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bullet  Losing my Tolerance for "Zero Tolerance"

"Zero Tolerance" Rules and Laws Require Severe Punishment Not Only for Possessing Drugs or Guns, but Also Any Item Which "Looks Like" a Prohibited Item.

Is This Tiny Toy a "Weapon"?
Bang Bang -- you're dead? If you attend school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, don't carry a toy key fob like this one in your pocket. A 7-year-old boy was suspended in school for carrying one of these because it violates the district's "zero tolerance" policy on "weapon possession".

When I write True each week, there are sometimes patterns to the stories. There are certain recurring themes: Darwinism (in both the "survival" and "social" senses), stupid criminals, and -- lately -- "Zero Tolerance" stories. Mostly I'm amused by the foibles of teeming humanity. But the "ZT" stories tend to make me mad, and I've been talking about them here and there in the author's note in the online edition of This is True. Here are three recent stories, to give you the idea -- the first, by far not the first in the series, is one I thought was the most outrageous possible. As you'll see below, it's nowhere near the worst.

Candy, Little Boy?

(November 1997) A Colorado Springs, Colo., school district says it did the right thing when it suspended 6-year-old Seamus Morris under the school's zero-tolerance drug policy. The drug? Lemon drops. Taylor Elementary School administrators called an ambulance after a teacher saw the boy give another student some candy, which was a brand teachers didn't recognize. "It was not something you would purchase in a grocery store," a district spokesman said. "It was from a health-food store." A spokesman for St. Claire's Lemon Tarts, however, noted that the candy is indeed sold in Colorado's largest grocery store chain. School officials were not impressed, and not only upheld the half-day suspension, but told the boy's mother that a child who brings candy to school is comparable to a teen who takes a gun to school. (UPI) ...Maybe it's time for a "zero-tolerance policy" toward idiotic school administrators.

Rocket Scientist

(March 1999) David Silverstein, 13, was inspired to build a model rocket after seeing the movie "October Sky", a biography of NASA rocket scientist Homer Hickam. The boy took his rocket, made out of a potato chip canister and fueled with three match heads, to his Glendale, Ariz., school, where it was found in a search of his locker. School officials classified the toy as a "weapon" and suspended him for the rest of the year based on its "zero-tolerance" weapons policy. The police were also called, and the case is being referred to juvenile authorities. (Arizona Republic) ...How the U.S. lost its leadership in technological innovation -- one in a long series.

Bang-Bang, You're Brain-Dead

(April 1999) Administrators saw three students at the Union Colony Charter School in Greeley, Colo., playing with a water gun. According to the school's interpretation of the state's "zero tolerance" weapons law -- which mandates suspension of students who "carry, bring, use or possess a firearm or firearm facsimile at school" -- the unnamed boys have been suspended. According to standard practice in "weapons" cases, the boys must now face expulsion hearings. (UPI) ...Zero Tolerance: the politically correct term for zero thought, zero common sense.

The last one, if you can't tell by my comment, was a sort-of final straw for me. It
led to the following author's note (in the 16 April 1999 broadcast, "11 April" issue):

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. There are obviously problems in schools from such things as drugs and violence. But terrorizing children with inflexible rules is not the answer. School principals have always had the responsibility to make and enforce rules, and punish accordingly when those rules are broken. "Zero-Tolerance" laws take that responsibility away. They mandate certain responses that can be way out of proportion to the rule violation in question. That is what these stories are about. "This is True" has reported on a fair number of these knee-jerk reactions to non-events. Children are put into the position of being treated as felons by being suspended and/or expelled over obvious toys -- the very same thing that would happen if they brought real guns to school. What happened to the punishment fitting the "crime"? What happened to justice? What happened to the education of these children? All of that is being ignored in the name of "Zero-Tolerance". Sure, in many cases the kids broke a rule, and those rules have a purpose (e.g., to avoid tragic shootings by police who think the guns are real). Most cases call for, at most, a stern talk in the principal's office -- not suspension, expulsion, police involvement or press conferences (as many of these cases have seen). It seems to me that if we feel a need to expel kids over water guns, there must not be many real problems our society needs to deal with.

This led to a huge amount of mail, nearly all of it in total support of my comments. Not all of it, however, was supportive. That's fine: I never mind honest, thoughtful, disagreement with things I say. But one woman kept coming back again and again, arguing "What if those squirt guns were loaded with bleach? Would you let them go? What about a rapist that is impotent? Would you let him go?" Huh? And she was serious! She thought she was debating real points! And, in case she's reading this, I'll say it again: I'm not arguing that everyone should be set free; I said punishments should fit crimes. Real crimes call for real punishment. Non-crimes do not call for real punishment! Pretty simple concept? Apparently not.

Because then came the shooting spree by two students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, and several people who really missed the point got pretty high and mighty and yelled "See?!" at me. That led to the following editorial, in the 23 April 1999 broadcast ("18 April" issue), which includes one of the more thoughtful of those letters:

Letters are still coming in on my "Zero Tolerance" rant a few weeks ago, and frankly, I wish they'd stop: there's nothing that will change my mind. For instance:

Diane, somewhere in The South, wondered

  • "If one of your children (or nieces or nephews or grandchildren) were one of the many killed in the recent Colorado shooting, would you be such a cavalier critic of the Zero Tolerance 'trend'?"

Absolutely yes, though my position is not "cavalier" but well thought out, which is why one event, as bad as it was, doesn't change my mind. And remember: I live in Colorado. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have died in wars to protect our freedoms. I have no interest in trading them away for the false security these silly rules provide. Colorado is one of the leading states in "Zero Tolerance" -- about half of the stories on the "trend" in True are in fact based in Colorado! Yet that sure didn't help the kids in Littleton, did it? As if I haven't said this enough already, such rules do little to solve the real problems of drugs and violence in the schools.

Lee, a reader in Texas, knows that such rules do get out of hand:

  • "In Garland, Texas, about a year or so ago, a boy was suspended from school under a similar 'zero tolerance' policy -- for forming his hand in the shape of a pistol. The Gestapo, er uh, police said that he was 'engaging in terrorist activity.' This incident didn't make the papers, but it's no less ludicrous than your [recent] story." And the kid is going to be able to get a job as an adult with a police record that says that ...how? "Zero Tolerance" means little more than "Zero Thought", and means "Zero Discretion" is given to the teachers and principals who we hired to educate our kids. And that's the last about this topic here ...until the next idiotic story appears in True. Unfortunately, I have little doubt that there will be another!

Let me illustrate with two more stories so we don't get too bogged down in the emotions of the Colorado shooting; I have a real point to all of this.

Candy, Little Boy? II

(November 1997 -- the next story after "Candy, Little Boy?" above) A 10-year-old girl at McElwain Elementary in Thornton, Colo., was one of a group of girls who "repeatedly" asked a certain boy on the playground if he liked them. The boy complained to a teacher, so school administrators, citing the district's "zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy", decided to suspend her. After an outcry from outraged parents, the school changed its mind. A district spokeswoman said school officials "probably" overreacted, but "it's all in how you look at it." (UPI) ...Same apple, different worms.

Blimey

(January, 1998) An 11-year-old British schoolboy met an Australian classmate and greeted him by saying, "G'day, sport." The boy, who was not named, was "caught" by a teacher, the school said in a statement, and while "there was no maliciousness or intent" on the boy's part, he was charged with racism for his greeting. "The boy was counseled, ...dialogue has taken place with parents," and the boy was made to write "I must not use racist remarks" 60 times, said the statement by Beverley Grammar School in Yorkshire. Tony Brett Young of the Australian High Commission was concerned it was a case of political correctness gone overboard. "'G'day sport' is part of our vernacular," he said. "It's just a traditional and friendly manner of speaking." (Reuters) ...Tony, you must remember that the self-appointed paternalistic PC snobs don't care what you think as they're more "culturally sensitive" of your nationality than you.

