When the Hell are Schools Going to Stop With This Zero Tolerance BS? (RO)

According to this article an Arizona teen has been suspended for three days this week for making gun threats at school.

Which would seem, prima facie, to be pretty much a slam dunk, right?

Well, not quite. The “threat” was including a sketch of a gun with the home work he turned in.

That’s right - a sketch of a gun. Not of a gun being pointed at people. Not of a gun being fired at anyone. No accompanying words were included with the sketch.

Just a teenaged boy’s quick picture of a gun.

Not only has the school suspended the boy for this, originally for a full week, but they also refuse to talk to anyone about the situation, now. They refuse to let the parents have a copy of the sketch in question.

And what’s particularly vexing to me, is that there has been no psych evaluation of the boy in question. If the school is seriously concerned about the boy making threats, I’d think that the first thing that they’d want to do would be to have a professional see if the boy is capable of violence. Nope. They’re not that worried. They’re just suspending him.

The article also mentions that another boy was suspended at the same time for another sketch, but there are even fewer details about what that might have been.

When I’m trying to be fair, I have to admit that given the school’s recent history I can see why the administration would want to make an example of the next students to be proved to have done anything stupid involving guns. The week before there’d been an apparant scare that a girl had brought a gun to school. And a letter was sent home to let everyone know that future gun threats would be dealt with by a “zero tolerance” policy.

So I can easily imagine a certain adolescent mindset saying, “Hey, Joe, let’s turn in these stupid skecthes and see what happens.”

But I still have a great deal of difficulty imagining a sketch of a gun as something I’d consider a threat. Good grief! What would have happened if they’d turned in a sketch of a warship?

Suspend the kids, if you must, but make it clear you’re doing that because the kids are smartasses who need to be reigned in. I really don’t think that would be a hard sell for anyone who’s dealt with students.

Calling this shit a threat is asinine. And the further behavior of the school - refusing to return messages from the boy’s mother, or from the press, just makes them look even stupider.

When the Hell are Schools Going to Stop With This Zero Tolerance BS? (RO)
When the voters of the District demand that the School Board do so.
Hasn’t happened yet.

When they get the spine to make actual decisions, for one. Instead of following the rules to the greatest rigidity and extremity they can.

Plus, I expect it’s a power trip for some.

“Zero Tolerance” = " We have not the brains to make a descion based on facts available, and not the guts to make a decision because we might get sued, so this way we can act like total robots (a brainless mechanism) and dodge any responsibility for our actions or non-actions."

What the hell is going through the teacher’s head? “Well, let’s get on to grading these papers. Hmmm. What’s this? A GUN! OH MY GOD! HE’LL KILL US ALL!11!!!1”

The hell?

No, a kid turns in a paper with a sketch of a gun on it, you call him up to your desk, show him the sketch and say, “now, you understand some people might find this upsetting, right? But you don’t actually have any plans to get a gun and shoot people with it, right? Now, it’s a very nice sketch, but sketches belong in your sketchbook, not on your homework, okay? Thanks.”

Somewhere, there is a very stupid teacher, or a smart teacher with a grudge against a student and a very stupid administrator.

Seems the linked page is already disappeared.

Were there any specifics of the nature of the assignment? Because if it was something in the nature of, “Describe how you would handle conflict resolution with a teacher”, I can see how there would be a problem.

New link.

All I can say is OMFG, would you like to buy a clue.

I’d hope some student would turn in a sketch of a soldier standing in full battle gear, rifle by his side, with a nice stars-and-stripes background. That way the administration could enjoy getting hit by a crossfire shitstorm between the ‘guns in our schools!’ and the ‘liberals are outlawing patriotism!’ nutcases.

Smack some people hard enough and they just might start thinking. And if they don’t, well, those are the kind of people that are fun to keep smacking.

If I was teacher and glanced at the sketch I wouldn’t have seen a gun. The smiley faces are threatening though.

Projammer, thanks for the new link. I don’t know whether the paper I’d originally linked took down the article, or if they’d simply crashed from the number of people viewing their site - it was the East Valley Tribune, and the whole site seems to be down.

ETA: Boyo Jim, I don’t remember anything from the original article about the nature of the assignment.

I wonder what you could draw a picture of that couldn’t be perceived as some form of deviance?

Horse - bestiality
star - exploding grenade
airplane - hijacker
ship - drug smuggler
girl - rape
boy - gay sex
tree – er, lynching

Those kids are SICKOS!

Hmm… continuing that list:

flowers - drug addiction

for that matter, I recently drew a “kid’s eye view” of the vacuum cleaner - with green tentacles reaching out from under the beater/suck part of the device to pull in the unwary. Og alone knows what the teacher and administration in question would have thought of that.

The slope towards idiocy in public schools started a long time ago. My parents were called because someone thought William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was inappropriate for me to have in 6th grade, which would have been ~1967. My parents said that it was OK in their humble opinion for me to have the book, but would avoid allowing such scary literature to be taken to school. :rolleyes:

GF and I just discussed the topic this weekend-me recalling being a hard-core geek on the AV squad, carrying small standard and phillips blade screwdrivers in a pocket protector :smiley: as well as a Barlow knife. Science teachers seemed to know who would carry a knife, and would sometimes ask students for theirs. It was a high compliment for Mr. Dowling to close your knife, return it and comment on the quality of the edge.

