Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When I read cases like the one in the New York Times about six year old Zachary being suspended and now facing 45 days in the district’s reform school, I no longer blink an eye. It's not that I don't care. It's just that the truth is that no one really gives a damn about school violence and focuses instead on innocent kids like Zachary who did nothing wrong. The authorities will use the Zacharys of the world to show that they are doing something about violence when in reality, they are doing anything but.

I learned a long time ago in working with hundreds of troubled kids and their schools that school authorities do not want to be responsible for the real trouble-makers and do not want to take the time to teach kids about consequences. Instead, they trot out "zero tolerance" so they don't have to think. Teaching kids how to be decent human beings is hard and requires long periods of time and dedication. Zero tolerance is easy and mostly, ineffective. In a bureaucracy where no one wants to take responsibility and make decisions they may be held accountable for, guess which path they take?

Update: As one of the commenters pointed out, Zachary is back in school.

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35 Comments:

Blogger Quasimodo said...

well said

2:59 PM, October 13, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

"Teaching kids how to be decent human beings is hard and requires long periods of time and dedication."

And it requires parental involvement. I have sympathy in that the schools cannot fix what parents have ruined, but my sympathy ends when a cub scout is sent to reform school because of his mess kit.

Trey

3:01 PM, October 13, 2009  
Blogger Professor Hale said...

He should learn to sharpen his spoon like the other inmates.

3:37 PM, October 13, 2009  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

Indeed. Zero tolerance rules are for zeroes.

3:52 PM, October 13, 2009  
Blogger Topher said...

"The law was introduced after a third-grade girl was expelled for a year because her grandmother had sent a birthday cake to school, along with a knife to cut it. The teacher called the principal — but not before using the knife to cut and serve the cake."

What a selfish idiot - did it feel good to rat a student out after enjoying some free food she brought? The scene sickens me. This is police-state action begun in childhood and can only condition kids to accept it later in life without question.

3:52 PM, October 13, 2009  
Blogger LordSomber said...

The one guy in the article defending "zero tolerance" is a professor of law and psychology?

Why am I not surprised.

(No offense intended towards Dr. Helen and her husband.)

These rules aren't about safety, they're about freeing the schools from accountability.

4:02 PM, October 13, 2009  
Blogger Alex said...

All this is about enforcing the police state of PC liberalism. That's all.

4:11 PM, October 13, 2009  
Blogger David said...

The endless expansion of government power, of course, means that mindlessness like this will increasingly dominate all aspects of our lives.

When "administrators" are given governmental power, sooner or later some of them seriously abuse it. Their authority is then circumscribed by policies put in place by higher-level administrators, and eventually legislators, who are by their very nature removed from the specifics of any given situation. Eventually, you wind up with a hierarchy of robots with a few would-be philosopher-kings at the top.

Expect to see this in healtcare, in energy production...in all aspects of your life. What was done to Zachary is bad, but is pretty mild compared to what's going to happen to a lot of people.

4:12 PM, October 13, 2009  
Blogger Double Tapper said...

"Zero Tolerance". "Lockdown". etc.

All this makes schools sound more like prison institutions. And when you visit a modern school, that is exactly what it seems like.

There is no way on earth, I as a parent, could ever condone a child attending public school.

4:15 PM, October 13, 2009  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

one of my clients was struggling with drug use at school. he was pressured to use pot and to sell it by his friends and older kids.

he told me that the teachers tell the kids when the cops are due to come and to get the s**t out of thier lockers.

f**king trade-unionists.

i feel as if i`ve slipped into some twilight zone episode where everything i knew to be right was all of a sudden wrong and that young children are bing taught "gender" issues in grade five and that it`s tacitly ok to smoke dope and sell it...and that the cops are easy to deal with, and that working for free is ok because there are those less fortunate than you are that need you to volunteer.

and it`s ok to expect a professional salary for two thirds of a year`s work.

and, yes, i see how many arms of the bureaucracy dovetail to work toward indoctrinating our youth into thinking weird things.

like polar bears are drowning because we don`t sort our garbage thoroughly enough.

my girlfriend`s daughter had to write an essay comparing two wilderness writer`s points about thier description of the north.

she kept saying the word "environmentalism" over and over, even though niether writers touched on the issue of environmental protection, pollution, acid rain or any one of the buzz-words of the collectivist ideology. in fact she became hostile with me at one point, suggesting i didn`t care about the plight of the inuit or saving wetlands, etc.

the essay was merely an exercise in comparitive writing styles and not a political diatribe, and she was clearly in way over her head in terms of reading comprehension, grammar, syntax, etc.

and she did take academic english in high school...apparently, which she`s going to have to un-learn if she wants to pass this course.

4:30 PM, October 13, 2009  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Dr. Helen, et al.
RE: Thanks....

