What Can I Do About ZT?

Ben in Victoria, Australia, sent me a note this week with the subject, “ZT — I’m just stunned.” He writes:

I’m a premium subscriber and have been for only a few months now. I find your [work] intensely amusing and stimulating, but I have to say it also makes me mad.

Bloody fuming.

The stories collected regarding zero tolerance do not apply to me. I live in Australia where there is nothing of the sort (as far as I am aware). I know no one whom this applies to and it has no personal connection to me.

Yet reading stories about those who have been abused by the policy makes me angry. I have a young baby who won’t sleep, I have a bank that likes to raise interest rates at the drop of a dime and I have other various problems that vigourously test my patience and temper.

But this one always makes me feel like putting my fist into the monitor, especially when I find the mountains of horror stories splayed all over the net. The stories about otherwise bright and able students shoved into deep depression and disillusion offends all of my sensibilities that are founded on earning what you get. I have always prided myself on having gotten ahead in life without handouts from anybody and too see these good people ground under the great boot that is ZT breaks my heart.

It is a great disparity on the image of America, so much so that I have a very paternal paranoia to avoid moving to America lest my children fall victim to this …well I can’t think of enough poisonous descriptions… ‘ZT’. I have to admire the resolve of those that choose to fight this abomination. I fear they may be more heroic than I, but I hope never to be tested in kind.

Randy, please let me know if you have any preferred charities or other bodies that you would recommend that I might donate some of my resources. Whether it’s letter writing, petitions or cold hard folding stuff, I would only be too happy to oblige.

Many thanks on the fine work. Keep it up.

Well, Ben, two things. First, one of the reasons I pound on ZT so much is because I do see it spreading outside the U.S. I can’t think of any Down Under cases off the top of my head, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find some in my files. I want people — in the U.S. and outside — to be horrified by the concept because it is, indeed, horrifying. We are literally terrorizing children for no good reason, all in the name of pretending we’re “doing something” about the ills in society.

Second, you put your finger right on it: what’s needed is an important “resource” few are willing to donate, which is time.

Here’s what I mean: if you (and I don’t mean Ben, I mean everyone reading this) hear of a ridiculous case of overreaction based on ZT, whether it’s in a school, by the police, or anywhere else near you, you need to go stand by the victim. Literally. Whether it’s going to the school board meeting to speak against some kid “caught” at school with a crude drawing of a gun, or writing a letter to the editor about an injustice happening in your town, you need to do it.

Don’t wait for “the other guy” to do it, do it yourself — and encourage others to join you at the meetings and in writing letters. Many cases of ZT reported on in True have been reversed when there was a public outcry.

And Then Keep Going

But it’s not just “that case.” Getting a case reversed is a victory, but it’s not winning the war. That takes getting policies (and sometimes laws) reversed. The school principal just wants to follow policies and not “make a decision”? Fine: then lobby for the principal’s salary to be cut in half: the reason s/he gets paid so much is because they supposedly have the knowledge, education and experience needed to make hard decisions. Can’t/won’t make them? Then they’re paid too much!

My blog has a lot of such suggestions. Yeah, it takes a bit of that precious resource again (time) to do it, but there is a lot of great info in there. One entry is about a high school kid writing with his own ZT experiences. Other pages with particularly direct suggestions include What Actually Works Against ZT and ZT: Fighting Fire with Fire.

But you have it right, Ben: we need resources to fight this so ZT doesn’t continue to spread and, with enough of those resources, the trend starts to reverse.

As you’ve noticed, I can help spur people to action, and indeed your Premium subscription does help me to keep this going (thanks!). But no one — including me — can do it all by himself, which is why you need to stand by the victims. The bottom line: if you see the injustice of ZT around you, you need to stand up and be counted as someone who demands common sense, not commonly seen nonsense.

Again, what can you do about ZT? You need to stand up and be counted as someone who demands common sense. Simple as that.

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6 thoughts on “What Can I Do About ZT?

