Tag: Zero Tolerance


WhT on Earth?

When Ahmed Mohamed went to his high school in Irving, Texas, Monday, he was so excited. A teenager with dreams of becoming an engineer, he wanted to show his teacher the digital clock he’d made from a pencil case.

The 14-year-old’s day ended not with praise, but punishment, after the school called police and he was arrested. A photo shows Ahmed, wearing a NASA T-shirt, looking confused and upset as he’s being led out of school in handcuffs.

“They arrested me and they told me that I committed the crime of a hoax bomb, a fake bomb,” the freshman later explained to WFAA after authorities released him.

Irving Police spokesman Officer James McLellan told the station, “We attempted to question the juvenile about what it was and he would simply only tell us that it was a clock.”

The teenager did that because, well, it was a clock, he said.

On Wednesday, police announced that the teen will not be charged.

Chief Larry Boyd said that Ahmed should have been “forthcoming” by going beyond the description that what he made was a clock. But Boyd said that authorities determined that the teenager did not intend to alarm anyone and the device, which the chief called “a homemade experiment,” was innocuous.

I will be as fair as I can here. It was entirely appropriate for a teacher, seeing a student with a strange electronic device, to ask about it, no matter what color he was or what his name was. However, once it became clear it was a clock — and it’s pretty clear it was a clock — that should have been it. At most, they should have told him to not bring home projects in without telling anyone. That should have been it.

But our schools have become reflexive about calling the police. They call the police when one kid kisses a girl on a dare. They call the police when a girl plays around with some chemicals to make a rocket. They call the police when kids write violent stories.

People are trying to make this about race. And that appears to have played a role, based on what Achmed says the police said to him. But I really don’t think it’s the defining factor here. Our schools have become increasingly paranoid about … well, anything. Doug Mataconis:

Ever since the Columbine shooting in 1999 and everything that has followed it, schools have increasingly adopted so-called “zero tolerance” policies aimed at anything that even remotely suggests the idea of violence. This has led to extreme absurdities that have been reported in the media over the years, such as schoolchildren being disciplined for playing a schoolyard game and using their fingers as simulated guns, and even a child who was reprimanded for shaping a Pop-Tart into something allegedly resembling a gun. In almost none of these cases have these policies ever actually prevented a violent attack or uncovered a threat that authorities otherwise would not have been aware of. Indeed, most of the successful attacks in schools that have occurred have been situations where there had been no warning at all that the perpetrator would become violent. Additionally, statistics make clear that schools are actually safer today than they ever have been in that reported violence or attempted violence is at an all-time low compared to other times in the past. Proponents of the “Zero Tolerance” policies will claim, obviously, that the increase in school safety is attributable to those policies, but there’s simply no evidence to support that. More importantly, notwithstanding the fact that schools are safer, the rhetoric from school districts, law enforcement, and the media leads one to believe that they are in fact more dangerous than ever before. This leads to paranoia on all fronts, and precisely the kind of absurd situations that would have been dismissed as nothing to worry about decades ago. In this case, it led to a 9th grader with an interest in robotics being treated as a criminal and a terrorist even though there was no evidence that the device he had in his backpack was anything other than what he claimed it would be.

We encourage this. Our media encourage this when they give non-stop attention to every incident of violence. Gun controllers encourage this when they falsely claim we’ve had an explosion of school shootings. Politicians encourage this when they pretend our children are in constant danger to advance whatever agenda they want.

This is more than just dumbass school officials. This is a dumbass culture of paranoia, zero tolerance, panic-mongering and a psychotic need to call in the authorities for everything.

Zero Tolerance? Nope, Zero Thinking

Earlier this week, there came to light the story of Erin Cox:

Two weeks ago, Erin received a call from a friend at a party who was too drunk to drive. Erin drove to Boxford after work to pick up her friend. Moments after she arrived, the cops arrived too and busted several kids for underage possession of alcohol.

A North Andover High School honor student, Erin was cleared by police, who agreed she had not been drinking and was not in possession of alcohol. But Andover High told Erin she was in violation of the district’s zero tolerance policy against alcohol and drug use. In the middle of her senior year, Erin was demoted from captain of the volleyball team and told she would be suspended from playing for five games

Now when I read this my first thought was that this was more Zero Tolerance nonsense. But, as Jesse Walker notes, it’s actually worse than that:

“We do not have a ‘zero tolerance policy.’ Each incident is fully investigated and decided upon based on the individual facts and circumstances. Our administrators are tasked with applying the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) rules pertaining to student-athletes and alcohol in a consistent and fair manner,” Hutchinson wrote. “To be clear, the MIAA’s, and by extension North Andover High School’s, ‘chemical health rule’ prohibits student-athletes from possessing alcohol, in addition to prohibiting its use, consumption, or distribution.”


In other words: According to Superintendent Hutchinson, Cox’s school does not have an inflexible rule that produced a perverse incentive to let a drunk friend drive a car. Cox’s school carefully considered the evidence, investigated its options, and then deliberately decided to take an action that produces a perverse incentive to let a drunk friend drive a car.

