Zero Tolerance: The Backlash Has Begun

Here we go again: more Zero Tolerance stories. This week (7 January 2007 issue) is, I think, the first time ever that the entire issue consists of ZT stories, starting with this one:

Dog Gone It

John Cave, 14, is deaf, but it doesn’t keep him from going to public school. He even has a new specially trained assistance dog to help him. But that’s the trouble: the W. Tresper Clarke High School in Westbury, Long Island, N.Y., says the boy “doesn’t need the dog” at school and, when the boy brought the dog anyway, school officials called the police. Responding officers refused to arrest the boy after confirming state law says public facilities cannot bar disabled people from having service dogs. Still, principal Timothy Voels refuses to allow Cave on school grounds if he has the dog with him, closing the door when he arrives with the dog. “All I wanted to do was give my son one more step toward independence,” says John’s mother, Nancy. (New York Newsday) …There’s your mistake, Nancy: Zero Tolerance-subscribing school officials don’t want kids to be independent, since that would give them an advantage.

Think the story is an outrage? (Well, yeah, I know: they’re all an outrage!) But here the school seems to think they’re above clear-cut law, too.

Screw the Law

Sure enough, the school is not backing down. You’d think the principal’s superior would step in and overrule, but district superintendent Robert Dillon actually backs the principal! He says the district “has taken the appropriate steps to evaluate this issue and has determined that the student does not need the service dog to access the district’s programs” — no matter what state and federal law says. The dog presents a “safety” issue, he claims, because of “allergy considerations” and “problems in navigating class and staff flow in the hallways and stairwells.”

So what’s next? According to another update in Newsday, the New York State Division of Human Rights has started an investigation — the first time in over a decade that the agency has instigated its own investigation without receiving a complaint first. A spokeswoman explained that just from the press coverage, it seemed obvious there was a violation of the law going on. Well, yeah.

Certainly this isn’t the first ZT case where officious officials don’t just bluster, but even knowingly violated clear-cut law. I mean really: obvious discrimination against a retarded child (as in another story this week*)?! And they think that this is OK, after years of very clear precedent in criminal and civil law that it’s not? Clearly not, but we need to ensure they hear about it, loud and clear.

*Update: the school superintendent in the retarded girl case stepped in and ordered the criminal charges against the girl be dropped. Thankfully someone in the district had a brain and some compassion, if not better knowledge of the law that the principal should have known. Details — and an informed editorial about how the school is supposed to handle such students — are in the Milton (Penn.) Standard-Journal [link removed, no longer online].

So What Will Happen?

First, ZT will continue to get worse until schools get the message loudly and clearly that we won’t let them get away with it. How does that happen? “By being fired” would be a great start, but as we see above, even their supervisors think ZT is a great thing.

So then what? I’m finally starting to see a real backlash with not only lawsuits being filed (with a couple of examples reported on in the Premium edition), but won by students. Sometimes it’s just principle involved: demands by students to be reinstated to school. Other times the schools are paying significant monetary damages. It absolutely sucks that taxpayers have to pay out for the obvious mistakes of school officials, but if that’s what it takes to get the message across, then that’s what it takes.

It’s Spreading

But that’s only schools. The Premium edition had a couple of non-school ZT stories. It’s to be expected: when kids raised in a ZT environment grow up and go out in the world, they do what’s so deeply ingrained in them at school: there is no gray, there’s only black and white — and boy, is it easy to get to the “black” side! When a photograph of a gun is thought to be the same thing as a gun, and punished accordingly, it can only lead to trouble. (Same thing? May as well bring a real gun, then!)

So yes, the problem will continue to get worse until there’s a backlash not only against schools, but other institutions that think ZT is a good idea. Lawsuits against schools have started, and it’s about time. Lawsuits against other institutions will surely follow.

Again, as I’ve explained on my ZT page, I’m not advocating tolerance for real transgressions. Kids who actually sexually harass other students (and you can be sure that does happen) should get real punishment. But a 4-year-old pressing his head on an aide’s boobies during a hug is not sexual harassment, and how does anyone think it’s OK to punish such a young child for that?

