Zero Tolerance gone bad. Again.
October 3, 2000 2:39 PM   Subscribe

Zero Tolerance gone bad. Again. More inside.
posted by plinth (13 comments total)
Zero tolerance, when applied to schools is ultimately going to fail in the most absurd ways. I have a list of questions
1) when did all these schools adopt zero tolerance?
2) who thought it was a good idea to use an inflexible policy for an environment that requires flexibility?
3) doesn't this teach a lesson of closed-mindedness to the other students?
4) at what point will writing implements and books be blanketed under zero tolerance (since I can think of ways to use them as weapons)?

posted by plinth at 2:44 PM on October 3, 2000

I'll take number one:

Once upon a time, there was this high school called "Columbine".

I'm not sure if you're living in the US, so my smart-alecky tendencies will stop thusly.

But in a nutshell, barring more intelligent answers, that's the reason. Or a facet of a many sided "gem". (The Dark Crystalâ„¢?)
posted by ethmar at 2:51 PM on October 3, 2000

I agree with plinth, a gun or a knife you could call a weapon, but i can think of many ways i'd use a chair as a weapon. On that thought let's ban chairs and make everyone stand.
posted by Zool at 3:24 PM on October 3, 2000

answer to #1 and #2:

Because it beats independent thought. Schools don't have to defend their actions, they can just point to the rule on the wall saying all decisions are black and white and no exceptions are ever given.

zero tolerance policies are lazy ways to legislate students and allow a school to unload problem students easier (but does it help anyone?).
posted by mathowie at 3:36 PM on October 3, 2000

Zero tolerance rules still allow for someone to be interpreting them.
posted by bkdelong at 3:50 PM on October 3, 2000

I've long thought that school administration is the last refuge of the mendacious and cowardly. This kind of nonsense makes me even more convinced.

I don't think any other kind of person is emotionally equipped to deal with the mindless ravening mobs of (gasp) parents to whom the school system is held hostage.

posted by Mars Saxman at 4:16 PM on October 3, 2000

OK, let me ask another question then:
5) How do we make it better?
Clearly a system that is geared towards uniformity for situations that are all different is guaranteed to fail. It is worse, in my mind, to punish all violators of these rules equally even though the transgressions are not equal than it is to have arguments over what is an appropriate punishment. The US state governments typically do not do this. Someone who steals a candy bar is typically not treated the same as someone who steals a car[1]. So why treat a child so differently from the real justice system?

I'm equally as upset that there is a mythos that the world is a safe place. I'd like children to be safe, but doesn't it make more sense to teach them to act within the social contract than and how to deal with those who act outside it instead of teaching them to suffer from a perceived or real threat of a fringe minority?

I know, I know, this is a pipe dream, but the direction is healthier.

[1] I chose this particular analogy because there was a case in California of a man who was put away for life because he stole a candy bar. This was his "third strike" and under the law, a stolen candy bar met the requirement to have him put in jail for life. In high school my peers joked about the parallels between our school and a correctional facility, but this is just getting too close.
posted by plinth at 6:19 PM on October 3, 2000

If stealing a candy bar would result in life in jail, "not stealing a candy bar" would be high up on my to-do list for most days. Might even be priority number one now and then.

This Zero Tolerance nonsense, incidentally, predates Columbine. A rather, ah, intensely hued site called might interest some.
posted by lileks at 6:32 PM on October 3, 2000

Zero tolerance is popular I think because it's a quick fix and it has a neat name.
posted by thirdball at 7:01 PM on October 3, 2000

Zero tolerance is designed to turn out the mindless, following sheep that our stonage society relies upon. Don't dis the plebs.
posted by Ptrin at 7:37 PM on October 3, 2000

Arrrgh! Think, people, THINK!

We have all lost our collective marbles when we think that rigid policies such as zero tolerance and mandatory sentencing will be anything but mindless quick-fixes that keep people from exercising their grey matter. Do we really want to be hamstrung to such an extent that sand can be classified as a dangerous substance (courtesy of your U.S. EPA), or Tweety Bird keychains labelled as weapons?

Aramaic, take me away!
posted by Avogadro at 6:23 AM on October 4, 2000

Clearly a system that is geared towards uniformity for situations that are all different is guaranteed to fail.

You mean like, I don't know, law?

Yes, please, get rid of the mandatory minimums.
posted by solistrato at 8:58 AM on October 4, 2000

the problem with this is the awareness issue.
a girl brings a keychain to a school, and it's considered a weapon. if she KNEW it was a weapon or planned to use it as a a weapon, then there you go. however, I don't think any of us could've guessed that a KEYCHAIN would be used as a weapon. well, I have a swiss army keychain that I bring to school, use several times a day, in front of teachers, but nobody cares.
posted by starduck at 3:56 PM on October 4, 2000

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