There has to be more to this story, or this school district has an unlimited budget for fighting parental lawsuits. In order to suspend a kid for that long, usually there has to be a superintendent’s hearing, and evidence given. Parents have been known to bring lawyers to those meetings if they think their child has been wronged. Just a doodle, with no accompanying threats or violent behavior, wouldn’t suffice, and the district would have egg on its face. The parents will probably sic their lawyers on the district and the district will quickly regret their dogmatic and downright bizarre reaction to this kid’s picture, if in fact it was just an innocuous sketch.

I got a poem from a student threatening to kill his estranged father. This was a flat-out description of how he wanted to harm his father, not a toss off. The kid was not suspended, but was referred for counseling and his mother contacted. I don’t want you all to think that these extremist policies are the norm in public schools. They’re not.

ETA: danceswithcats, I taught *Lord of the Flies * to my 9th graders, and my reading class read it when I was in 6th grade (that would have been circa 1982?). So maybe things are getting better in some ways, eh?

Alas, the only more that the original article mentioned was the gun at school scare I touched upon in my OP. Like I said then, I can see why the school would be being touchy about the subject of guns, beyond the norm.

But if they refuse to talk to the press, once the story hits, they’re only damning themselves further with thier silence.

I know they’re not the norm. But there do seem to be a lot of schools and school districts that like the idea of “zero tolerance” policies as some kind of panacea. Of course as t-bonham@scc.net rightly points out - there is a large segment of the population that likes them, because they’re “tough on the kids.” I seem to recall that a few months ago, either the NYT, or the Washington Post ran a large weekend edition article about how the “zero tolerance” policy push has been going out of style, mentioning many of the same concerns that others have brought up in this thread.

They have to keep this stuff confidential. If the kid has a history of bizarre, threatening, or mentally ill behavior, and they leak that to the press, then they’ll REALLY get sued. I’m sure the district’s lawyers are all over this thing and are advising them.

You know this crap comes from the school board, which is elected by the people of the district, not the administrators, right? It gets handed down and then, the schools have to enforce it. Don’t like it? Vote for less stupid, kneejerk people.

Then why did this suspension involve no counselling? No investigation of the student? If the student has that kind of history, wouldn’t it make sense to have a professional evaluate the kid? The only thing that’s being done is the suspension. Which is too much for what we’ve been told happened.

And not enough for anything that you’re suggesting may be happening behind the scenes.

Rubystreak, let’s not get into a pissing contest about where stupidity in the schools comes from. It can be both internally and externally driven. Yes, the school boards formulate policy. And when parents try to adjust the school boards against the whims of the school administrators and teachers, they have been known to do major smear campaigns to keep anything in their cushy little domains from changing. So, the sheeple may be most at fault, but don’t try to sell me the line that teachers and admin must be innocent victims of policy.

As a victim of what I’d call educational malpractice, I know it’s not always the case.

If only there was someone familiar with both Arizona and education who we could talk to about this type of situation… :smiley:

Actually, this happened on the other side of the world from where I teach at I work in what is lovingly described as my students as “the ghetto,” while Chandler is anything but. We worry about real guns here (and honestly, we don’t worry a whole hell of a lot). I will tell you this, as teachers, we are told to report everything. Everything. You have no idea how often we get told by parents (or their lawyers) that “you should have told us.” If a kid is bleary-eyed one day and we don’t fill out the right paperwork, or if a kid jokes about being smacked around by his dad in a creative writing assignment and we don’t inform the social worker, we’re in it deep. I think I’ve mentioned this before on the Dope, but our district got sued by a parent who blamed us for not telling her child that if he ignored the constrution signs and tape and walked in the mud, his $300.00 shoes would get ruined. She said it was our fault for not putting signs to that effect up around the school. And schools will roll over, and lawyers know that, so they try to think of every scenario ahead of time. It’s beyond thankless, so the fact that the teacher reported him doesn’t bother me at all, if that’s what the teacher was told to do - don’t give me that “use your judgement” thing…that’s exactly what a teacher should not attempt to do. Hell, we can’t even give out cough drops to kids anymore because one kid in another state choked on one last year. So that’s the background to that.

To me, a drawing of a ray gun seems pretty damn harmless, and while I can’t think of seeing it on papers I’ve collected in the last 14 years, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone doodled it. It’s not a crime in our district. However, I wouldn’t rule out the fact that someone in the chain of command in the Chandler High School District got served at one point or took notice of the background and history of true violent offenders and flagged drawings of weapons as something to watch out for. Quite simply, kid draws a gun, teacher freaks, principal suspends, community screams, “What the hell did you do that for?” Alternately, kid draws a gun, teacher does nothing, kid shoots up a school five years later, drawings come out on the news, community screams, “Why the hell didn’t you do anything five years ago?” Which side should the school err on?

Eh. These things almost always, without fail, get overturned once the media gets on it and the RO comes out – you should have heard the talk radio today.

The thing that bothers me the most about this, and it does bother me, is that it doesn’t seem that the student had his due process. I’ll tell you right now that zero tolerance doesn’t bother me - but making it some sort of Double Secret Probation Zero Tolerance does. It doesn’t look like the specific act of drawing a weapon is against the rules. If it was in the student handbook that the kid signed off on and he did this, that’s one thing, but it doesn’t seem to be in this case.


Thanks for speaking up.
< completely off-topic hijack >

BTW, how did the wedding with ostrich egg pictures come out?

< /hijack>

Yikes! Well, I’m sure there is some truth to that in some quarters, but…wow…you must have had a really bad educational experience, and for that I am truly, truly sorry…!

The pictures were great, thanks for asking! Unfortuantely, while we got pictures of the egg lying there ,and the zookeepers running out to get it, what I really wanted the actual egg-laying, seems to have eluded us!