And there are plenty of other outrageous examples on my ZT page — and in True‘s archives. This insanity must stop; we’re destroying our children — the next generation of teachers, cops, and judges.

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71 Comments on “Zero Tolerance: The Backlash Has Begun

  1. I happened to be laying on the sofa watching the case of the 4 year-old on the news when my own four year old son came in the room. He crawled up on the sofa with me, cuddled up with his back to my stomach, snuggled his head into my breast, giggled, and said “You got soft boobies, Mommie!”

    At first I hugged him, laughed at his innocent compliment, and shifted him to a more appropriate place.

    Then I got a chill when I realized just how much trouble an innocent comment like that could get him into if some twit at his school doesn’t have the sense not to lean over when giving little kids hugs. Really, when an adult woman of even average height and modest bosom leans over to hug a kid, her breasts are going to be right at kindergartner level. Is a toddler supposed to be competent enough to say ‘no, ma’am, I can’t hug you like that?’ In another case in Maryland, a kindergarten boy was expelled under anti-sexual harassment rules for pinching a girl’s butt. I wonder if he had pinched the girl’s arm, back, or left pinkie toe would he still be expelled?

    It’s scary to think that we seem to be falling back into a very Victorian mindset where children are just little adults with all of the comprehension and responsibility that goes with that status. Children of that age are innocent of sex and its implications unless they’ve been subjected to some form of abuse, but even then it’s not the children’s fault if they repeat something they saw.

    If the child does something inappropriate (like my son snuggling a little too familiarly) it is the responsibility of the adult to correct the child in a manner that will teach them what they did wrong and how not to do it again! That’s why we’re the adults, and they are children! My son would be devastated to not be able to go back to school, but he would have no idea what he did wrong. To him and other children like him, for that matter to all human beings, physical contact is a natural, pleasant way to express friendship and emotional connectivity.

    ZT advocates, keep your prudish, embarrassed, and embarrassing one-rule-fits-all attitudes away from my children! I don’t choose the raise them in three foot square forcefields that keep them deaf, dumb, and blind, and I’m damn well going to teach them to think for themselves!

  2. Not sure about the laws in New York but I do know that in Washington state you need to show proof that you need an accomodation such as a service animal. From all the stories I’ve seen the parents didn’t want to meet with the people they needed to at the school and show proof that their son needs the dog.

    This story has nothing to do with Zero Tolerance policies though so I don’t know why you even bring that up.

    I also don’t understand why you continue to use the word retarded when discussing special education students. The term is no longer in use in most professions (medical, education, legal) and is generally considered offensive. Also, you assume that John Cave has a mental disability because the article mentions the district’s special education committee. In many districts the special education committee also deals with students with physical disabilities.

    You need to slow down the vitriol and study up a bit on what you are writing about.

    Likewise, sir. I refuse to bow to political correctness; “retarded” is now nasty so we switch to “special” — until that becomes pejorative. “Retarded” is a clear word, people know what it means, and therefore I’ll use it.

    You are, however, totally mistaken that I “assumed” deaf kids are retarded. I said no such thing. Let’s look at the text here: “I mean really: obvious discrimination against a retarded child (as in another story this week)?!” Yes, the parenthetical isn’t in the issue, but the issue (hello!) has a story about a retarded kid being discriminated against. I assumed readers would …yes… READ the stories and understand them before commenting on them. My mistake. -rc

  3. Re: the refusal to allow a service dog. I only saw an interview with the boy and his mother, and I sort of understand the school’s position. Granted – IF the law says there are no exceptions, all service dogs must be allowed, then the school is wrong. However, that’s a “ZT” policy, itself, isn’t it? The school has apparently already made multiple accommodations to allow this deaf boy to learn in a public school environment. The dog does not appear to perform any useful function in that environment, apart from serving as a security blanket for the child. (I emphasize, this is the impression I got from hearing the mother and the boy, not the school officials.) The dog will obviously be a disruption in the classroom – distracting students who want to pet him, breaks required to take the dog outside, and so on. IF there’s any possible exceptions to the NY law, I can understand the school officials wanting to bar the dog.

  4. “Granted – IF the law says there are no exceptions, all service dogs must be allowed, then the school is wrong. However, that’s a “ZT” policy, itself, isn’t it?”