Now, the several issues these stories hint of are serious. Sexual harassment nearly brought down the President of the United States. It's a terribly unfair power issue, and where is there a greater power difference between the president and a lowly, unpaid White House intern? Drugs interrupt or end thousands of lives every day, not just among the people that choose to use them and can't manage to do it in reasonable moderation. People die in car crashes, drug users thrust their families into poverty, and the cost of their habits drive them to crime. And racism is surely a disgusting remnant of less enlightened eras.

But what are the stories above? The little girl wasn't sexually harassing a little boy, she was being a little girl, trying to learn how to deal with the opposite sex -- a trial-and-error process (don't you remember?) where the errors shouldn't be treated as a felony. The six-year-old boy wasn't using or selling drugs, he was sharing candy. Sharing candy! And the British lad wasn't making light of a fellow white boy's ancestry, he was trying to greet a potential friend in a way that was familiar to him.

Calling every botched encounter between genders "sexual harassment" tells true victims of that crime that their experience was similar to a schoolyard crush. Calling sharing "drug use" tells children that there's no difference between giving a friend a lemon drop and selling him heroin cut with rat poison. And calling the use of vernacular "racism" demeans people that suffer from horrible crimes: the denial of their ability to live and make a living. And it tells the people that are not involved in these issues that really, these things are just trivial things, nothing to worry about. This racism stuff is not a problem, drugs aren't a scourge, and sexual harassment is just consenting adults with unequal paychecks.

Are these the lessons legislators intend when they pass zero-tolerance laws -- and when bureaucrats enforce them? Because that's what the kids are learning. And, worse, the ZT trend gives a false sense of security. People want to know that things like school shootings can be stopped. But Colorado is at the forefront of the ZT movement! Here, ZT isn't a rule, it's the law. Did that help the students in Littleton? Of course not. Passing an inflexible law does not stop murder -- which is already quite illegal. Terrorizing a little kid for sharing candy -- and justifying it afterward when an outraged parent complains -- doesn't stop drug use. And it never will. As far as I can tell, Zero Tolerance has only negative effects. It must be stopped: it's nothing more than institutionalized Zero Intelligence.

Some of the more interesting comments from readers -- and some responses to some foolish thinking -- are posted here.

Update: ZT is spreading to the "real world"! If you think ZT is only an issue of concern to schoolchildren, think again!

69 Comments on This Entry

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Posted by Michelle Colorado Springs on January 24, 2009:

My son was playing volley ball at his elementary school. A girl kept pushing into him when they were playing. Finally, my son got mad and said, "I wish you were dead." Zero-tolerance. The principal and vice-principal are giving him an in school suspension and very sternly stated, "This will go on his permanent record!"

Okay, kids say things when they get pushed. Give me a break all these teachers need to go back to school and take a psychology class on the behaviors of children at this age. They are "children", "kids", please, it is a scientific fact that their brains are still developing. We need to teach kids that these things are not okay to say, but a firm talking to would do a lot, and believe me we did this, but I also pointed out that his principal should not be in charge of children because she has no concept of what children do naturally.

Posted by Garry Stahl of Dearborn, Mi on February 3, 2009:

Zero Tolerance: Means zero intelligence. A lame excuse for overreaction without thought or responsibility for one's overreactions. Anyone claiming or demanding Zero Tolerance should be taken out and shot without further adieu. However not being a promoter of zero tolerance I will settle for beating them sensible.

Posted by Dan, Northeast TN on March 12, 2009:

In a very similar situation, my wife's grandson was suspended from school for having a two-inch pot metal "rifle" on his key ring. That was in NY state. I doubt it would happen here in Northeast TN, where common sense seems more common.

Posted by Michele E. Redding, CA on March 19, 2009:

The examples seem pretty dated. I know this was a big trend after the '94 legislation, but haven't most districts dialed it back a bit since then?

---

Yes, this page could use some updating. No, not much has changed -- and there have been plenty of examples in the newsletter that haven't been posted on the site. You might consider subscribing and seeing for yourself. -rc

Posted by Art, Littleton Colorado on April 7, 2009:

Ha. Zero Tolerance. You can tell the lady who thought your opinion was "cavalier" that I went to Columbine. I was there on April 20th. I would like to know one way, ONE possible way that zero tolerance could have stopped that. Hell, a friend of mine got in a fight about two months before the shooting. Some kids jumped him from behind in the school parking lot. He never threw a punch. Yet they all got suspended. Zero intelligence is a much better term.

Posted by Mauricio, Addison Illinois on April 7, 2009:

My friend was a victim of these Zero Intelligence policies. Someone that didn't like him decided to put a bb gun in his locker and he was expelled from school.

Posted by Ayla, Michigan on April 7, 2009:

Laws like "Zero Tolerance" frighten me. I am amazed that I emerged from public schools unharmed (I graduated in 2007) and plan on sending my future children to private schools when that time arrives. Zero Tolerance is a great idea in theory. But if a kid brings a gun to school and shoots someone, the victim is still dead, whether the schools have "zero tolerance" on the perpetrator or not. Instead, the law has simply providing a loophole for power-hungry school administrators to abuse and punish children for everyday behaviors such as sharing and playing under the guise of "protecting" them. Ridiculous. I completely agree--let the punishment fit the crime. This is supposed to be the greatest country ever, right? Not one where a kid can be suspended for extending his index finger into the shape of a gun--something I've seen my 5 year old nephew do plenty of times. Hopefully no teacher ever notices for his sake.

Posted by Lisa, Colorado Springs on April 7, 2009:

I live in Colorado as well and I hate the Zero Tolerance BS. My son is in kindergarten and I am afraid of this stupidity possibly forcing me to abandon any attempt at a career and home school because school officials having a fit over children being children.

To explain: my son started kindergarten in the fall of last year. He is a very bright, if a little excitable, 5 year old child. He likes to run and scream and rough house like a lot of little boys. But he has some problems listening, and the first month in school was rough - a lot of pushing and hitting going on. But it wasn't just MY child. Though that's not what the school would have us parents believe. They act like any child who ever has any issues is a "problem". My son also has gotten in trouble for making a gun with his hand, not suspended, however the school cut him to a half day from full day kindergarten. My son has been bullied, punched, kicked and teased. But the school never found out about it till I went and had a fit in the principal's office. Now he is doing well in school but they refuse to keep him full day as was originally discussed was the plan when he was doing better. I had to abort my plans to attend nursing school this school year because the classes I need are afternoon classes - when my son is home now because the school dug in their heels and refuse to budge. They don't care. It isn't THEIR future. ZT is getting to be out of hand and overly retarded.

Posted by Stephen, Idstein Germany on April 8, 2009:

Zero Tolerance is just another example of overzealous American stupidity. I am an American, and have been living in Germany for almost 20 years. I have flown around the world and been exposed to many cultures. Yes stupidity is everywhere. But Zero Tolerance is American STUPIDITY in its prime. Kids are kids and need direction not harsh (in the cases listed here... cruel and unfortunately not unusual) punishment. As with most other things there is a small group of individuals that go to the extreme to prove something. Sharing candy has nothing to do with drugs unless it's laced with PCP. Bringing a water pistol to school (no matter how stupid it is) is not a crime, it's just stupid. Parents PLEASE talk to your kids about APPROPRIATE behavior, school board PLEASE talk to the staff about APPROPRIATE behavior.

Bringing a "REAL" weapon or mock-up should be punished. Selling/sharing dope (not advil, aspirin or lemon drops) should be punished.

