Did you hear the latest zero tolerance brouhaha? Apparently a 6 year old can sexually harass another 6 year old! Is that not the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard? Zero tolerance certainly is, and leaves out any room for being reasonable and using common sense.
Reports were on the morning news today about a six year old from Colorado was suspended from school after he kissed a girl … on the hand! This precocious boy had a crush on a female classmate and kissed her hand to show his fondness. His school’s zero tolerance policy about sexual harassment didn’t allow this kind of nonsense and the boy was promptly sent to the principal’s office. Then he was suspended.
Now, keep in mind the little girl in question didn’t mind the kiss one bit, and had it not been for other kids ratting him out, the administration would have been none the wiser. The little juvenile delinquent has been suspended before. Once for “roughhousing” and another time for kissing the same girl on the cheek. In other words, for being a six year old BOY!
Next up, the Pop-Tart bandit. Let’s not forget how zero tolerance struck again in March of this year right here in my home state of Maryland. A second grader was suspended from school because he ate a pop tart. He tried to make it into the shape of a mountain, but it just ended up looking like a gun. So, like any other 7 year old boy, he pointed it. It doesn’t matter where, it matters that the Anne Arundel school system freaked out and suspended him for it. Are you shaking your head in disbelief yet?
No, ok, so here are a few more. A 5th grader was taken from school in May of 2001 from his Florida middle school in handcuffs because he drew a gun. Not from a holster, but on a piece of paper! In September, 2013 three 7th grade boys from Virginia Beach were put on long term suspension for shooting airsoft guns … in their own front yard! They weren’t at the school bus stop, or on public property, but in their own front yard waiting for the school bus.
Need a few more? In Anderson County, Tennessee a kindergarten student was expelled for bringing a toy gun to school, even though it stayed in his backpack. A 5th grader in Longmont, Colorado was expelled because her mother packed a knife in her lunch box so she could cut an apple to eat. When the girl found it, she gave it to her teacher because she knew it was against school policy. She was praised for doing the right thing and was then expelled under their zero tolerance weapons policy.
Zero tolerance policies are nuts, period. Good kids are hurt. The problems these policies are designed to address aren’t solved, and are probably not taken as seriously because everyone is treated in the same draconian way. No matter their age, understanding or intention.
One of the biggest that drive me nuts in my kid’s school system is the zero tolerance drug policy. I can’t even send my daughter to school with a vitamin to take at lunch, or a Motrin. If I’m on a field trip with her I can’t even give her, my own child, an aspirin. When I was in middle and high school, I suffered from horrible migraines (I still do). I carried medication, aspirin, with me all the time. If I started getting a migraine, I took it. I didn’t need a nurse to dispense a simple over the counter remedy.
Here’s another thought that gave me pause. I sat through the yearly “volunteer training” demanded by our school system of any parent who wants to chaperone or volunteer in the classroom. During the training we were told that my child could be suspended for taking something that resembles a weapon into the school or onto a County approved vehicle (school bus). My daughter is in the school color guard and spins flags, rifle and sabre. The “rifle” is a block of wood carved to resemble a rifle (here is an example), and a sabre looks like a sword (here is an example). Sure, I can think “oh, they’ll make exceptions for the color guard, after all, its part of their activity!” But under zero tolerance policies, they can’t. Any time she takes it to school on the bus, or gets on the bus to go to a competition we’re taking a chance that someone will make a fuss and it will blow up in our faces. Given the examples above I can’t say it’s out the realm of possibility!
Why, for the love of God, can we not realize that a 6 year old is not sexually harassing another 6 year old? That a 7 year old is playing with his food, not plotting the overthrow of the school? That a 5th grader is following the rules and is taught the lesson that no good deed goes unpunished?
People, do you realize that whatever “powers that be” who came up with these idiotic policies did so because they thought that we, as parents, were too stupid to parent our own children? Too stupid to teach them common sense? Too stupid to realize that there is a difference between a pop tart and an AK-47?
Are we really that complacent that we are ok with letting administrators and school boards tell us we can’t think for ourselves? That’s certainly what they are teaching our kids.
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