Secondly it is often actually not up to ordinary classroom teachers to have the luxury of such "interpretations". They get stuck with carrying the policies out. And sometimes it can be quite a mental juggling act between what you'd prefer & what is imposed on you by state authorities.
Such is bureaucracy, I guess , but I wasn't faulting anyone specifically, and teachers would probably be the last ones on my list if I were to do so.
Still, I think that whatever the reasons (even if it's ascribable to such politics) the approach taken is not ideal and that a human stepping up to the plate and making a judgement call can be what is needed.
Remember the movie The Terminal
? This is what it reminds me of. In the movie the queen of his routine wanted to refuse to allow someone to leave the US with medicine as he lacked the right export documents.
I'm sure such laws have perfectly good reasons, but sometimes you need to have judgement and heart. It can't all be cold rules, so when Victor got the man through by claiming it's medicine for his goat, not his father, it is an emotional triumph in the movie over heartless and thoughtless bureaucracy.
And what I am criticizing is the fundamental mistake the bureaucracy makes here, which is to deliberately make inflexible rules in order to show that they are being tough about something. It's security theater but it doesn't actually help.
So I object to inflexible response announcements in just about any such situation. A completely different example is California's three-strikes laws where you are supposed to go to jail for life on your third felony conviction. It makes for great security theater but in practice it meant that people were going to jail for life for really stupid little third offenses. You can make the case that this is nobody's fault but theirs but it wasn't in anyone's interest to send someone to jail for life for shoplifting, even if it was their third time.
In practice, nobody probably wanted habitual shoplifters sent to prison for life, but if the laws make sentences mandatory and fail to properly qualify the situations in the codification (such as in other states where the requirement was for all three offenses to be violent
, not just a technical felony) then this is the predictable consequence of an inflexible, and poorly codified, rule.
So if if you are trying to stop knifings, mightn't it make some sort of sense to remove knives from the school environment?
Yes, but that isn't actually my qualm. Thomas seems to want to criminalize the behavior more than the object but that isn't my qualm. My qualm would be if in trying to get rid of all knives we make rules that have mandatory reactions that are inflexible and that don't allow for any common-sense interpretation of what it applies to.
So, if the knife in question were a 1 centimeter knife from a Barbie kitchen set then I think it would be absurd to treat it like an actual knife. At the same time, there are "toy" knives that can easily be used to threaten people. A lot of people in Brazil use toy guns and knives to rob people, and to the victims there's not much difference, you are still being robbed by someone who may be able to kill you easily. So I actually support even banning toy weapons, but they have to be plausibly menacing to fit that bill for me.
But if we just step back for a minute, and consider the case of a 1 centimeter Barbie knife, I think it is obvious that this isn't within the scope of the problem we are trying to address, and what I personally am arguing against are rules that are codified in a way to preclude us from making this common sense judgement.
Well I don't think they are doing that. But, given that knives are brought to schools to be used as potential weapons, should "the need arise", or if a particular student wants to settle a score with someone else? That's generally why they're brought to school, or carried around in the streets, anyway. For some reason I'm not clear about, knives have become the weapons of choice of youth gangs & a growing number of young people. I don't actually think it's a matter of redefinition, it's more an acknowledgment what's actually going on in our community.
I have no problem with a zero-tolerance policy against knives that can actually hurt people or that even just look
like they could (again, if it looks menacing it can be used to menace).
But if the "knife" can't hurt someone, and doesn't even look like it could then it just isn't part of the problem. So if it were a "toy" knife that looks like it could be real then fine, I agree with the ban. But if it's an action figure's knife I don't think it is.
See, this case is more like the toy's toy being banned. If the gun were a toy gun at human scale it wouldn't bother me as much. But it's a tiny thing meant for something like a Barbie doll to carry and I don't think that should fall under weapons interpretations. And while I don't mind if they want to take it away from him and ask his parents not to let him bring even such toys to the school (I grew up not allowed to make a gun with my fingers, and I get an angle of not wanting any gun culture even in symbols even if I don't agree with that position) but punishing him as severely as you would a kid who punched another in the nose (I've gotten just detentions for actual physical fights and real violence) just lacks a sense of proper perspective.
Basically, I just want some common sense in how they are applies, I don't mind if schools want no weapons, let's just agree that a Barbie-scale toy does not fit the bill is all I am saying, and in the US "zero tolerance" seems to mean precisely that they are going to make this kind of overreaction.