Parents and teachers alike need to take RESPONSIBILITY for GUIDING the next generation. Making them responsible, respectable and well balanced individuals, not psychotic little monsters who get an overly harsh punishment for doing something that they though was right.

---

I'm not clear where ZT started, though I admit it was probably in the U.S. But no matter where it was invented, it has definitely been adopted in other countries, especially Britain. Let's hope they realize the mistake before they go too far down the road with this. -rc

Posted by Tom, Vancouver Canada on April 8, 2009:

I was suspended for bringing a miniature keychain gun to elementary school too. Worse, at my disciplinary hearing with a school liaison officer and the vice-superintendent, the (female) officer asked leading questions to the girl I had supposedly terrorized by showing off my keychain, said I was heading down a slippery slope, and suggested I be sent to boot camp at the tender age of 9 before I became some crazy killer. Thank goodness the vice-superintendent had some sense in his head and realized that officer had no clue what she was talking about.

Posted by stephen michigan on April 19, 2009:

I am in highschool and my freshman year they came up with this new rule that anybody that gets caught with a cell phone (or any ELECTRONIC DEVICE) in their pocket or in the open automatically gets suspended. I think this is part of the ZT, but i am not sure. Either way, i got suspended for having a cell phone in class, just because part of it was sticking out of my pocket! I do not believe i was treated with the right punishment. A story i heard was of a boy that went to a school with the same rule had a father serving in Iraq, and he rarely was able to speak to his family. This boys father had his son's cell phone number so that he could call him if he had a chance and one day in class the father called his son. The boy stepped out of class to talk to him and was suspended for having a cell phone. The school was aware of his father being in Iraq and the possibility of him calling his son. WTF?

Posted by Ed from Richmondville, NY on April 23, 2009:

Update: The U.S. Supremes are hearing arguments this week (4/22/09) on the girl strip searched for Rx. Ibprophen. I hope the Supremes recall two things: The "EEEEWwwwww factor"; strip searching any one for an Rx drug, or any drug when they are "in custody"? What is next, body cavity searches for cheat sheets? Would Justice Robers or Ginsburg want their child or grandchild stripped for a pill?

Secondly: these are teachers, not police trained in civil rights. Educators "should" know the difference between police & educators; roles & responsibilities. They squawk loudly if a parent tries to tell them how to run a classroom, now teachers want to do undercover work too?

---

Good points. The New York Times has a report on the testimony. -rc

Posted by matt, australia on May 8, 2009:

HI love your work it saddens me reading these stories to know humans are this bad. I personally hate people because of the things there capable of. The people in your stories are victims of evil uneducated people. If its was my daughter you stripped search your life would be over. I have no time for what i like to call the evil doers.

Keep up the good work maybe my grandkids can live in a world where commonsense is common.

Posted by Beth, Orlando on May 22, 2009:

Just yesterday, Pittsburgh-area school officials recommended that a middle-school student be expelled for bringing an eyebrow shaver to school. They found the shaver in her purse during a random search. They said that their standard disciplinary policy addresses all students equally. They didn't say "with equal display of idiocy."

Posted by Kelly Ann, Delaware on June 25, 2009:

I'm home schooled now, but public school was a nightmare.

In 2nd grade, a boy punched me in the eye while I was sitting at my desk. After he punched me, I put my arms over my face to prevent him from hitting me anymore and I was the one who got in trouble for defending myself. The ZT trend not only punishes kids for the most stupid things, but most of the time punishes the wrong people. The kid told the teacher and principal that I taunted him and told him to hit me, which I didn't. He kept saying things along the lines of "I'm gonna get you. I'm gonna hit you." which I replied with "Leave me alone." In the end, I got most of the blame, the vision in my eye temporarily messed up and a hate for every teacher in school (almost all of them were like my teacher, who LAUGHED at me when I got punched, by the way) and he got off with a slap on the wrist.

Posted by Heather, Cincinnati on June 25, 2009:

When my boy was 7 he told the principal he had a knife in his pocket and was going to 'cut his nuts off' with it. Mind you they went thru a metal detector on the way into school. They arrested him, charged him with a felony, and only then called me to pick him up at at Juvenile, where he was all ready at, before I knew anything was going on. Before I could get him out of that school they had him arrested 3 more times. Oh, and did I mention, he's high functioning autistic, with bipolar and ADHD? This was a special needs school, for only kids on IEP's, like him.

It's major bologna. His new school, he made he 'gun' gesture at staff yesterday, he lost his swimming privledge for the week and got a behavior violation... AND he is (now 10 btw) supposed to be starting back to 'traditional' school in the fall. UGH.

Posted by Erica, Waco TX on June 26, 2009:

I've got one for ya-- My son was in kindergarten when he leaned forward and gave a quick peck of a kiss on the back of the head of another classmate as they stood in line. He was placed into the in-school-suspension room for 3 days for sexual harassment. When asked why he kissed the child (who was also male), my son innocently stated "Because he's my friend."

Posted by Flu-Bird, California on August 15, 2009:

If the school district says it did the right thing for suspending a kids with LEMON DROPS then the whole school district should be suspended instead.

Posted by Christine, Connecticut USA on August 24, 2009:

Connecticut has a relatively new bullying law for schools that all bullying incidents must be reported to the state. According to the legislator who wrote the bill it was not being used.

A relative was being physically injured in Kindergarten including being choked and put in head locks and being kicked in the stomach and punched. The victim knows martial arts but felt bound by the code of ethics to not use it in school to defend himself. The teacher was aware but nothing was being done to punish the bully or stop future attacks from happening, it repeated over and over, in the class and at recess. Finally it escalated to the principal and the parent asked if bully reports had been filed to the state and what was being done about the bully. The parent pushed the envelope, still nothing was done.

The next week the victim was playing at recess with is friend from martial arts class. They were playing around with moves from class, faking moves and sometimes lightly touching to block hits, and were alone (not with anyone else) and laughing. The Assistant Principal saw it and yelled at the kids, then phoned the father threatening to do a bully report on his son saying "that is what you wanted last week, for us to report to the state". This was clearly a power play game for the school staff and not centered at all on student safety.

To boot the 'victim' child has a learning disability anxiety disorder that already affects his ability to trust and communicate with the adult workers at school and to speak up for himself to other students. Incidents when teachers don't help the victim of bullying and when being yelled at for nothing done wrong does not help the child feel he can trust the adults at school.

The parent is now having detailed discussions of which parts of the marital arts moves the boy should use on the bully to make him stop but not hurt him too badly for self-defense acts. The boy is struggling with ethics still due to what the martial arts teacher says in class.

These adults in schools who have charge of kids do not seem able to use good judgement. They look the other way for real incidents yet seem to like to over-punish the things that don't have any real negative consequences (toy guns, squirt guns, typical boy roughhousing when kids are happy, candy, etc.).

I feel this is due to the coward mentality. In other words the adults do wish that all things were good and right (no violence, no bullying, safe environment) but it is hard to confront the real issues when they happen but easier to overreact to stupid non-issues. Cowards have an easier time, for example, making a mountain out of a molehill to complain about it rather than doing the hard thing and really addressing the problem face to face. I see this also at Sunday School classes at church where terrible problem kids and bullies have clueless parents as no one wants to confront the parent as that is too 'uncomfortable'.

Posted by Julia, Northglenn Colorado on August 28, 2009:

My son was introduced to this ZT nonsense yesterday. It was towards the end of one of his classes and the teacher told the students they were allowed to visit or talk with others. My son was standing next to a friend of his - who was sitting down. My son had one hand leaning on the table and another leaning on the back of his friend's chair. When my son's friend stood up, my son lost his balance and started going backwards. When this happened, the chair he was holding onto went with him. His friend didn't notice and went to sit down and fell on his butt. My son's friend got up and punched him in his arm and they were both sent to the principal's office. The two boys talked it through before seeing the principal and my son's friend apologized once he realized that it was indeed an accident. Needless to say - my son got suspended for three days for an ACCIDENT!! It wasn't some malicious act - it was an ACCIDENT!! The other boy involved also got a ticket for assault and has to go to court. I think this Zero Tolerance garbage is WAY out of control. We need to put a stop to the nonsense.

