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The insanity called "zero tolerance"

By Tom DeWeese
web posted August 6, 2001

What are we doing to children? They can no longer have imaginations. They can no longer have innocent flirtations, even in the first grade. And worse, they can no longer do the right thing and get a hero's appreciation. They have become victims of a totalitarian nightmare called "zero tolerance."

First graders have been suspended for sexual harassment for stealing a kiss from a fellow classmate. Others have been charged with drug possession for sharing an aspirin. Still others have felt the wrath of the intolerant for having politically incorrect thoughts written in class papers. The outrages continue to pile up in a public school system no longer fit to teach children.

ITEM: In Monroe, LA, the Rutherford Institute has filed suit, claiming a school principal violated a third grader's constitutional rights when he suspended the student for bringing a drawing of an armed soldier to class. The suit filed in U.S. District Court seeks monetary damages and removal of the Lenwil Elementary School's "zero tolerance" policy against references to guns.

The boy, Raleigh Walker III, drew the picture at home and brought it to West Monroe School on March 22. The picture showed a fort, a soldier with a canteen and a knife and a list of knives, rifles, pistols and first-aid kits. These are all items used by U.S. soldiers who defend our nation. Raleigh's father said the picture was a tribute to a relative in the Armed Forces. Principal Edward Davis said the drawing was "upsetting" and in violation of the school's zero tolerance policy against drawings with guns. He gave Raleigh a one-day, in-school suspension.

ITEM: A National Merit scholar, Lindsay Brown, 18, at high school in Fort Myers, FL, was arrested and jailed when a steak knife was found in her car on a school parking lot. Miss Brown's troubles began when a school security guard noticed her car was parked in the wrong spot. He looked inside and noticed a steak knife with a five-inch blade on the floor of the passenger's side.

"My heart dropped to my stomach. I had no idea it was there," she told reporters. She said she assumes the knife fell out as she moved the weekend before from her mother's apartment to off-campus housing near Florida Gulf Coast University where Miss Brown received an academic scholarship.

Including her arrest, Miss Brown was suspended for five days and banned from attending her senior class graduation ceremony. The school superintendent issued a statement in support of the principal's actions saying, "The principal has taken disciplinary action regarding the weapon possession that is consistent with the Code of Conduct for students…" The principal, Bruce Harter, said, "Leaving a knife in a car parked in the school parking lot presented a clear and present danger to students at that school."

Both of these cases demonstrate the fallacy of the philosophy that "guns kill people." A drawing of a gun and a kitchen knife lying on the floor of the car do not represent a danger to anyone. Neither can be construed to be deadly except by zealots whose real goal is to control behavior and thought patterns. The only thing these zero tolerance policies achieve is to teach children to mistrust authority and that honesty may just get you punished. ESR

Tom DeWeese is Publisher/Editor of The DeWeese Report, a monthly newsletter devoted to public issues. The Report maintains an Internet site at http://www.deweeseonline.com. © Tom DeWeese, 2001

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