Never let it be said that zero tolerance is the single dumbest idea in American schools.

This is mind-boggling. The punishment visited on Cox is not that bad in the scheme of things (although it could harm her chances at scholarships). But why would any punishment be visited here? Because she was in the vicinity party where there was alcohol? Does alcohol emit evil alcohol rays that corrupt children so that they can not even be allowed in the building?

I know what their problem is: it’s that she responded to this in a sensible manner instead of calling the police. It’s because she accepted her friend’s drinking as a reality and dealt with the situation in hand instead of burning everything in the service of combating underage drinking. I think the base problem here is the hysteria over underage drinking and the lawhead belief that government and its agents can prevent people from touching a drop of alcohol until they are 21.

I’m reminded very forcefully of social host laws. Every year, high school students have graduation or prom parties in distant locations, get drunk and drive home. And every year, kids are killed this way. Some parents have tried hosting parties at their own homes: they turn a blind eye to the drinking as long as the kids turn over their keys. These parents, to thunderous applause by MADD and other lawheads, have been prosecuted under “social host laws“. The logic is the same: we need to stop kids from touching the evil firewater. All else is collateral damage. We can stop teenagers from drinking if we just try hard enough.

The message being sent could not be clearer: let your friends drive drunk. If they are killed or crippled as a result … well, that’ll learn ‘em not to drink.

The Zero Tolerance Nadir

I would say that Zero Tolerance has reached its maximum stupidity. But then again, I’ve said that before:

A suspended seventh grade Virginia Beach student will find out soon if he is expelled for the rest of the year for shooting an airsoft gun.

Like thousands of others in Hampton Roads, Khalid Caraballo plays with airsoft guns. Caraballo and his friend Aidan were suspended because they shot two other friends who were with them while playing with the guns as they waited for the school bus.

The two seventh graders say they never went to the bus stop; they fired the airsoft guns while on Caraballo’s private property.

Aidan’s father, Tim Clark, told WAVY.com what happened next lacks commons sense. The children were suspended for possession, handling and use of a firearm.

For their part, the school is claiming other kids were shot with the toy guns, including one near the bus stop who was running away from the shooters. Even if their version of events is correct, I don’t that suspension and possible expulsion are warranted.

The police have declined to charge anyone in this case, meaning the police have a bit more sense than anyone else involved. Technically, shooting an airgun is illegal unless it on private property with the permission of the owners, which Khlalid is claiming was the case.

The Good Guys Win, When We Try

You remember Kiera Wilmot, the Florida student who was expelled because she was fooling around with chemicals and unintentionally created an explosion? The one who was facing criminal charges?

Great news. Not only have the authorities dropped the charges, two Crowdtilt campaigns have raised $2500 to send her and her sister to space camp and another $8000 to help with their legal expense (which have apparently been quite heavy). The school has yet to decide what to do. I would politely suggest they get her back in school, admit they were wrong and submit to a few hours in the stocks. But I’m known to be judgmental that way.

Stay Calm and Get Shot

If this story is accurate, Zero Tolerance has somehow managed to find a new low. Yes, even lower than suspending kids for using their fingers as guns:

A Florida high school student wrestled a loaded gun away from another teen on the bus ride home this week and was slapped with a suspension in return.

The 16-year-old Cypress Lake High student in Fort Myers, Fla. told WFTX-TV there was “no doubt” he saved a life after grappling for the loaded .22 caliber revolver being aimed point-blank at another student on Tuesday.

“I think he was really going to shoot him right then and there,” said the suspended student, not identified by WFTX because of safety concerns. “Not taking no pity.”

The police have confirmed that a student had a gun and was threatening to shoot someone. The teen claims that he wrestled the gun away from the suspect. All the school district is saying is that the principal has discretionary power to suspend any student pending a hearing.

I want to throw some caution onto my usual anger. We only have the teen’s word for what happened and it’s possible the principal is just suspending everyone involved until it’s clear what happened. I suspect that they’ll back off once their decision is splashed all over the internet. But if the accuracy of this report is born out, we have found a new incident for illustrating just how dumb Zero Tolerance has gotten. “Suspend ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out” isn’t exactly the model our schools should be following.

The Bubble Bandit


A 5-year-old girl was suspended from school earlier this week after she made what the school called a “terrorist threat.”

Her weapon of choice? A small, Hello Kitty automatic bubble blower.
The kindergartner, who attends Mount Carmel Area Elementary School in Pennsylvania, caught administrators’ attention after suggesting she and a classmate should shoot each other with bubbles.

The kindergartner was ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation during her 10-day suspension, which was later reduced to two days. The evaluation deemed the girl normal and not a threat to others, Ficker said.

The Mount Carmel Area School District told ABC News, “We are confident that much of the information supplied to the media may not be consistent with the facts… The Mount Carmel Area School District takes the well-being and safety of students and staff very seriously.”