Posted by fred Florida on September 2, 2009:

the autonomy that schools have, coupled with the Supreme Court almost always siding with the schools is just plan silly.

Schools are able to make almost any rule they wish and you have to take them to court to change things.

If you want to accomplish anything, you have to jump through hoops to get a law passed.

very one sided...but this is what happens when a vocal minority gets control and allows the nanny-state to raise their children.

Posted by T.J., Georgia on September 27, 2009:

I agree Zero Tolerance is getting way out of hand. A few years ago, one of my sons was suspended for making a paper construction "Gun" that was non-functional, and didn't even look real.

When I questioned why he was suspended, the principal responded with some nonsense about how these guns lead to kids thinking that real guns are OK, and that it was a Zero tolerance law.

What the hell was that all about? Zero-Tolerance goes against common sense, and lawmakers need to know this once and for all.

Posted by Stacey, Columbia SC on October 6, 2009:

My son was just suspended today for having swimsuit models pics on his phone. The school's discipline officer (a minister's wife as she so proudly told me) considers the pictures "pornography" and tried to put that into my son's school record. I made sure it said it was from a swimsuit calendar. But my son still has 1 day of OSS. She told me my almost 12 yr old should have pictures of Mickey Mouse and Spongebob! She explained that the school's policy considers it pornographic material. When did bathing suits become pornography?

Posted by Ed, Richmondville on October 6, 2009:

This is one time I suggest a lawyer. Do not accept the day's suspension. Get a lawyer & go to court. As a retired teacher, I know from first hand experience that most schools will back down once real courts are brought in: they often don't want parents to know how much they violate their own policies based on someone's whim. Good luck.

Posted by Michael, Stevens Point WI. on October 8, 2009:

I think that zero tolerance policies are needed in the larger inner city schools where drugs and more violent behaviors are evident. I do believe that from your news article that zero tolerance needs to be more open for principals and assistant principals to have veto power in cases as the lemon drop debacle and the small luger shaped key ring. Principals in these cases need to use common sense and I believe the zero tolerance policy or law has these in place where the principal has the power to make case by case decisions and not make a bone head decision on suspending a boy for giving candy out to a friend, (is really absurd). I hope this situation gets resolved quickly for our future.

Posted by Jim Shreveport LA. on October 14, 2009:

I get so frustrated with comments like I think zero tolerance policies are needed in larger inner city schools. People just don't get it. Zero tolerance isn't prevention, it's reaction. Zero tolerance does not stop events from happening, it just tells people how to react when they do happen. But the worst thing about zero tolerance rules is that teachers and administrators have to treat every thing the same for fear that they are punished for thinking instead of reacting. Zero tolerance policies are written in a way that sounds good behind a desk in a board room. Example: guns and or gun facsimiles sounds good, covers everything, but in school if a kid bites the corner off of a saltine cracker square and holds it like a gun its a gun facsimile. Zero tolerance says he must be punished as if he or she brought a real gun. We need to do away with the zero tolerance mentality and get back to logic and common sense approaches to school discipline. We are all so worried about political correctness and being non discriminatory that we overreact to everything. Is it worse to appear discriminatory or overpunish an innocent person? Zero tolerance hurts more people than it helps, and I sure hope none of the people that support it have to find out the hard way that it's wrong, because once you're in that position and understand it's wrong, it's too late and there is nothing you can do.

Posted by Danny-Texas on October 14, 2009:

The only time zero-tolerance should be used is when it comes to our politicians -- If you do not pay your taxes you can not serve, if you commit adultery you can not serve. Also if you do get caught you also lose your pension and insurance and can not run for or hold any government position until and after reparations are made and or time served.

Posted by Butch, Clinton Utah on October 14, 2009:

Have we lost all sense of judgement? Give me a farm kid 10-12 years old and I will trust him with things that to bang and sharp pointy objects like toothpicks. He like an eagle scout mentioned earlier was raised with these things, I trust them.for someone who has no upbring with such things I do not trust. Now because I see you walking into your house with a firearm mean i should not trust you. Bull. How about at the dinner table, who is going to be the trained licensed authorized to cut my steak and seeing as how forks have sharp points I need tongs or fingers to eat with. Grow the ^&*(% up people the big stink you are making about zero tolerance may be from your own anal opening and not for any real need.

Let me ask: how many schools are there and how many students are there in these schools? and how many of them cause problems with what ever someone considers weapons? the actual percentage is so small that if placed on a normal bell curve it would be un recordable...

Oh yea I forgot what about combs and earings those studs could put someone's eye out. Need I say more.

Posted by Sharon - Mississippi on December 8, 2009:

I agree with the zero tolerance being blown out of proportion - my 10 year old grandson drew some some pictures of guns and knives was suspended from elementary school for 5 days and had to see a therapist and the therapist stated that he was a normal boy who was not a danger to himself or anyone else. The school told my daughter that they were going to go ahead and send in paperwork to have him sent to a school for problem children.

Today my daughter received a call from the school and they are putting my grandson on probation and are going to make him carry a see through back pack and search him every day that he comes to school. My daughter is very upset -- Jacob is a good kid he has ADD but he is a very caring child. If he thinks someone is sad he will bring them a flower and give them a hug. He is intelligent and he is being treated as though he is nothing but trouble. His brothers and him are teased and made fun of by other students at the school but nothing is done about that.

My grandson is not a killer or a threat to anyone; he is just a normal boy who wants to be in the military when he grows up and is interested in things that boys like. Tell me that a man who becomes a police officer never thought about guns or drew them or even played cops and robbers or cowboys and indians growing up. My brother and I played cowboys and indians when we were growing up; he also played with water guns especially in the summer time. I assure you that I nor my brother are violent people and anyone who knows us can tell you that as well. Does anyone know if children have any rights concerning this no tolerance rule. There has to be a limit somewhere -- a place to draw the line.

Posted by Debbie, Pennsylvania on December 12, 2009:

Zero Tolerance!!! I have about zero tolerance left in me when it comes to dealing with the school system. I have a son who went to school without lunch money. When lunch time came he borrowed three dollars off of a friend to purchase a lunch. Well, he purchased a lunch which consisted of a slice of pizza, a small container of pudding, buttered noodles, and a chocolate milk. He ate the slice of pizza, drank the chocolate milk, and threw the rest in the trash, as he does not eat pudding or butter noodles. As a result of throwing half of his lunch out he was still hungry, so he stole a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Well all hell broke lose as a result of zero tolerance. Not only does the school take action against him, but they also have to call the police. He is currently serving an in-school suspension, community service, and is being referred to counseling. As for the police, they are filing retail theft charges against him.

The most disturbing part of this whole process to me is that no one has even stopped to ask why he might have done this. No one bothered to ask how his financial situation was at home, no one seemed to be concerned with the fact that his purchased lunch was so disgusting part of it was thrown into the trash, no one seems to be concerned with who he REALLY is, all they see is a person who stole. What the hell has happened to our schools. Zero tolerance has allowed people in authority the ability to become cold and impersonal toward the children within our schools. The vice principal who has labeled my son as a child spiraling downhill has only known him for two weeks! When I talked to both the school and the police, I was told there is a zero tolerance within the schools. If they make an exceptation for one what would they have to do for the rest? My suggestions!!!! make the punishment fit the crime, either let the punishment come from the school or the police not both, get rid of the zero tolerance in our schools! It is hurting more children than protecting them. Wake up America.

