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How useful/effective really is the zero-tolerance policy on weapons in schools?

 
 
Reply Sun 11 Oct, 2009 10:49 pm
It’s a Fork, It’s a Spoon, It’s a ... Weapon?

Quote:

By IAN URBINA
Published: October 11, 2009
NEWARK, Del. " Finding character witnesses when you are 6 years old is not easy. But there was Zachary Christie last week at a school disciplinary committee hearing with his karate instructor and his mother’s fiancé by his side to vouch for him.

Zachary’s offense? Taking a Cub Scout utensil that can serve as a knife, fork and spoon to school. He was so excited about joining the Scouts that he wanted to use it at lunch. School officials concluded that he had violated their zero-tolerance policy on weapons, and Zachary now faces 45 days in the district’s reform school.
...
[For the rest of the article]
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/12/education/12discipline.html?_r=1&hp


Below is a link to sign a petition to be sent to the school district in an attempt to appeal the 45 day suspension:
http://www.helpzachary.com/
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Oct, 2009 01:23 am
@tsarstepan,
Young Zachary may indeed be a fine young person, but I can fully understand why a school might have strict rules about weapons on the premises. I've seen enough potentially serious incidents to understand why such a rule is necessary.
I'm wondering, though, what the reaction might be if the same scout cub utensil was found on a "troublesome" student, with a history of bullying other students.
What school staff wants to spend its limited time with students sorting out such things?
Did his parents not realize that a boy scout utensil (including a knife) was not exactly a good idea for their son to bring to school to eat his lunch with? And that a knife might breach the zero tolerance rule?
However, yes, I do think the 45 day suspension is over the top. I think instead, his parents should be required to make some sort of commitment with the school that there will not be a repeat of such an incident in the future.
tsarstepan
 
  2  
Reply Mon 12 Oct, 2009 01:39 am
@msolga,
Sure its an important rule to have a no weapons policy, the problem is the school can't be flexible in changing the punishment when the policy is to fit the individual circumstances. This isn't an isolated incident where an over the top punishment was laid down on such a particularly young student for bringing in such an innocuous excuse for a weapon.

But that's how these zero tolerance rules are written in communities and schools across the country. There is no flexibility or middle ground - something along the lines of confiscate the item in question then hold a meeting with the child's parent(s)/guardian.

And for all we know, the child just brought the thing in without telling his parents. Also, according to the article, it seems the parents weren't even aware of the zero tolerance rule in the first place.
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Oct, 2009 01:59 am
@tsarstepan,
Quote:
Sure its an important rule to have a no weapons policy, the problem is the school can't be flexible in changing the punishment when the policy is to fit the individual circumstances.


In my humble opinion, the fairest approach is to treat all "rule breachers" the same, especially when weapons (or potential weapons) are concerned. A consistent approach, in other words. Just imagine, the mess schools could get themselves tangled up in, making decisions based on a student's character, whether they think the student intends to harm or not, whether their parents might know they have a knife or not .... etc, etc ... Momma mia!
I've already said that I think a 45 day suspension for a 6 year old is over the top. But I haven't the time right now to formulate a more appropriate response. But I'm sure it can be done! Wink
dlowan
 
  2  
Reply Mon 12 Oct, 2009 02:11 am
@tsarstepan,
Zero tolerance seems fine to me, when there is an ability to temper it with common sense and reason.

Why is this (as I gather from your posts) not possible in US schools?
roger
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Oct, 2009 02:15 am
@dlowan,
Surely, the could come up with an inclusive definition, and publish it. I suspect it's just some vaguely worded policy against weapons. Sometimes, something that resembles a weapon is good enough.
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Oct, 2009 02:24 am
@roger,
Maybe they have already, Roger? They'd be pretty silly not to. Lots of potential legal implications, I'd imagine.
roger
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Oct, 2009 02:29 am
@msolga,
Pretty silly? You know our schools better than I thought.
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Oct, 2009 02:35 am
@roger,
I know our schools in Oz. (Well my own state anyway.) there'd be Department of Education directives, there'd be staff in-servicing, there'd be discussion in staff meetings, there'd be each individual school's guidelines, there'd be information for parents sent home, there'd be ..... (till our heads swim!)
Maybe you're selling your schools a bit short?
0 Replies
 