    No! The relevant laws usually have a ‘safe out’ within so that certain institutions and organizations may, if the need can be verified, refuse entry.

    “The dog does not appear to perform any useful function in that environment”

    I would have thought the idea of the student being able to move from class to class easily and efficiently without getting in the road of other students, etc, would be a very ‘useful function’. A blind person feeling their way about must cause some distress to them and how many times has the student failed to get to the right place, something the dog would cure, easily and efficiently.

    “The dog will obviously be a disruption in the classroom”

    Only at the beginning, until they are used to it being there, it will then become part of the general background of the school.
    “distracting students who want to pet him”

    Anybody who has a Guide Dog will ask that you NOT pet them. The dog is there as a working dog, not a pet.

    “breaks required to take the dog outside”

    Guide Dogs are trained to go for long periods without needing to go ‘outside’. This is evident when the blind go to the theatre, are on long vehicle rides, etc

    “and so on.”


  5. Response to Robert:

    “No! The relevant laws usually have a ‘safe out’ within so that certain institutions and organizations may, if the need can be verified, refuse entry.”

    Then there’s an exception that might apply to the school, right?

    “A blind person feeling their way about must cause some distress to them and how many times has the student failed to get to the right place, something the dog would cure, easily and efficiently.”

    He isn’t blind, he’s deaf. If he were blind, it is doubtful the principal would have started all this – and I wouldn’t be supporting him.

    Disruption – “Only at the beginning, until they are used to it being there, it will then become part of the general background of the school.”

    Granted. How long is that beginning period? How many students will be disadvantaged during that time? Is that a price that MUST be paid?

    “Anybody who has a Guide Dog will ask that you NOT pet them.”

    Also granted. Making it a distraction to the students trying to pet him (surreptitiously after they get told “no” a few times) AND to the owner who has to tell them to stop. And the teacher who would presumably have to help enforce that. Yes, that would also be a temporary problem – but again, for HOW LONG? And it would tend to repeat as new students join the class or the school.

    “Guide Dogs are trained to go for long periods without needing to go ‘outside’.”

    Okay, that was a weak one – I withdraw that objection. My overall argument stands, though. There appears to be no benefit to the dog’s presence, versus definite (though limited) damage to the learning environment. The administrators may be wrong, but the question is certainly not a clear-cut “They must be idiots for objecting” issue.

    Mark, you admitted in your first post you didn’t know what the dog was trained to do. Here, “There appears to be no benefit to the dog’s presence.” You’re arguing out of ignorance. The dog was trained for a full year. Surely it was trained to do something! Yet you deride it as a “security blanket.” Call it a “security blanket” if you wish, but if I were the kid, and not able to hear (say) fire alarms, I’d be grateful for the presence of a dog trained to alert me and get me the hell out of there — for just one example. -rc

  6. First off, I have to agree with Cody that this doesn’t seem like a ZT issue. The school is not banning all service animals, just this one, which it deems unnecessary.

    However, in one training session I took when I was training to be a supervisor, it was stressed that one shouldn’t make medical diagnoses unless one has a medical degree. Unless this principal is an expert in the needs of the physically handicapped (your story quotes the principal – the boy “doesn’t need the dog”), he (or the school board) should be getting expert guidance in this area.

    I also agree with Robert’s comments about the treatment of service animals. As for the petting issue, this is a high school, it’s not like the students are little kids.

  7. ZT is not going to end until we make the perpetrators take responsibilities for their actions.

    Lawsuits are fine, but in addition to the schools and government agencies, we need to sue the individuals doing this in pro per and have them stripped of the ‘qualified immunity’ they are currently hiding behind.

    ZT will die when it is made clear that the next idiot to show his ass in public is going to end up living, along with his family, in a refrigerator box behind a crack house.

    ZT will die when the only college the children of these idiots can afford is clown college.

    ZT will die when the idiots lose their liability insurance, become unemployable, and half their wages from making french fries at McDogfood are garnished to satisfy the remainder of the damage judgement.

    Then, and only then, will we be able to put a stake through the heart of this vampire.