Posted by Frank- Alaska on December 16, 2009:

I was told by my boy today that any game with "weapons" was not allowed on the playground. My knee jerk response was, "What do you play then??!!!" He said .."aaaaa well we try to do different things but generally sit there thinking not playing."

On Halloween, swords and weapons are not allowed in school. I thought this made good sense as we boys love to swing swords around and two boys with swords will not be able to resist clanking them together. Yet the hazard was still present as just as many people were dodging star spiked fairy wands that the little girls were waving around casting spells! I can't help but see this as a further attempt to induce our/my boy into feminine traits and essence.

I told my boy to practice with his friends to turn their guns and swords into "fairy wands" if asked by the attending playground teachers. Majic and fairy wands are O.K. right? I can burn a hole in you with magic and it's O.K., right Harry Potter? MY boy and his friends will probably all get suspended but I look forward to going to the principal's office and have him explain how my boys was involved with a group of others killing each other with fairy wands!

Who will protect these people when they get old and vulnerable? The fairys?

Posted by Sharon, North Carolina on December 16, 2009:

I posted about my grandson getting suspended for the guns and knives drawings - but it did not stop there. I thought you should hear the rest of the story.

After my grandson returned to school and the school's principal was informed that the therapist that spoke with him said he was a normal 10 year old and was not a threat to himself or others - the principal did not like this conclusion - she wanted him committed or sent to an alternative school but that request was denied, and so it was decided that he would continue at his current school but under the conditions to wear a see-through book bag and to be searched every day. When they spoke with my son-in-law he became upset and felt that the school was singling out his child and the principal spoke to him with a cocky attitude and he hung up on her. As a result the principal called DSS on my daughter and her husband and a visit was scheduled for DSS to come to their home.

Well when the school gave my grandson the book bag, he tore it and was searched again, and they found a will that he wrote - that said he was leaving his mother his medals, his dad all his money, and his brothers, some medals and food and then he put wait a minute do I even have any medals. He was trying to be funny. My father had passed away recently and he did not have a will and everyone has been talking about the importance of having a will. As a result DSS was called and made an emergency home visit and the next day at school the principal called my daughter that they were sending her son for an emergency evaluation and if she did not come to take him to the visit that an officer would take him and she would lose all rights to her child.

Based on the information only that the school gave the emergency room doctor at the hospital they committed my grandson to a hospital that was 2 hours away and my daughter has 3 other boys. No doctor saw Jacob, or spoke with my daughter or her husband and the therapist that had evaluated Jacob when the school sent him the first time pushed for regular visits with a therapist and not to commit him. As a result the hospital that my grandson was sent too seemed to be puzzled as to why Jacob was even there - they said he showed no aggression and that he was a normal 10 year old boy who was just a little on the shy side. Everyone there kept saying he is a good kid.

My daughter has put in an emergency transfer - we will se what happens after Christmas. By the way the principal said that his drawings of characters with jagged teeth was a sign that Jacob had a problem - check the captain underpants books - you will see some of the characters in the book that have jagged teeth. The problem I see with the Zero tolerance rule is that is hurting the kids that are being bullied but it is not doing anything about the ones doing the bullying - by the way all three evaluations all stated that Jacob was not a threat to himself or others. Thanks for listening to a frustrated grandmother. My boys are wonderful and they are good kids not perfect - but good.

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This sounds way beyond ZT. It sounds like the principal has a real problem, and if it was me I'd be filing a lawsuit right about now. -rc

Posted by Lisa, Littleton Co on January 7, 2010:

Your blog has brought me cold comfort for some events that took place in our school just 2 weeks ago.

My daughter was on the playground with her friends when one friend suggested to another that she wiggle her rear end near a boy on the playground. At that time my daughter turned to another friend to talk, not paying much attention.

What happened next was quite traumatizing for all.

The boy told the playground attendant, who told the vice principal, who called in alleged wiggler, parents, alleged victim and his parents.

It was determined that they needed witnesses for the event so my daughter was called in sans parents. (I was told later that because it was 2:45 they were under time crunch).

My daughter arrived home hysterical that day. I could not understand a word she said through the tears. When I got her calmed down she told me "I am in so much trouble, I think I am going to be suspended!!!" She added that she did not do anything or even see anything but that she was told that someone was to be suspended and she better tell the truth. She said" I told them I did not see anything, But, they don't believe me!" She said I would receive a call soon. I waited but no call. The next day still no call.

When my daughter came home the following day she was again very upset. They had called her down to the office and interrogated her over the event. Again without a parent.

My daughter said she was afraid that she got the friend in trouble because she heard the first conversation.

I was shocked! Not only did they violate her civil rights by using her as a witness to a "CRIME" without a parent or guardian (the police were called), but they did it TWICE!

My daughter had no understanding of what they were asking, what her rights were, or why they did not accept her response of "I didn't see anything."

When I finally received the call it was from the vice principal who informed me that I need not worry. My daughter was never in real trouble and was very helpful with her answers.

I was sick!

I informed her that she would not have gotten any info past the "I did not see anything" response if I had been present, and I asked "Why zero tolerance for a 6th grade girl who wiggles her rear, and yet you expect me to tolerate the violation of my daughter's civil rights by an adult?

I have heard far too many ridiculously similar stories in the past two weeks to be able to let this go.

WE NEED CHANGE!

Some one please let me know where to start!

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You have already started: you've gotten mad. You need to stand up for the other kids involved here too: get with their parents and go to the media, if that seems appropriate, to get the story out. Call upon other parents to support you, since next time (and there will be a next time!) it will be their kids being witch-hunted. Read the other stories on this site; start with the Category list, and click "Zero Tolerance" to find many more stories, with lots of suggestions of what to do in the comments. Last: don't let them off the hook. -rc

Posted by Nick, NZ on January 24, 2010:

These stories irritated me quite a lot. These school boards really don't care or understand how much trouble expelling or suspending students causes for everyone.

A few examples of this 'ZT' Non-Sense are.

A kid in my brothers class was being stupid so my brother pick out and old nokia brick phone and says "I'm gonna put that on youtube" The kid freaks out and even after showing him that the phone lacks any form of recording, video, photo and sound. The kid complains and my brother gets perm-banned from using the school computers for breaking the "Cyberbulling" policy.

At least in NZ every minor little thing doesn't result in expulsion. Seriously if I met these un-empathizing school officials that think they can screw around with the lives of innocent kids and there family then they would have hell to pay.

Posted by David, Milpitas, CA on February 4, 2010:

I agree that ZT has become ZI (Zero Intelligence). I would love to see some courageous Principal, Teacher, Parent or Student organize a full school-wide protest of ZT. It could be done as an educational lesson to show that the power against unjust laws and tyranny is in the hands of the people. Have EVERYONE bring a Red Cross approved First Aid Kit to school on the same day. FORCE the ZI idiots to either follow through with their ZT policy and expel everyone, or sit down and deal with the issues of a severely flawed ZT policy. Ghandi, both alone and with millions, stood up, unarmed, and protested injustices of the British Empire. The PEOPLE won! But, you have to take that first step and stand up for justice.

Posted by joebanana, So. Cal. on February 27, 2010:

They're just preparing them for the real world. We have no rights anymore, we're a controlled,"free people". Just what are these schools trying to prove, isn't this terrorist behavior?

Posted by Bob, Bothell WA on February 28, 2010:

At my kid's junior high a boy was overheard in the hallway by a teacher telling another boy that he had a little dick. The teacher reported this "offense" and the malefactor was suspended for, get this: sexual harassment.