I learned a long time ago in working with hundreds of troubled kids and their schools that school authorities do not want to be responsible for the real trouble-makers and do not want to take the time to teach kids about consequences. Instead, they trot out "zero tolerance" so they don't have to think. Teaching kids how to be decent human beings is hard and requires long periods of time and dedication. Zero tolerance is easy and mostly, ineffective. In a bureaucracy where no one wants to take responsibility and make decisions they may be held accountable for, guess which path they take? -- Dr. Helen

....for substantiating my understanding of the vaunted American public education system.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Smart people will home school their children. -- CBPelto]

4:35 PM, October 13, 2009  
Blogger Ern said...

I'm certainly not an admirer of our public schools. A good deal of the blame for the zero-tolerance policies, however, must be placed on the judges and lawyers who have ruled so many discretionary discipline policies to be illegal (I'm guessing that the basis was something that they alleged was in the US Constitution). I don't know what else a public-school principal can do. The choices are a zero-tolerance policy or a completely tolerant policy.

4:54 PM, October 13, 2009  
Blogger Ern said...

A correction: The second sentence in my post above was meant to refer to judges who have ruled discretionary policies illegal and the lawyers who brought the suits. The lawyers didn't rule the policies illegal; the judges did.

4:59 PM, October 13, 2009  
Blogger Double Tapper said...

Ern

The lawyers and judges reflect the society they represent - and they represent our basest instincts.

5:18 PM, October 13, 2009  
Blogger Ern said...

Double Tapper -

I certainly agree with that.

5:40 PM, October 13, 2009  
Blogger MB said...

Here's something else that school principals face - and probably the real reason for "zero tolerance":

A white kid brings in a whittling project with a small carving knife, although the school rules say "no knives". The principal knows the kid is not a trouble-maker and really just brought the small knife in for a project. He tells him not to do it again and doesn't otherwise take action.

A week later, a black kid with a history of intimidating other students is caught with a switch-blade. He had been trying to extort money - once again - out of students by intimidating them with the knife.

If the principal now suspends the black kid, you better believe that the black kid's parents (more likely: mother) is going to be all over the principle. So will "neighborhood activists". So will white do-gooders. Because the principle "unfairly let a white kid go, but suspends the black kid".

To avoid disputes like that, you HAVE TO throw out common sense. You HAVE TO strictly go by the stated rules and not deviate.

Put yourself in the principal's position.

6:58 AM, October 14, 2009  
Blogger MB said...

And if anyone who fully misses the point chimes in with: Yeah, but some white kids are bad too.

I know.

You missed the point.

If the bad white kid gets suspended, no one raises a ruckus about discrimination.

7:00 AM, October 14, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

This is what happens when we make "safety" the number 1 priority.

7:11 AM, October 14, 2009  
Blogger Master Doh-San said...

Zero tolerance is for people with zero intelligence.

7:17 AM, October 14, 2009  
Blogger Trust said...

His suspension was reduced:
http://www.comcast.net/articles/news-national/20091013/US.Zero.Tolerance.Boy/

I don't think they reduced it enough though. The idiotic debate still continues. 3-5 days still seems much to me.

This caught my eye:
"If we can't punish him, then what about kids that did bring (a weapon) for bad things?" Jankowski said. "There's more to the school's side than just us being mean and not taking this child's interests into account."

In other words, dont' pass up an excuse to punish a good kid to send the bad kids a message. Puh lease.

Sounds like CYA to me.

8:26 AM, October 14, 2009  
Blogger Kevin M said...

Liberals love law so much they will abrogate their own right to observation and analysis to "zero tolerance," a phrase so simple and unbending it could be a song lyric.

Oh, to be a cop today.

"Tough day on the job, honey?"

"Yeah. Had to take down another schoolyard Rambo."

"Oh, my God! Was anybody hurt?"

"Just the kid's Twinkie. His 'Action Ranger Cub Scout All-Purpose Utility Meals Utensil got caught up in a cafeteria riot, and the Twinkie took one in the cream filling."

Dirty Harry wept.

8:27 AM, October 14, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

No politician in their right mind can change these "zero tolerance" laws and policies. If a politician gets involved to straighten this mess out then their opponents in the next election cycle will deftly use their efforts against them: "Councilman Joe Smith is PRO-CRIME. He enacted a law allowing kids to bring weapons to school, making our classrooms unsafe!!!!" We're stuck.

9:26 AM, October 14, 2009  
Blogger MidKnight said...

The term is "security theater"

12:07 PM, October 14, 2009  
Blogger Alex said...

Cham - for once we agree on something. This stuff is insane. We are turning out a nation of PC sissies.

12:29 PM, October 14, 2009  
Blogger Quasimodo said...

Today there is the Eagle Scout with the little 2" knife in his emergency kit in his car in the parking lot ... suspended

1:05 PM, October 14, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

Yeah, those eagle scouts. What a bunch of trouble makers!

Trey

1:09 PM, October 14, 2009  
Blogger Wayne said...