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Oct, 2009 03:08 am

He needs a good lawyer.
0 Replies
 
Diest TKO
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Oct, 2009 04:36 am
1) Identify items which have a intentional function as a weapon.
2) Identify items which are commonly used as a weapon.
2a) Are any of these items essential to the school environment (e.g. - a fork can be used as a weapon, but the cafeteria needs them)? If so, remove from list.
2b) Those items that can be used as weapons but are required for the school will reami9n and be manged by their areas. These will be accepted as risks.
3) Take list and distribute.
4) Enforce.

This kind of thing isn't hard. Common sense here is pretty simple, IMO.
K
O
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Oct, 2009 05:12 am
@Diest TKO,
Quote:
2a) Are any of these items essential to the school environment (e.g. - a fork can be used as a weapon, but the cafeteria needs them)? If so, remove from list.
2b) Those items that can be used as weapons but are required for the school will reami9n and be manged by their areas. These will be accepted as risks


Could you clarify what you mean here, Diest.
Diest TKO
 
  2  
Reply Mon 12 Oct, 2009 06:32 am
@msolga,
msolga wrote:

Quote:
2a) Are any of these items essential to the school environment (e.g. - a fork can be used as a weapon, but the cafeteria needs them)? If so, remove from list.
2b) Those items that can be used as weapons but are required for the school will reami9n and be manged by their areas. These will be accepted as risks


Could you clarify what you mean here, Diest.

Sorry. I didn't mean to be unclear. I mean that some items can be used as a weapon, but are essential to certain educational spaces.

-Forks, spoons and knives are essential to a cafeteria. They can be used as weapons, but the removal of them from the school doesn't make sence. Therefore we accept that a fork or knife present some threat, and we accept that degree of liability. We let the cafeteria manage their usage and invetory. Perhaps to reduce liability plastic cutlery is used assuming the budget is availible.

-A large saw is essential to a workshop classroom. They can be used as weapons, but the removal of them hinders the student in the classroom. We accept that the saw presents some degree of liability. We let the workshop manage their useage, storage and maintanace.

-A pocket knife is NOT essential to any school function in any setting. Any setting where the pocket knife could provide utility, other managed resourses would be used. I.e. - The student doesn't bring his own tools to school. We acknowledge that the tool can be used as a weapon, and because other tools are availible, we do NOT accept the liability, and ban it from school premises.

That's the idea. Did I clear up what I was saying?
K
O
OmSigDAVID
 
  4  
Reply Mon 12 Oct, 2009 06:53 am

Almost ANYTHING can be used as a weapon,
when combined with some creative imagination.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Oct, 2009 07:53 am
@roger,
Quote:
Surely, the could come up with an inclusive definition, and publish it. I suspect it's just some vaguely worded policy against weapons. Sometimes, something that resembles a weapon is good enough.


Mo sparked a little controversy at his school's Halloween party a couple of years back when it was seriously debated whether his cardboard Ghostbuster proton pack too closely resembled a weapon simply because it could be pointed at someone.
0 Replies
 
OmSigDAVID
 
  0  
Reply Mon 12 Oct, 2009 08:35 am

School teachers have a professional history of irrationality
(not to offend anyone). I remember one Miss Raid, a young teacher
who -- several times a day -- tightly closed her eyes,
dropped her jaw down, balled up her fists at chest height
and screamed like an air raid siren for about 25 seconds.