Posted by Diane in MI on March 25, 2010:

My 6 year old was sent to the office for "pretend fighting with weapons". His pretend weapon of choice? A lightsaber! For the love of all common sense, what is wrong with these people? It's not even a real weapon. Was it lost on his teacher and the principal that a lightsaber is imaginary?

I called the board office and let them know how ridiculous the whole thing was and enjoyed pointing out that I didn't think they needed to worry that my son would come to school and massacre his classmates with his lightsaber. There were other issues prior to this event that caused my son to have anxiety attacks about going to school. We even got a note sent home that he "cheated in gym". How do you cheat in gym at 6 years old?

Since my phone call they have backed off considerably and my son is doing much better. It's sad that we had to resort to a "cease and desist order" with the school to protect our kid. The next time we encounter a problem, I will be going to the media. I certainly should have already after they let my 6 year old ride the bus home when no one was there to watch him. He was picked up by the police walking down the side a major road trying to make his way back to the school. If they are so worried about protecting kids, why not get back to the basics? Simple things like making sure you don't drop off a 6 year old when no one is home.

Posted by M, Texas on March 31, 2010:

I'm 50 now, but when I was in 6th grade a friend and I were tossing pebbles into a small plastic dish from a distance of about 3 feet away. It was one of those kid things we did as a 'competition' of sorts to see who could make the most pebbles in, but some other snot nosed rat fink ran and told a teacher we were throwing rocks! Sure enough after recess we were dragged into the principals office and asked if we were throwing rocks to which I replied no. I told him EXACTLY what we had been doing, but that turd wad of a sadistic bastard decided he would teach us right from wrong and we were both basically beaten with a wooden paddle for 'throwing rocks'.

To this day I hate the bastard and to this day don't think we did a damned thing wrong, but that was just the tip of the iceberg of ZT. These people are zealot sadists claiming to be on GAWDS side.

Posted by Zachary in NYS on April 3, 2010:

At my high school I was on the computer looking for a mystery novel called "How to kill." I typed that into the search engine and the student next to me saw. He told the teacher who told the assistant principal who suspended me for two weeks. I was looking for a book, I guess I won't be reading anymore.

Posted by Mike in MI on April 21, 2010:

My 6-year old nephew, mentioned in a recent post for being reprimanded for waving an invisible light saber, recently drew a picture of 3 Lego Star Wars Stormtroopers. He got a "SUPER" stamp on it.

Also, there was a note written across the front. "Don't draw any type of weapon at this school. It is our policy."

Policy was double-underlined. I guess the teacher couldn't erase the "SUPER" stamp (LOL).

My nephew said that she asked what they were doing, and apparently one of them was practicing with his Lego light saber.

Unfortunately, there is no written and published "policy" that identifies drawings of imaginary weapons, so it's a bit of a problem to figure out which way to turn.

Posted by Diana, South Carolina on April 27, 2010:

I strongly believe that this zero tolerance policy needs to be changed. Quite a few schools have gone overboard with their punishments for minor transgressions. Or even worse, no transgressions at all. Just imaginations that seem to run rampart in the minds of teachers and school employees. They are teaching "fear" in the minds of our children. I for one do not want my children to be taught fear. Instead I want them to be taught Math, English, History and such. YES, I want them to behave in school but, not at the cost of you step one foot out of line and your whole life will be ruined.

My son was attacked at school by a bully but the cameras only caught my son when he hit the bully back. So my son was charged and had to go to court. I had talked to his teachers and they said they were glad that my son had hit this boy because they felt like doing the same thing. That this boy bullies a lot of kids. But who paid the price? My son who is a easy going young man. Who stands up for the ones that get picked on. Yeah there is something wrong with this zero tolerance policy. It's not protecting the innocents. It's protecting the ones who have figured out the system.

Posted by Lisa SOUTH CAROLINA on April 28, 2010:

my 11 year old emotionally-disabled son is facing felony charges after being placed in isolation to de-escalate from a emotionally charged outburst. Keep in mind that his IEP states that he may be placed there if is a danger or needs to release pent up frustrations, during his time in isolation school teachers thought it necessary to call police for threatening to stick his foot where the sun don't shine (teachers behind). He was arrested, photographed, fingerprinted and faces a charge that carries a 5 year sentence. Reprimanded I say yes by all means. Locked away for 5 years, come on where is the common sense?

Posted by Glenn - Texas on May 7, 2010:

I do have some good news. I am a middle school teacher in Texas, and I saw some of my students playing with squirt guns in class. I collected them, and took the guns to the assistant principal. She called the students in to her office, gave them a stern warning not to do it again, and sent them back to class.

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It's sad to consider such a thing unusual -- but better than not being able to have SOME examples of common sense! -rc

Posted by Rebecca D, Missouri on May 23, 2010:

Brain-dead administrators... my son was in a program for students with behavioral disorders and/or emotional disorders. In other words, these kids have a tendency to have a lot of problem dealing with anger without getting violent. So, when he threw a desk at a teacher, I agreed with the suspension. Next occasion, he threw torn up pieces of paper... and got suspended. I tried very hard to get the asst. principal to see that by equating PAPER THROWING with THROWING A DESK they were giving him absolutely no incentive to modify his angry response into something non-dangerous. Nope, it was still assault.

Now, supposing at age 20 he felt you had been rude or mean and threw something at you: would you rather he threw paper, or the nearest large object??? Luckily, shortly after that I moved to a different state with more intelligent responses, and he eventually got anger under control and was mainstreamed back into regular classrooms very successfully.

BTW, the "enlightened" administrator was in Maryland, right outside DC. The school that acted sensibly was in Missouri, heartland of America. Not sure if that signifies anything.

Posted by Sue - England on June 25, 2010:

We have recently introduced a Zero Tolerance Policy on weapons in a 66 bed hostel for men with drug/alcohol/mental health issues. The men get really upset when we confiscate fishing knives and cooking knives etc, however we found to our cost it was not usually the man himself that caused us bother (although sometimes it was), it was when others accessed the knifes etc which had been left carelessly in sight that caused the most injuries. As we are now in a culture of not "Policing" residents we don't have the right to enter rooms and advise them about weapons. I believe Zero Tolerance is acceptable in this instance -- what do you think.

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I think you're on a slippery slope toward parenthood and forced dependence on a nanny state. So if they bring a butter knife to their rooms to cut fruit, are they thrown out? Why or why not? -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on July 12, 2010:

I was drawn to this article and comments, and find myself wondering. I attended public schools, starting in the late 50's, through the 60's. School was not some idyllic "Leave It To Beaver"-land setting. We had bullies and schoolyard fights, and after school ambushes when a single bully was not sufficient to beat up a lone victim.

And, yeah, you betcha, we thought about taking a gun to school for protection and teaching bullies a lesson about Life. This was before the Gun Control Act of 1968 when guns were plentiful and easy to obtain. But there was one single reason why we never did it.

They called it Reform School. That's a euphemism. It's nothing more than prison, but for juveniles rather than adults. With all the inherent atrocities of adult prison. If you think bullies in school are bad, wait til you experience bullies in prison, I mean Reform School. Punishment for a juvenile for unauthorized firearm possession was swift and painful. More so if possession was on school ground.

So what happened? How did firearm possession in schools become SO common that Zero Tolerance policies had to be adopted to deal with it? Or is it even that common? Is it just the irrational fear of the possibility of a gun on campus that Zero Tolerance lends some false sense of security to the weak-minded? Too bad that it's the weak-minded who are the ones that are teaching our children.

I did find it inexplicable that, in the 80's, I read about school locker searches in Detroit to find firearms. And how parents of students who were found to be in possession were actually upset, suing the schools for violation of their children's civil rights to privacy.

So here we now have idiot parents and population, countered with idiot schools and legislators, with 99% of the students caught in-between for doing nothing wrong, all in the pretense of doing "something".

