
Such it is with the timing of world events: As you probably know, I write True on Sundays. I'm on the road this week and had already finished writing this week's stories -- with the lead story about a guy who shot himself in the head. Today I went to lunch with Leo Notenboom (who is also speaking at the conference where I am). It's one of those places that has TVs everywhere, and I finally looked up at the one over my head and see "22 Dead in Shooting" at Virginia Tech. Lovely. By this evening the count was up to 33, including the gunman.
What Can I Do About ZT?
Ben in Victoria, Australia, sent me a note this week with the subject, "ZT -- I'm just stunned." He writes:
I'm a premium subscriber and have been for only a few months now. I find your [work] intensely amusing and stimulating, but I have to say it also makes me mad.
ZT v. Savana Redding: a Court Decision
The family of Savana Redding, who was 13 when she was ZTd, did just that, suing the school district and school officials with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. The suit was thrown out, but they appealed, and after two rounds got a strongly worded victory from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit -- but with a shockingly thin 6-5 margin.
Zero Tolerance Trick, No Treat
Zero Tolerance is insidious. An abdication of common sense and professional ethics, in schools it seeks to apply one punishment -- suspension, usually leading to expulsion -- to any level of "crime".
The War on Kids
There will probably be two responses to the first story in this week's issue: 1) I was too hard on the public library/librarian, and 2) I wasn't hard enough on her. To be sure, my tagline was judging her based on the standards of the American Library Association.
But first the story, from True's 10 May 2009 issue:
Don't Talk to the Cops
Some readers will be a bit puzzled why I would spread this message in my blog: "Do not, under any circumstances, be interviewed by the police without advice from a lawyer." You have a right to remain silent, and I urge you to exercise that right. Especially if you are innocent.
Zero Tolerance Thwarted by Common Sense
The first story in True about "zero tolerance" appeared in June, 1995, and I started railing about the concept soon after. It took more than a decade before I starting noticing other columnists editorializing against ZT.
Another ZT Success Story
Zero Tolerance and the 800-lb Gorilla
The New York Times had an article today on a ridiculous zero tolerance situation: a kid in Delaware who was so excited to get his Cub Scouts camping utensil -- a fork, knife and spoon combo -- that he took it to school to eat his lunch with. Yeah, a Cub Scout: Zachary Christie is just 6 years old. Wait: it had a dull, kid-appropriate knife included? Why, knives are weapons! Run in circles! Pull out your hair! Scream like a little girl!
Paul Clarke and British Zero Tolerance
Often when I include an article about "zero tolerance" in True, I hear from people outside the United States who claim some variation of "only in America!"
Not so, of course. Some of the most outrageous examples happen in the British Commonwealth countries, including England. Such was the case this week (the 15 November 2009 edition), with this outrage:
Patrick Timoney's "Gun"
The "zero tolerance" stories just don't stop, despite court decisions and legislators demanding "common sense." A 2" hunk of plastic isn't a gun, unless you're a hysterical grade school principal who demands that 9-year-olds in your care sign confessions when they bring a toy to school.
1984 in 2010
Is This Zero Tolerance?
A story from last week brought two very interesting reactions from Premium readers (the story wasn't in the free edition).
So, first, here's the story, from True's 8 August 2010 issue:
The Opposite of Zero Tolerance
From True's 28 November 2010 issue:
Fighting the Good Guys
There always has to be at least one idiot in the crowd. The people who fight against the fight against zero tolerance and zero thought, and create more problems for victims -- like the girl I told you about last week who was raped at school.
Zero Tolerance: Alive and Well
When I run a string of zero tolerance stories, readers typically respond, "What should we do about this?" What I don't want you to do is e-mailbomb the school officials or school boards involved.
But first, let's recap several of this week's ZT stories (from the 1 January 2012 issue):
Two Tiny Scandals
Two stories this week will, I think, generate some comments from readers. One has a zero tolerance theme, and the other is a minor political scandal. They're both from True's 19 February 2012 issue.
"At Some Point Doesn't Common Sense Prevail?"
Another story that really needs the photo to be complete. First, the story, from True's 15 December 2013 issue: