I Still Get So Angry at Zero Tolerance stories! Let’s start with the story that made me angry this week:
The Two Lead Stories this week (the “asthma stories”) were by far the most-suggested stories by readers recently. I think every one of them just suggested one or the other, and they probably didn’t know about the other. The two stories, which happened about a week apart, and about 165 miles apart, are pretty amazing together. Let’s start with the two stories, in True’s 24 January 2016 issue:
Another story that really needs the photo to be complete. First, the story, from True’s 15 December 2013 issue:
Two stories this week will, I think, generate some comments from readers. One has a zero tolerance theme, and the other is a minor political scandal. They’re both from True’s 19 February 2012 issue.
When I run a string of zero tolerance stories, readers typically respond, “What should we do about this?” What I don’t want you to do is emailbomb the school officials or school boards involved.
Yet another astounding story from the front lines — our nation’s schools.
From True’s 28 November 2010 issue:
A story from last week brought two very interesting reactions from Premium readers (the story wasn’t in the free edition).
So, first, here’s the story, from True’s 8 August 2010 issue:
My recent editorial analyzing a Zero Tolerance case (Patrick Timoney’s “Gun”) showed just how crazy people can get trying to control others, and their desire to punish non-transgressions just the same as if the person was actually doing something wrong. Most people fully got the point. Others, to my shock, didn’t.
The “zero tolerance” stories just don’t stop, despite court decisions and legislators demanding “common sense.” A 2-inch hunk of plastic isn’t a gun, unless you’re a hysterical grade school principal who demands that 9-year-olds in your care sign confessions when they bring a toy to school.
Often when I include an article about “zero tolerance” in True, I hear from people outside the United States who claim some variation of “only in America!”
Not so, of course. Some of the most outrageous examples happen in the British Commonwealth countries, including England. Such was the case this week (the 15 November 2009 edition), with this outrage:
The New York Times had an article today on a ridiculous zero tolerance situation: a kid in Delaware who was so excited to get his Cub Scouts camping utensil — a fork, knife and spoon combo — that he took it to school to eat his lunch with. Yeah, a Cub Scout: Zachary Christie is just 6 years old.
The first story in True about “zero tolerance” appeared in June, 1995, and I started railing about the concept soon after. It took more than a decade before I starting noticing other columnists editorializing against ZT.
Some readers will be a bit puzzled why I would spread this message in my blog: “Do not, under any circumstances, be interviewed by the police without advice from a lawyer.” You have a right to remain silent, and I urge you to exercise that right. Especially if you are innocent.
There will probably be two responses to the first story in this week’s issue: 1) I was too hard on the public library/librarian, and 2) I wasn’t hard enough on her. To be sure, my tagline was judging her based on the standards of the American Library Association.
Anytime I run a “gun story” I get a lot of comment from both hugely polarized Americans, who want to rant for or against guns, and foreign readers, who don’t understand the American “obsession” with arms. I’m going to take a stab at helping foreign readers understand it a bit better. So first, the “gun story” that prompted this essay, from True’s 15 February 2009 issue:
Zero Tolerance is insidious. An abdication of common sense and professional ethics, in schools it seeks to apply one punishment — suspension, usually leading to expulsion — to any level of “crime.”
Episode #3: “Visionary”, from True’s 22 June 2008 issue.