This is just one of a series of massive over-reactions we’ve seen in the wake of Sandy Hook.

Across the country, schools are locking doors that weren’t locked before, even though, at Sandy Hook, the door WAS locked. They are hiring guards, even though, at Sandy Hook, the gunman blasted anyone who got in his way. They are implementing voodoo-esque defenses, like making parents call 24 hours in advance of a visit to the school, or forcing parents to forfeit their car keys upon entering the school, or even just making everyone start signing in — as if a madman bent on mass murder would reconsider if he had to sign a piece of paper. “Oh, do I have a photo I.D. with me?…I guess, uh…never mind.”

Of course, the tragedy in Newtown shocks and dismays us. But it shouldn’t make us fundamentally change our schools, because nothing else has fundamentally changed — except our fear level. One mom wrote to me yesterday that her children’s school had scrapped its “Go inside a classroom if you hear gunfire” policy and was now telling students to run outside, or crawl into the drop-down ceiling (how???), or, if they are in the parking lot, to drive away (but not to any particular place) — in effect, endorsing panic. And a few posts below this one, a mom was protesting the $2.4 MILLION her school district is considering spending on school guards.

And, of course, they are stepped up zero-tolerance policies. Because you know if you let a kindergartner bring a bubble gun today, tomorrow it might be a bazooka.

What we have here is a group of panic-stricken people running wild embracing any policy that sounds like it might help. This, of course, delights the people who have long had a list of things they want to implement — gun control, locked down schools, video game censorship. It is time for people to stand up and say, “No, enough! Prove to me that X will save lives before we even consider it.”

The A-Student Desperado

From the files of You’ve Got To Be Fucking Kidding Me:

An honor student in Texas was thrown in jail after she missed too many classes at her high school.

A judge issued Diane Tran, 17, a summons Wednesday for her excessive truancy after she missed class. She was arrested in open court.

Last month, Tran was issued a warning by the judge for missing school.

You know, I was an honor student — at least until late in high school. And every semester, I would have the “flu” for a week. That’s what I told my mother and that’s what she pretended to believe. I was unpopular, I was the shortest kid in class and I was shy. I needed a break from the other kids. But I kept up my work and I was on the honor roll, so no one cared. The point of school was to be educated, not to show up. Schools are not fucking jails and the people who ran mine didn’t treat it like one.

But … my reasons for skipping school were not her reasons. This story just gets better:

Tran said she works both full-time and part-time jobs, in addition to taking advanced and college level courses.

“She goes from job to job from school. She stays up until 7 a.m. in the morning doing her homework,” said Devin Hill, a classmate and co-worker.

On top of that, Tran said her parents spilt up and moved away, leaving her to support her younger sister.

Yeah. She’s skipping school occasionally because she’s so tired from working a job and a fucking half to support her family. What a monster! We can’t let responsible people like that roam the streets. Better for her to have just dropped out when she turned 16.

The judge admits he wanted to make an example of her. He did make an example … of what happens when tiny-brained men get a little bit of power and just how insanely stupid our Zero Tolerance policies have gotten.

Actually, no, I take that back. She is setting an example and it’s one I think should be set. Let’s make it policy: any student who maintains their grades and works a job and a half gets to skip school occasionally. Make it a reward for being a model citizen.

Look, I understand that that the law is the law. But laws untempered by mercy, justice and common sense are useless. Zero Tolerance policies and mindless obedience to the rules are going to destroy a generation of kids before all is said and done. Literally.

Blown Out of Proportion

I’m hoping … hoping … that his is an example of a dim bulb prosecutor bringing big stupid charges to get some publicity before he pleads down to something more sensible. I’m hoping that because the alternative is that Phil Caviness is a power-crazed moron who has been given way too much authority:

[18 year old high school senior Tyell] Morton was arrested Tuesday after school surveillance cameras captured a picture of a man dressed in a hooded sweatshirt and wearing latex gloves, concealing a package and leaving without it. Believing it contained explosives, the school was evacuated and the Indiana State Police bomb squad was called in. It turns out that the package contained a blow-up doll placed in the girls’ restroom. Police say that Morton admitted putting it there as a prank.

He’s now charged with felony criminal mischief for a hoax that the teen’s family says doesn’t rise to the level of criminal charges.

He’s facing eight years in prison — five more than he’d be facing if he’d brought a gun to school. The school’s defense is that their massive over-reaction to a package cost them $8000. The prosecutor’s?

“In this post-Columbine world, that’s what you get when these kinds of things happen,” said Rush County Prosecutor Phil Caviness.

So placing a blow-up doll in a bathroom warrants a reaction similar to how we might react to the cold-blooded murders of 15 children. Nicely done, Phil Caviness. Nice sense of proportion.

I suppose Mr. Morton — who was incidentally set to graduate and has never been in trouble with the law — should feel lucky. In the world envisioned by school administrators and prosecutors swollen with their own sense of power, he’s lucky they didn’t shoot him right there in the hallway.