I’ve long railed against Zero Tolerance in True, with the first such story appearing way back in 1995. And there have been plenty … more … since.
Now, there is an update to a ZT story in the 19 July 2009 issue about high school coach Brad Young. Before getting to the update, here’s that story:
When Brad Young, 44, the softball coach at Walkersville (Maryland) High School, hosted an end-of-season party for his team, his house became an extension of Frederick County Public Schools property, the school district says. And since some of the parents brought beer to the party — no students drank it, Young didn’t have any, and no parents became inebriated — the coach violated the district’s “zero tolerance” drug-free, alcohol-free and tobacco-free policy for having alcohol on “school property” and has been fired. Young was a coach at the school for five years, and since he has another job as a financial planner, donated his school salary to his team — buying them uniforms and jackets, equipment, and throwing parties. In that time he said he was never given a copy of the school policy that would have made his house school property because he was engaged in “official duties.” Young says such a policy could apply just about anywhere. “The superintendent could be at a Chamber of Commerce meeting sitting next to someone with an alcoholic beverage,” Young said. “She’s there in her official capacity as school superintendent and she’s representing the school system. Is she in violation of this policy and will she get fired?” A district spokeswoman refused to consider the scenario, saying only “I’m not going to interpret policy.” (Frederick News-Post) …Then I will: Yes, and No.
Young was probably smart to posit a scenario about the Superintendent. Sure enough, she has overturned the principal’s decision to fire him. It took a month for it to hit the papers (Supt. Linda Burgee said she was “curious as to why this is just now in the news. Mr. Young received my decision the first week of August.” — yet she didn’t hold a press conference on the subject until September 3.)
The bottom line, though, is some people, even school district employees, do have the guts and the common sense to say so when zero tolerance dictates something that’s out and out wrong. And society — all of us — need to acknowledge it when they go out on a limb and reverse such decisions long after they’ve been forgotten by the short-attention-span public.
There are far too few of these decisions, but with the recent anti-ZT Supreme Court decision, the tide may have subtly turned.
It didn’t hurt that Burgee got more than 1,000 letters and emails supporting Young: public pressure works!
When people ask me what they can do to fight ZT, I keep saying the same thing: make your voice heard! Tell the people that are destroying lives under the color of ZT that it’s wrong, and must be corrected. And if they don’t listen, tell their boss — or vote them out, in the case of elected officials. Your voice does matter. Because if the public officials don’t hear from you, they figure you don’t care.
So, Supt. Burgee: kudos for doing the right thing. Next time, though, issue a press release right away, will you? Because you can bet there will be a next time!
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