It’s been quite an impressive week for Zero Tolerance Policies:
A high school student drove to school and soon remembered that his rifle was still in his truck after a weekend of skeet shooting. He briefly contemplated driving it home, but he didn’t want to be late for class. Instead, he called his mother and asked her to come get it. School officials and law enforcement admit that he was never a threat, it was an accident, and he handled the situation the right way. He’s a fantastic student and he had already been accepted to a couple of colleges next fall. Obviously, he was immediately arrested, charged with a felony and expelled. Policy: No guns on campus. No distinction can be made between the rifle accidentally left in the trunk of your car, and a rifle purposefully brought into the school with violent intentions.
Also this week, a 16 year old girl caused a tiny explosion in a water bottle when she mixed toilet cleaner and aluminum foil. It was a science experiment. Nobody was hurt and no property was damaged. Everyone concurred that she’s a good kid, a great student, and she didn’t have any malicious intent at all. Clearly, she was consequently handcuffed, arrested, charged and expelled. Policy: No explosives. No distinction can be made between a Mento in your Mountain Dew, and a pipe bomb hidden under the bleachers.
Finally, a kid completed the final leg in the 100 meter relay at a regional track meet. His team won and they now qualified for the state championships. Hooray! In celebration, he pointed his finger at the sky while jogging off the track. Logically, his team was summarily disqualified and prevented from competing at states. Policy: No celebrating. No distinction can be made between a guy quickly pointing a finger in the air, and a guy stripping naked and streaking across the field shouting vulgar slurs at his opponents.
Brilliant strategy we’ve got going here. A student is responsible and does the right thing in attempting to follow school rules? EXPELL HIM. RUIN HIS CHANCES OF GETTING INTO COLLEGE. A girl is a good student and makes one small mistake that results in nobody getting hurt and nothing getting damaged? ARREST HER. RUIN HER LIFE. An athlete achieves an impressive time in the 100 meter dash and carries his team to a state championship qualifying time, then celebrates with a small inoffensive hand gesture? DISQUALIFY THEM. MAKE ALL OF THEIR EFFORTS GO TO WASTE. A kid is a disruptive loud mouthed jerk who never completes any assignments and causes problems every day? KEEP PROMOTING HIM TO THE NEXT GRADE, WE DON’T WANT HIM TO FEEL BAD ABOUT HIMSELF.
And don’t give me that “well the rules are the rules” crap. Sorry, when the “rules” require you to punish success, discourage responsibility, and throw people in cuffs for insignificant infractions, the rules need to be changed. Period. And, in the mean time, here’s an idea ADULTS: Grow a spine. Have some courage. I don’t give a damn what the ridiculous “policy” says. REFUSE TO FOLLOW IT. It’s called “doing the right thing”, you know, like you tell the kids to do. If the “policy” tells me to call the police because a girl made some steam come out of a Pepsi bottle, you know what I’d do? Nothing. Screw the policy. I’m not going to have this kid thrown in a cage because she’s a little curious and a little creative. In fact, I’d give her an ‘A’ in chemistry for the semester. The guy with the rifle, I’d give him a merit badge for responsibility. The track athlete, I’d give him a chest bump and a Gatorade. And if, at some point, I get grilled because I didn’t follow the Sacred Policy that calls for me to harm kids for no reason, fine. I’ll accept that. I’d rather be an unemployed man than a spineless tool with a paycheck.
The most frustrating thing is that these incidents occur, kids are damaged, their success is hindered, they’re unjustly treated, and NOBODY is ever held responsible. It always goes back to the “policy”, as if the universe itself is the one expelling kids for circling the word “gun” on a word search. No, in fact, it’s individuals doing this. People. Adults. Human beings who need to exercise some judgement. These rules don’t just spew out of the earth like volcanic ash. They are created, implemented, enacted and followed by adults. Adults who should know better.
Update: The kid with the rifle in his car has been offered a scholarship from Liberty University, after they became aware of the injustice he suffered. This gives that tale a happy ending, but that doesn’t make the situation any less outrageous.