And where does any educator come off with the value judgment to MY children that pictures of guns give the false impression that guns are okay? Of course, guns are okay! They've been in our house all of their lives, and we've been on the range shooting them. Our armed forces use them, and so do the police.

Zero Tolerance is a pathetic attempt at a solution in search of a perceived problem. It's more important to LOOK like you're doing something than actually DOING something effective. Corporations are famous for this; look busy, even if you're not.

Posted by Dale, Utah on July 28, 2010:

Zero Tolerance policies are not about protecting the students or other apparent beneficiaries of the policy.

Very simply they are there to protect the school administration from being canned for being stupid. They force the administration not to use their brains (for which they can be criticized) and allow them to point at an inflexible rule - "I had to take this action because it is policy". This is the solution which the National Education Assoc., a teacher's union, promulgates. Their goal is not the education of students or the safety of students, but the continued employment of their members. All of these rules essentially dumb down the job of being an administrator. Being a stupid administrator isn't an accident, it's the whole point!

As an added bonus, these rules allow them to "educate" students in some of the NEA's own politically correct thought and speech. These ideas are floated to the sheep which attend PTA meetings and in that manner receive the support of parents. The PTA has long been co-opted as an arm of the teachers union and most parents remain blissfully ignorant.

Posted by Mutuelle, France on September 15, 2010:

The articles and happening is hilarious and shocking sometimes. That's why we say that rules should be flexible depending about the context.

Posted by EDWARD - LOS ANGELES on September 16, 2010:

Recently, I lived in a Senior Low Income housing. Unfortunately, a guest of mine was caught selling drugs outside the building, which I was completely unaware of. The police came to my apartment and searched it for drugs, etc. They did find a "pipe" of which i was unaware was there, and also found drugs tied to the man"s genitals. Because of this, I was told I had to move due to the California No Tolerance Law. Now i am living in a single apt. at $800 a month, plus utilities, which leaves little to live on for myself and my pet. I do not feel this is fair to me; but, what can i do?

Posted by Eric, Tacoma, Wa. on October 8, 2010:

Robert A. Hienlien said in his novel Time Enough for Love "Never underestimate the power of human stupidity." Zero tolerance qualifies as one of the most powerful of Ideas! Please keep up the good work.

Posted by Kris, Minneapolis on January 2, 2011:

I'm a sophomore in high school, and the other day one of my classes was working in the computer lab. A friend and I got the brilliant idea to take a screenshot of the internet explorer home page and set it as the desktop background. Then we hid the icons. we did this to five out of the thirty some computers. 5th hour, we were called to the principals office. She claimed this was vandalism, and that we should both be suspended for five days. She got this idea from the student handbook, which defines vandalism as "Damaging, harming, defacing, or stealing property that belongs to or is associated with the school, other students, employees, or others. Also includes creating, installing, or distributing computer viruses, software, or any other form of malicious computer code." We explained that we did not distribute any viruses or code, it was simply a different desktop background. We finally convinced her not to suspend us, so she sentenced us to 8 hours of community service (washing whiteboards) and banned from the computers for a month.

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Well, kudos to your principal, then, for coming up with a punishment that fit the "crime", rather than use a single-sized cookie cutter. -rc

Posted by rewinn, Mercer Island on January 3, 2011:

@Kris - it sounds like your real "crime" was being smarter than the principal. What a delightful prank - AND it could have been a teachable moment for anyone using the computer.

But ... showing that you are smarter than the principal is unforgivable ... a valuable life lesson for anyone in a hierarchy I suppose.

Posted by kae, orland hills on January 11, 2011:

why should we sit there and get blamed for stuff we didnt do

Posted by bonnie, il on January 12, 2011:

I think that is not up to the schools to dish out the punishments for inappropriate behavior. Perhaps the parents should be more involved. Zero tolerance does not fit in society as adults how can we expect our children to follow suit. I am from a small town where water guns shoot water and bikes get "borrowed" for a couple blocks. And when my children do something wrong I know it and I punish them to fit the wrong doing. If they get in trouble at school they get in trouble at home. They are responsible for themselves but they are only kids learning to be adults from the adults they are around.

Posted by Ann, up north on January 26, 2011:

Wow. These make me so glad that I went to a small town school. All the teachers were moms... and had a lot more common sense.

Posted by Mike, N.C. on February 28, 2011:

Wow. Now I see why foreigners think that Americans are stupid.

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Sadly, ZT isn't uniquely American -- though no doubt it was exported from here. -rc

Posted by Aaron; Great Falls Montana on May 17, 2011:

Now, I live in Montana. While we have a Zero Tolerance policy, we have at least a head on our shoulders. For some reason, other states tend NOT to have basic common sense. While we're not saints we at least try to not be idiots. I've been in the Boy Scouts (had to quit because of my life being cramped to insanity, having Asperger's Syndrome and a few other learning disabilities does that to you with school and being a kid added on). Hell, I know how to use a rifle (and am a pretty good shot as well) or other firearms properly.

Its things like this that make me steaming. I would settle for those who do this sort of thing be, for the first offense, reeducated. If they do it again, instant blacklisting. Tell them that their education is now worthless and let them lose. Once blacklisted, they will never work in that sector of work again. You do not pass go, you do not collect 200 dollars, you get blacklisted. Period, end of story. Even my grandparents had more common sense and one I sure couldn't understand due to her talking in German and Polish!

It is sad... too sad. It's one thing to protect our children but another by essentially crucifying every single kid who does something wrong. Get my boxing gloves, I want to punch some sense into these bozos.

Posted by Gregory, Poughkeepsie, NY on December 16, 2011:

Once in school, I ordered pizzas to my teachers' classrooms during using their names. I went on Dominos' website and ordered the pizzas to be delivered. I was caught, since I was the only one who had all three of the teachers during those periods. Yes, it was a stupid and immature prank, and I regret it. But here's the ridiculous part. They slapped me with three days of in school suspension on the grounds that I had committed "identity theft" by using my teachers' names. ZT at its finest. Whenever I tell students at college that the assistant principal deemed me an identity thief for ordering my teachers pizza, they break out laughing hysterically. Either that, or they call me a liar. Maybe someday I'll get in trouble for telling this story and violating a ZT policy against lying. It's that ridiculous.

Posted by Janus, Washington on February 5, 2012:

Zero tolerance in public education is not for the purposes of eliminating firearms or other weapons at the school. It's for brainwashing students into thinking it is unacceptable to have a weapon, to use a weapon for any purpose, taking away
the natural instinct to defend oneself.

All educators are similarly brainwashed and full on board, having succumbed to fear mongering during their own educations. They are trained fear mongerers themselves.

DARE is a big part of this brainwashing. If you don't believe it, sit in on a public education DARE encounter group therapy session at your child's school.

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In several studies, DARE has been proven to make the student drug problem worse, not better. Yet it's still being funded. Your tax dollars at work! -rc

Posted by Tasia moab Utah on February 5, 2012:

I would say I am a victim of this, but then again I did have a knife in my coat pocket.

Let me explain: I went walking alone with my dog, usually I can get someone to walk with me, but not this time. I took a knife with me because in the place we usually walk in in a forested sort of area. This way if anyone jumped me I could defend myself, being slightly paranoid helped. I had almost never walked alone before so I put the knife in my coat pocket. A few weeks later I decided to wear the same coat to school. During a gym class another student was bothering me so like any normal teen I told him that if I didn't leave me alone I would kill him. Well he went to a teacher or the office and told them that I would bring a gun to school. It did not help a told some students that I had a list of people that I thought would kill me. Just to get them to leave me alone, the school took that to people I planned to kill, even if it didn't exist at all.