MB - then the community needs to get together to throw out all the legislators and judges in their area, the school superintendent, and the Principal, then they need to shut down access to any law office that brings suit on such a case, to run them out of town.

We need to send a message to the GOVERNMENT, not to harmless children.

1:24 PM, October 14, 2009  
Blogger Kurt Richard Todoroff said...

The school cafeteria provides knives, forks, and spoons to the children to eat their lunches on school property.

Translation: We in government are omniscient and omnipotent. We alone possess the wisdom, intelligence, and moral clarity to allow your child to do anything. You, as a parent, possess neither the intelligence nor the wisdom nor the moral clarity to rear your child properly. We possess the wisdom to allow your child to hold a knife. You, as a parent, do not possess this wisdom. If you allow your child to bring this object to school then you are:

a: an incompetent parent,

b: a threat to society.

We will punish you and your child.

2:22 PM, October 14, 2009  
Blogger Bill said...

Reminds me of my time in Public School. I occasionally got beat up by bullies.

I went to Authority. You know what Authority said? "What did you do to provoke him?"

And the efforts to keep me from getting beat up were solely trying to figure out how to modify MY behavior so that I wouldn't provoke beatings.

Bill

2:38 PM, October 14, 2009  
Blogger Trust said...

@Bill said... Reminds me of my time in Public School. I occasionally got beat up by bullies.
__________

Back 25-30 years ago, can't remember the exact year, I was in Cub Scouts. There were two packs. I was confused about which pack they put me in, and ended up wearing my Cub Scout uniform to school on the wrong day. Two kids from the other pack confronted me in the hall and decided they should beat me up. I tried to walk away, and in full view of a teacher, they both jumped me, one took me by my wrists, the other by my ankles, and tried to carry me outside. The teacher put all 3 of us in detention.

My mother confronted the principal, and he stated they wanted to send a message that fighting was unacceptable, and anyone involved gets a detention then suspension. This was before zero tolerance was a buzz word.

My mother told the principal that she was going to instruct me to attack him in the hall, then she would personally try to get him fired for fighting with a student. He told her that was ridiculous. She said I know, so is punishing a kid for getting jumped by two kids when he's trying to get away, but it's your rule that you are guilty.

Funny thing was, I was the victim and I was punished twice. Not only did harm to me, it gave the bullies the impression they were no more wrong than their victim.

These policies are damaging.

6:31 PM, October 14, 2009  
Blogger gemma said...

Agree one hundred percent and more if it could be....I always said that the powerless bureaucracy could only deal with the people who would jump when they're told to. Those are the people like us who obey the laws. The real problems they let go because the law is afraid of them, they won't obey and they make the enforcers feel powerless. Jump on the law abiders because they will abide. oh lord won't you buy me a mercedes benz......

8:47 PM, October 14, 2009  
Blogger Topher said...

"I tried to walk away, and in full view of a teacher, they both jumped me, one took me by my wrists, the other by my ankles, and tried to carry me outside. The teacher put all 3 of us in detention."

Any teacher I knew confronted with bullying or power games did something like this. They are wussy cowards, probably bully victims themselves, and allow kids - kids! - to bully them as adults.

9:26 PM, October 14, 2009  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

my oldest boy went to school one bright sunny morning after we all had a fun night exercising the cat with a laser pointer that ran on hearing aid batteries....you know, the little pocket sized jobs.

the wee man had such a good time with his brother and his dad the night before that he decided to share his new-found joy with his school, and so he took the pointer with him to class.

his teacher freaked and raised some sort of alarm which sent the school into lockdown mode.

the teachers and principal went room to room searching each child in turn for the offending device.

my boy returned that afternoon sheepish and fearful that he was in further trouble from us.
his mother made the typical clucking noises about school rules, and i took the pointer and shone it in my own eye, all the while asking what all the fuss was about.

my boy got his first lesson in how truly weird adults can be....and in physics at the same time.

9:27 PM, October 14, 2009  
Blogger pst314 said...

"We need to send a message to the GOVERNMENT"

It's not just the government, it's the #$%!*# liberals. They are why we have this situation. Ever since the sixties they have been doing everything they can to punish the best people and reward the worst people. Teachers must not discipline bad kids, especially if they belong to favored minority groups. Nor may cops arrest them, and if they do they must never use force to subdue violent criminals. Judges must not apply the law to obvious thugs. And so on and so forth until society breaks down and we are all radicalized into either of two opposing camps.

To paraphrase someone I read long ago: "...leftists and liberals, gnawing away at the idea of civilization from their respectively fascist and moronic positions."

9:48 PM, October 14, 2009  
Blogger mikelee.home said...

We see these insane stories over and over again without drawing the obvious conclusion: Most people who work in schools are nuts.

It doesn't matter public or private, pedagogy attracts whackos.

We should study this. We know that most strippers strip because they were sexually abused. What the hell is up with the people who run schools?

10:04 PM, October 18, 2009  

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