The Bizarre Consequences of "Zero Tolerance" Weapons Policies at Schools
Zachary’s offense? [He’s six years old.] Taking a camping utensil that can serve as a knife, fork and spoon to school. He was so excited about recently joining the Cub Scouts that he wanted to use it at lunch. School officials concluded that he had violated their zero-tolerance policy on weapons, and Zachary was suspended and now faces 45 days in the district’s reform school.
“Something has to change,” said Dodi Herbert, whose 13-year old son, Kyle, was suspended in May and ordered to attend the Christina district’s reform school for 45 days after another student dropped a pocket knife in his lap.
The Christina school district attracted similar controversy in 2007 when it expelled a seventh-grade girl who had used a utility knife to cut windows out of a paper house for a class project.
The problem, of course, is that the global rule trumps any situational common sense, any discretion. But in granting discretion those in overall charge must trust people below them who have more detailed situational knowledge. It’s CYA security—the same thing you see at airports. Those involved in the situation can’t be blamed for making a bad decision as long as they follow the rules, no matter how stupid they are and how little they apply to the situation.