  8. From the posted examples and what’s happening with bureaucrats here in New Zealand, it really appears that the old saying has become truth; the inmates are running the asylum.

    Exposing the ‘little Fuherers’ is the first step in getting sanity back in our lives; thank your chosen deity for ‘This is True’ in taking this step on the interweb.

  9. Every time I read these stories about schools and zero tolerance I want to scream. I taught at a high school for 27 years in NJ and I KNOW when I hear these stories there that is ALWAYS more to the story. There is a missing element that explains why the school made the decision it did. Did they prove that the pellet gun belonged to the boy who “found it”? This scenario happens a lot when a student has drugs in their backpacks or on their person. They have always “found it” in the trash.

    When they stole stuff off of my desk — they “found” it in the hallway, etc. You get the picture. Why would a deaf child need a dog at school? Is it poorly trained and poops all over or is it a danger to other students?? Is the dog really a pet that he wants to bring to school for attention? You have no idea what nonsense schools have to put up with from students and parents who think the rules are not written for them but everyone else.

    The pellet gun did not belong to the boy. The dog has a full year of training. You’d think there are excuses for such outrages, and maybe sometimes there is one. But I’ll bet they’re the exception, not the rule. Not that I don’t agree with you that kids are very often hellions, mind you. -rc

  10. I believe the laws in Australia surrounding Guide Dogs give the dogs the same right of entry to any public place as their handler. Irrespective of the personal opinions of the school principal in this scenario and/or his arguments regarding allergys and disruption, this is blatant discrimination and should be dealt with accordingly. Surely, if this child did not have a need for a guide dog, the relevant association would not provide him with one?

    It’s high time school principals (and their band of loyal followers) were knocked off their pedestals and returned to normality.

    Should parents have a ZT for idiot principals and moronic teachers who are obviously on a path to destroying our children’s innocence and removing their ability to show any affection? Perhaps we should raise our children as mindless robots?

  11. I refuse to bow to political correctness; “retarded” is now nasty so we switch to “special” — until that becomes pejorative. “Retarded” is a clear word, people know what it means, and therefore I’ll use it.

    Use “nigger” much? Clear word… people know what it means… (“Call a spade a spade!”)

    (Note: I’m not accusing you of being a racist; I’m trying to illustrate a linguistic point with an extreme example.)

    You seem to be exhibiting a “zero tolerance” attitude toward political correctness — for which there *is* a reason: language helps define attitudes. For instance, someone who is “retarded” will never be expected to accomplish much. Someone who is “special needs” will be able to reach full accomplishment with a little help.

    Who is exhibiting zero tolerance, Tom? I believe it’s you who is objecting to my language (and I thank you for being clear that you’re not calling me a racist). But to the point, I’m a writer: I like to consult dictionaries. Here’s how comparies these two words:

    1. Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive.
      a. a black person.
      b. a member of any dark-skinned people.

    “Slang.” Yep. “Extremely disparaging.” Yep. “Offensive.” Yep. I agree with all three — which is why I never use the word. Let’s try the other:

    1. adj. characterized by retardation: a retarded child.
    2. n. (used with a plural verb) mentally retarded persons collectively (usually prec. by the): new schools for the retarded.

    Why, look! That’s exactly in the sense I used it. And look even closer! It’s not marked “slang” (since it’s not — it came from the medical world). Nor is it marked “disparaging” — slightly nor extremely. And it’s not marked “offensive”.

    I do understand there are people who do consider it offensive or even disparaging. Most of them likely don’t work with the retarded, or have any in their immediate families. There’s a name that is very often applied to such people: “politically correct” — a label that I would find insulting to have applied to me, the uncle of a retarded girl. Back to square one, eh? -rc

  12. Here is a good example of where society turns to the legal community for assistance. Fortunately, there are a number of organizations who provide free legal assistance in NY for those whose rights are trampled as here, and who cannot afford an attorney or find one willing to take the case pro bono or on a contingency fee basis.

    I saw this on CNN’s Headline News this Sunday morning just before reading TRUE. The school certainly offers no legal justification. What appears to be the real issue is the school’s lack of understanding of the various federal laws (and perhaps NY state laws) that apply to students in public schools who have disabilities. The laws are not that difficult to understand, but it does take time and effort to do so. Americans with Disabilities Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Sec. 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, etc.