Well I was called into the office during a class and was told to bring my things, I thought that my parents or siblings had been in a accident and was panicking. But then I was told what the other student told them so I consented to the search. I remembered the knife in my pocket, and gave it over imeaditly. I wanted to explain why it was there but I was at that moment scared out of my wits for what was happening. I was being searched, I was also asked if I had any access to guns. I told them my grandfather in a town two hours away had some so those where the only guns I knew where they might be. Luckily with the knife I was only suspended for the rest of the term. I did do wrong but there is a bigger problem.

There are several boys in and out of my class that carry pocket knives/ leathermans. They can apparently carry them all in plain sight and not be punished for it. All of these boys can outweigh me by several pounds, and know how to handle themselves. How is it that I get rightfully punished for bringing a knife to school where ALL of these boys bring them to school EVERY day and not even get a glance? Is it just because some idiot told the school I was going to bring a gun? None of my family in town own guns while I know most of those guys have guns of their own for hunting. If there is a zero tolerance policy then enforce it! Not pick and chose who to punish based on other students.

I know I did wrong, but all the kids that can bring a knives to school in the form of a tool don't get punished? Is it because it is a tool? I doubt it, I don't think that the teachers think about them at all. I made a big mistake and I am fine with that I learned from it, but if you are going to punish me for bringing a weapon punish everyone that brings one school. If there is zero-tolerance then make it that way. It is not fair to punishe one student then not punish the others for the same thing.

This is coming from a school system that forced students not to wear bandanas in middle school, and those pants that have writing on the sides, for fear of promoting gang violence. Yeah we have gangs here but the worst thing I have heard them do is spray paint various places. I can't expect much from them, I love my teachers they understand kids just fine, but the principles are mostly just stupid.

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You express yourself well, and stated the problem well. Just work on your spelling, because in life that really does matter. Yet you're right: their principles are stupid -- as well as the principal! -rc

Posted by Sam Illinois on February 8, 2012:

My freshman year of high school, I accidentally brought a pocketknife to school (in the pocket of my coat). I noticed it after I got to school. Instead of doing the smart thing and shoving it in a zipped pocket and not telling anyone, I turned it in to the office quickly before class started. I figured "no prob, they take it and I have my parents pick it up later." I was wrong. I didn't get into any trouble, but I did have to talk to the dean. She asked a ton of questions almost interrogation style and didn't tell me until the end that I wasn't in trouble. At the end of this, she told me that if I had waited until after first period and turned it in then, I would have had a mandatory suspension and possible expulsion, but I wasn't in trouble because I turned it in and it was before the first bell.

Let me reiterate: I could have been expelled for turning the knife in. I would have been treated exactly the same as someone who brought a gun or hard drugs to school, although probably less likely to actually get the expulsion.

Posted by Wesley; Ashland, Oregon on March 15, 2012:

I am negotiating the maze of Zero Tolerance articles, which is taking a great deal of time, as I am reading all of the reader comments.

I am literally sick to my stomach over what I am reading about how children are treated in ZT/ZI areas.

I am 41, and, sadly, have no children. Having no children is the biggest loss in my life; I believe in my heart that I would have been a wonderful father, and I am now conscious that, had my fairy-tale come true, I'd have been a grandfather by now.

Now, reading about these ridiculous ZT situations, I feel that no children should be brought into this devastated world. This country, this world, are no longer worth living in, if this travesty continues.

I am alerting all the parents of school-age children of ZT and forwarding this thread.

Thank you for the education, Randy.

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Sadly, I ran a new batch of ZT stories this month, so it's not over yet. I'm considering doing a book on ZT, including what the trend says about society. -rc

Posted by Anna, Pa. on April 11, 2012:

My son and I are going through ZT right now. He is 12, and left a pocketknife in a pair of pants that he wore to school. He is a boy scout, so he didn't even notice it was in there until the ride home on the bus. He got it out to see what it was, because he didn't realize it was his pocketknife, and when the boy next to him saw it, he asked to see it. That was the end. After being turned in by a classmate, my son has a hearing tomorrow to determine what alternative education he will have to do. Funny thing is, we haven't even had a meeting yet, but a lady from the bus company called and asked where he should be picked up at to go to a school for problem youths. Needless to say, I was and am alarmed that there was no due process. I completely understand weapons of any kind are not tolerated, however, every scenerio cannot be given the same punishment. He is a boy scout, trained in rifles as well, and is not a problem child or threat. What he is is a 12 year old boy who made a mistake. The school they want to send him to would do much more damage than good. I am upset, scared and also mad that admin pretends to want to work with us, all the while making plans for his future enrollment at basically a reform school without so much as one meeting. Common sense needs to come back to this country. Not all children are criminals, waiting to kill a classmate or sell them drugs. Some are just country boys who still do things like their Pappy did, but now they get into life altering trouble over it. I guess we will see what his fate is tomorrow, although it seems to already be determined.

Posted by Tanya, Conn on April 25, 2012:

I have a 15 year old son who has just been diagnosed with ADHD. The reason he was even seen by a psychologist is because he kept getting in trouble at school over, and over again. When we first moved here I notified the school that my son needs special classes for his "learning disability". Ever since then it seems like the administrators put a bulls eye on his back. If he so much had said boo to a teacher or stood up for what he thought was right he immediately received a ISS or a OSS. It got to the point where my son was out of class or school more than he was in. I challenge the school, so I'm labeled as the bad mom. But I know my son he doesn't create a problem for just anything. I can go on for hours and days about the punishments he has received to the extent of even me being arrested because I'm the "bad mom". But I'll just tell you of the most recent my son just received 10 more days of OSS and a arrest for self defense. Even the other party involved gave a statement saying he shoved and hit my son first. My son is in danger of failing the 8th grade again because he's a target for this "ZT" law. Every time I turn around its something else. I'm outraged and I wish they would just let my son be. Truly the administrators have become the bullies in his situation, and I don't know what to do.

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I have to wonder if this is their way of getting rid of him so they don't have to provide any special services, as is mandated for a "special needs" kid. Costs more, eh? -rc

Posted by Mitch, Oregon on August 24, 2012:

Things like ZT (Zero Thought) are why I don't want kids (other than laziness). The world sucks & I'm just about tired of it.

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There are two things you can do when the world sucks: whine, bitch and moan about it, which means you expect someone else to fix it for you, or work to make the world a better place. The reason things suck so much is too many people choose the former route, even when they're capable of doing something. So: what are YOU going to do about it? -rc

Posted by Marie, Horsham PA on October 13, 2012:

When I was in middle school, I accidentally left a pocketknife in my jacket after a Girl Scout meeting. The next morning I found it in my pocket and showed it to a hall aide, who told me to leave it in my locker until the end of the day. I left it in my locker and took it home at 3:00, no fuss, no problem. Thank heavens for common sense!

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These days you'd not only be expelled, but referred to the police for prosecution. -rc

Posted by Darryl - Toronto on December 10, 2013:

I saw this quote online today. I thought it perfectly describes "ZT".

"All of this goes under the rubric of "zero-tolerance" discipline, which turns out to be just another form of violence legally imported into schools."

I love that it describes it as violence legally imported into the schools. It is. It is a violence against the innocent. It is a shoot first, think later society.

By the way, this is from an article about how every part of American life is becoming a police matter, no matter how trivial it may be.

Posted by Scott, Virginia on January 2, 2014:

Progress on the ZT front? http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/12/30/preschool-kids-education-grades-column/4239891/

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Indeed, as I've been observing for several years, more and more commentators are jumping on the bandwagon (I've been beating the drum since 1995). There has even been a little progress in several states. But elsewhere, ZT is thriving. I welcome the rising chorus, and look forward to the day that rationality returns. -rc

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