  1. I agree with you 100% and yes I do write letters and send emails and phone when possible. Right now I have about 145 letters/emails in my stored file. The problem is finding who to contact that will make a difference. I would imagine many emails go to the circular file. If possible when there is a ZT article if you could search and find the correct address it would help the impaired (like me) on the computer.

    Good for you! But if you’re writing the principal/school, you’re writing the wrong people. Write a letter to the editor of the newspaper. What you want is a public spotlight on the problem, not a letter in the principal’s trash can. -rc

  2. Seriously, if Zero Tolerance rules are the most horrible things in the world for you, you are having a pretty wonderful life.

    Read this page — https://thisistrue.com/ztwtc.html — and let me see you laugh off the terrific, probably life-long, damage done to that child. Or how about throwing life-saving heroes into jail? Only with public pressure was he let out. These are real examples of the ridiculous abuses done to people in the name of ZT. -rc

  3. If Ben in Victoria, Australia, can’t think of any ZT cases where he lives, he should be remind ZT isn’t just in schools, and doesn’t just happen to kids. From what I hear the gun control laws in Australia would qualify as ZT, as even law abiding people can’t own most guns.

  4. Joe’s example of gun control doesn’t really apply to this situation. It may be an example of what most ZT advocates presumably think they’re striving for – strict and universal enforcement of laws against an actual or perceived wrong – but it’s not an example of what ZT so often is in practice, and which Randy rightly rails against – “Zero Justice”, characterised by punishment without (or indeed in spite of) due process.

  5. ZT is not widespread in Australia, however, it is here. It sneaks in, just as it would have done there.
    All it takes is outrage over a “terrible event” to get this garbage thinking accepted. Here it goes under the term “mandatory sentencing”.

    The media picks up on cases of murderers or rapists who get what appear to be light sentences. The ensuing public backlash that judges are “soft on crime” results in the political response of mandatory sentencing laws for particular crimes in certain states of Australia. Commit this crime get this sentence as though you were at the worst end of the spectrum. You know how it works.

    The legal and judicial system was fine before mandatory sentencing, and in areas where it is not present still works fine.

    If the prosecutors think the sentence was too light they can appeal. This appears to fix most mistakes and the others we just have to live with in a free society.

    As I said, it is not widespread but it is insidiously making its way here.

    Several people have told me that ZT is indeed in Australia — one just has to look more carefully. -rc

  6. I am so glad I found this page. I am a parent whose child was a victim of ZT policy. My 12 year old was arrested for having a kitchen spice at school from which another teacher’s child admitted to giving him. The boys were horsing around asking friends what it looked like. They had no idea they could get arrested.

    My 12 year old was caught in possession of it. The school charged him with having a non-narcotic in lieu of a narcotic substance with intent to sell. He was arrested, driven to the police station, fingerprinted, booked, and charged with a felony.

    We spent close to 3k on an attorney to get the state attorney to drop the charges. The school still will not take this off his record.

    I have to admit that my son is all boy. He will play rough and try to pull a prank to get a good laugh. His ambitions are never to ever do any criminal behavior. When he was asked why he had the kitchen spices he said he didn’t think he could get arrested or in trouble for it because it wasn’t anything.

    He was sent to alternative school from January to the end of the school year and then when he returned to regular school they put him on a behavior contract. It seemed like he was branded for good and the punishment would not be lifted for another year.

    Keep reaching out because this is great information and an eye opener to those who want to see its true effects.

    The effects of this arrest were all bad. When my son returned to regular school, I also didn’t mention that he was kicked off the Lacrosse team and expelled from any public school activities outside of school that were representative of any public school, he had to deal with the rumors spread by the kids that didn’t get arrested. Rumors stretched out to he was a weapons dealer, drug dealer, and drug user.

    Upon his arrival to school the peer pressure was unbearable. His remaining years in middle school were extremely difficult. I thought he’d never get out of that school.

    He is attending charter high school this year. I’m so glad for him.

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