  13. In response to Linda: If the student had the pellet gun in his backpack and it were discovered in a search (by the administration citing suspicious behavior or something), that would be one thing. However, the story makes clear that the student found the pellet gun in the garbage (where he found it is frankly irrelevant) and TOOK IT TO THE PRINCIPALS OFFICE!

    It was not that he brought it to school and hid it from the teachers and officials. He knew that it shouldn’t be there, heard that it was, actively looked for it to make sure that someone who didn’t care about its contraband status found it and perhaps used it, and turned it in to the authorities. For this, he was punished, where he should have been commended.

    I understand the long experience of teaching, which I don’t have, but it wasn’t so long ago that I was a student. I find it totally unfair that school officials are so quick to jump to the conclusion that “we have some kids around here who are bad, so they all must be!” Most students, even today with schools getting all the bad press they do, are there to become educated and learn how to function in society. Punishing them with harsh Zero Tolerance rules, for doing things that are ethically correct in the first place, is teaching the wrong lesson.

  14. Interestingly enough you take a simple safety issue and twist it into a ZT feature. Shame on you. The safety of the kids is more important than the covenience of one, disabled or otherwise. Disabled access (ramps) is available, a live animal is a different case. Its pretty simple that dogs pose a major health issue, fleas, excrement, hairs, especially in an area where kids don’t care too much hygiene. Please get over yourself.

    So it’s clearly your position that blind kids must “feel their way” to school, crossing busy streets by themselves, because you can’t imagine clean animals who crap outside. But that’s OK, they’re kids! They can learn to use a cane! That’s the ticket. And yeah, the blind and deaf kids already have ramps — what the heck do they need anything else for?! And you call yourself a human, Kevin? Sheesh.

    The fact is, state and federal law require that public places accommodate service dogs. Why do we need such laws? So ignorant people like you — and school principals — don’t trample the rights of people who are trying to get by the best they can based on made-up “logic”. Congratulations for showing so clearly why such laws are necessary. -rc

  15. Something bothers me about people working for schools, police or other government agencies who are sued and the amount awarded to the plaintiff is paid by the employer. Why can’t the court decide that the penalty must be paid by the person sued? After all, it’s that person who violated the law, and he is the one to be punished, not the taxpayers.

    I go both ways on this one. Yeah, it’s an outrage when an employer makes it clear to an employee not to do something — but he does it anyway and the employer is sued. But on the other hand, the employee is acting as an agent of the employer. Especially in the case of police and school officials, they’re government agents and acting on behalf of the state, and if they trample someone’s rights, the agency is responsible. That’s why it’s important for bureaucrats to understand their responsibilities, and for such agencies to be able to fire employees who refuse to abide by the rules. I’ll be interested in what others have to say about this point. -rc

  16. I got so angry after reading the story about John Cave, the deaf student, I had to get up and walk around. Why hasn’t the principal been cited for breaking the law? Although I’m not big on lawsuits, I think this is an appropriate time to file one against the principal and the school board for refusing to obey state law and the person’s with disabilities act.

    My daughter could also read lips and go to public school, but didn’t know when someone was calling her or if an alarm went off. When her daughter was born, she had a baby monitor with lights. As Mr. Cave is fourteen, he’s probably going out on his own and the dog will provide extra safety for him. Perhaps someone could also inform the principal that helper dogs are to stay with their owner’s twenty-four hours a day, they are a team — but I suppose that knowledge would be lost on a man who is supposed to be an example to the children in his school, yet is so willing to break the law.

    Okay, I read the rest of the newsletter and am pleased an investigation has begun. The principal said the dog would be in the way. Service dogs lie where they are told. The ones on the bus do not lie in the aisles. The dogs will not distract other children either as they are not allowed to pet service dogs, something my preschool grandchildren understood when I explained to them the dog was working and needed to pay attention to what was happening.

    Since my blood pressure probably raised to alarming heights, I have decided to do something and start writing letters to the ZT school boards and even newspapers in those towns whenever I learn of such ridiculous incidents. If logic won’t work, maybe public outrage and humiliation will.