A friend of mine saw his teacher defenestrate herself to death.
He was looking out the window, and there goes Miss Stonebreaker, on the way down.
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Oct, 2009 10:01 am
@roger,
According to the petition site, the following is the wording of the policy at hand:
Quote:
Weapons/Deadly Weapons(s) Possession/Concealment/Sale: Regardless of possessor’s intent, any possession/concealment/sale of a weapon/deadly weapon. The Weapon/Deadly Weapon list includes, but is not limited to, firearms, pellet guns (hard and soft), BB guns, air guns, bombs, electric weapons, projectile devices, knives with a full blade measuring three or more inches, switch-blade knife, mace, pepper gas, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, metal knuckles, slingshot, razor, razor blades, box cutter, xacto knife, utility knife, bicycle chain, ice pick, taser, and non-functional weapons. Also, any dangerous instrument, as defined in this Code, will be considered a weapon/deadly weapon when used, displayed in a threatening manner, or attempted to be used, to cause death or serious physical injury.*
First Offense
REQUIRED:
• Parent/guardian notification and conference
• Notification of police, charges will be filed
• DOE Student Conduct Report will be filed as required by law
• 5 days out-of-school suspension
• Expulsion*
* A student’s suspension shall be extended pending an a District Alternative Placement/
expulsion hearing.
0 Replies
 
Merry Andrew
 
  3  
Reply Mon 12 Oct, 2009 10:58 am
The problem with all 'zero tolerance' rules is that, by definition, there can be no exceptions allowed for mitigating or extenuating circumstances. And, furthermore, the rule against 'no weapons of any description' fails to adequately define a 'weapon.' I would never have imagined that a Boy Scout knife (or a Swiss Army knife, for that matter) could be considered a weapon. As David has already pointed out, under the right circumstances literally anything can be construed as a weapon.

When I was working as a teacher in the juvenile justice system in Boston, we were required to count all pencils at the end of a class period. Pencils were necessary in class, but outside of class they were considered to be potential 'weapons'. So you counted them when you passed them out and made sure that all had been collected before the kids could leave the room. You were absolutely forbidden to give a ball-point or other type of pen to a student. Too dangerous.

Is this the type of regime we want to see in our public schools? Back in the Pleistocene days when I was in school, we had no metal detectors at school entrances, no searches of students' gear. I remember a friend who had bought a letter opener that was shaped like a Samurai sword. He brought it to school and proudly displayed it to his friends. It was certainly a potential weapon but people didn't think in those terms back then.

For once, David has it right -- this poor kid needs a lawyer.
Robert Gentel
 
  3  
Reply Mon 12 Oct, 2009 12:01 pm
@tsarstepan,
tsarstepan wrote:
But that's how these zero tolerance rules are written in communities and schools across the country. There is no flexibility or middle ground - something along the lines of confiscate the item in question then hold a meeting with the child's parent(s)/guardian.


Just about all inflexible response rules like this are fundamentally flawed. From the massive retaliation nuclear strategy to the 3-strikes California law. You end up having to overreact to something or take back your word on your promised response. Neither are good scenarios and it's much better to use discretion at the time of the reaction instead of trying to pre-determine what your reactions would be.

It makes no sense to lock yourself into extreme responses, flexible response is the better strategy.
Robert Gentel
 
  3  
Reply Mon 12 Oct, 2009 12:04 pm
@msolga,
msolga wrote:
In my humble opinion, the fairest approach is to treat all "rule breachers" the same, especially when weapons (or potential weapons) are concerned.


But not all students, and weapons, are the same.

Quote:
A consistent approach, in other words. Just imagine, the mess schools could get themselves tangled up in, making decisions based on a student's character, whether they think the student intends to harm or not, whether their parents might know they have a knife or not .... etc, etc ... Momma mia!
I've already said that I think a 45 day suspension for a 6 year old is over the top. But I haven't the time right now to formulate a more appropriate response. But I'm sure it can be done! Wink


There can't be a single canned response that is appropriate for all situations. The 45-day suspension isn't enough for some cases and is far too much in others.

They should use more discretion, or at least pre-determine their responses with more nuance (e.g. boy scout knife gets a lecture and a 2-day suspension, brass knuckles or penknife gets 45 days).
0 Replies
 
 

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