One Solution to Zero Tolerance

When a fourth-grade girl got nabbed by her school on “Zero Tolerance” grounds, her parents didn’t lie back and take it. Here’s the story, from my 26 May 2005 issue:

Taking Back the Schools

Principal Dan Doerhoff of East Lynne School in Kansas City, Mo., decided a fitting punishment for an unnamed fourth-grade girl in lieu of suspension was to make her pick up rocks along the road in front of the school for three days. Alone. Teachers thought the girl’s punishment was too harsh and dangerous, and during their free periods several went out to help her and watch after her. The mini revolt was led by teacher Christa Price, so Doerhoff not only ordered Price fired for “failing to support the administration,” he refused to do the final sign-off on her teaching credential, which she needs to get another teaching job. Seven other teachers quit to show support for Price, leaving only two teachers at the school. Parents are fighting back too: they gathered 177 signatures on a petition demanding Doerhoff’s resignation, and are campaigning to vote out any school board members who support him. Meanwhile, district officials say they’ll sign Price’s certificate so she can get a new job. (Kansas City Star) …No matter how old you get, it can still be satisfying to say “nyah nyah nyah” to the principal.

Taking Action

When I run ridiculous school-based stories in True, especially zero tolerance items, readers often ask “What can we DO about these things? How do we fix it?”

The answer: emulate the parents of East Lynne School in Kansas City, Mo. They’re doing just that: taking back the schools. They’re demanding that the principal resign in very loud terms. They’ve put the school board on notice that they’ll vote out anyone who backs stupidity. They’re backing the teachers who put their careers on the line to say “Enough!” They demanded common sense.

And if they keep it up, they will win their battle.

Saying “ain’t in awful?” when we see such stories isn’t enough. We must stand up to such stupidity, and stand firmly. Or else we are allowing the idiocrats to walk over us.

It’s going to take more than just one group of parents, one school-full of teachers. But it can be done if we demand better of the people we pay to educate our children. That so many teachers supported their colleague in the face of something truly wrong just shows there are great teachers out there who really care. So be sure to also make your voice heard when your kid’s teachers are good!

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3 Comments on “One Solution to Zero Tolerance

  1. In many stories, Randy, you’ve summed it up that Zero Tolerance is simply an excuse to avoid thinking. Which is true. It’s shameful, it’s disgusting, it’s revolting, and many people are complaining about it. But I’m seriously afraid that the human condition will never let it be eradicated. In religious circles, it’s called dogma. In political circles, it’s called Party Platform (which again is dogma). We’re even seeing it in our legal system. People are so convinced that the legal system has utterly failed that now there are Mandatory Minimum sentences that don’t allow for mitigating circumstances. Zero Tolerance crimes and the judges’ hands are tied.

    Zero Tolerance is not a function of a few power-mad tinhorns run amuck, but a manifestation of Society’s lack of faith in itself. As a result, people keep searching for the One Rule Fits All, such as airport security Zero Tolerance. We can NOT trust others to do any thinking; they may make a mistake.

    If the rule is good, then the person MUST be at fault. And, of course, the rule is good; otherwise it wouldn’t have become a rule.

  2. Boy, am I glad our school district hasn’t implemented any ZT policies. (And, hopefully, never will.)

    Unfortunately, the elementary schools at least, are limited in the punishment they can mete out. My son (4th grade at the time) was bullied quite often by a classmate, typically on the playground during recess. The most the school could do was keep the other boy in during recess, and contact his parents. And, since his parents didn’t care (the old “boys will be boys” attitude), nothing happened. (I do know that more severe punishments can be handed down for “more severe” things, like bringing a weapon to school for example, but since I’ve never heard of a weapon being brought to school here, I don’t know what would actually happen.)

    Bullying is a severe problem. Schools had better start doing something about it, since the lawsuits over it are coming out more and more in the families’ favor. -rc

  3. ZT policies are bullshit and never work only a complete moron would support the idea of them.

    I’m glad the Teacher revolted and the girls parents didn’t take it laying down.

    Parents all over the country should stand up and show they do not support ZT policies that throw a kid who might have made a simple mistake with gang leaders.

    Actually all Zero tolerance policies and laws are fundamentally flawed and are the work of the feeble minded.

    When will society at large learn these one-size-fits-all rules and laws do not work and are morally wrong?

    C’mon, John: how do you really feel? And before you decide that it’s obvious to everyone that ZT is stupid, take a look at the defense of ZT by TRUE reader Patricia! -rc


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