  17. ZT, like “political correctness” is the curse of life today. Whatever happened to good old common sense? It is particularly sad that this is happening in schools — where, presumably, children are learning to become responsible members of society, with something unique to contribute. If I had my way, no school executive would be allowed to discriminate against any child! Punish kids for doing wrong, not for what they are!

  18. There are two comments I take issue with:

    This being an issue of “Victorian Mindset” is incorrect. It was in a more “conservative” era that punishment was assigned on a case-by-case basis, to those who were responsible, at the discretion of those in charge. Not perfect, as an abuse of power could occur, but by far better than the passive-agressive method of blanket enforcement in all situations. A four-year-old pressing his head into a teacher’s aide’s bosom is not a result of “Victorian Mindset”, but of a liberal dogma that men are predators and “no-means-no” and all actions by men are the grounds for a sexual harassment lawsuit. Just ask yourself, would the punishment be the same if it had been a little girl instead of a little boy?

    Regarding the 27-year teaching veteran who inferred all students are thieves and liars and that their parents are uninformed; I hope you have left the profession. If you are/were that miserable in a classroom you are/were more disruptive to the learning environment than a service dog. Did you also refuse to allow a student to leave to use the restroom because, “they should have done so between classes” and, “you only want to leave to cause trouble”.

    God help our children for whom we subject to this treatment.

  19. With respect to the 4 year-old being hugged by an aide: I am surprised that the aide was not also charged with child abuse since the aide, presumably an adult, was also engaging in explicit sexual behavior with a minor.

    Sure, in a reasonable world. But in ZTland, school employees are always right, and kids are always wrong. Simple as that. -rc

  20. Service Dogs are not easy to get – there is usually a fairly long wait and many interviews before a dog is awarded. If the agency had not felt the young man had a real need – he would not have a service dog.

    There are many possible dangers for a person that is deaf: they cannot be aware of a shouted warning, they cannot hear the various alarms (fire or tornado), they can’t know if they are around people getting ready to fight. The dangers I see aren’t so much in the classroom because he will be able to mimic what the rest of the class does. The issues I worry about are the things that happen in between classes, in crowded hallways or when he is alone such as returning to his locker or using the bathroom while classes are in session. And with the number of school shootings that we hear about with frightening regularity – I think if he were my son, I’d certainly feel better knowing he has a dedicated and trained service dog watching his back.

    The alternative is trusting that another nearby teen or teacher will remember that he can’t hear and will help him out in the middle of an emergency situation. Which would you rather have for your child?

  21. I guess my question concerns the need for the dog’s services in school.

    Does the child ride a bus to and from the school? If the child walks, then there is a clear need for the dog to assist, at least in my opinion.

    Is there ever a time when the alarm for a fire might occur when and where the child would not be aware of it, such as in a restroom?

    Learning to utilize any service animal is a learning process for both animal and owner. If this was a blind person, there would probably have been less objection.

    The parents have made a commitment to the quality of life for their child, why is the teacher so blind to this fact?

    I guess he needs a dog. -rc

  22. As a deaf teacher I know about accomaditing students (I am deaf and I have deaf students placed into my class) The Ed. code states free and appropriate education the school does not need to allow the dog into the school if there are reasonable accomidation made for him (the student) and from the sound of this story the student has been going to mainstream school for some time and the dog is the newest addition the his ed program. So as a school they dont have to change the program until a new IEP (indivdual education program) has been devised and both parties have agreed upon it. The point of the allergys is also a valid one, remote but valid. Remember the problems when the schools first baned peanuts because some students were allergic to them. The principal is only covering his own rear in this. so we sit back and say it is unfair and complain till they allow the dog, then someone sues because they are allergic to pet dander and the win, then we complain about the raised taxes that have come about because of this law suit. IF the student absolutely need this guide dog then the school board will force them to allow the dog. If it is found that the student gets along with out the dog then it wont be allowed. We can say how mean and unfair the school is because it is picking on a deaf boy, but from this deaf teachers point of view the school is right. I feel the boy got a new toy and wanted to show everyone all the while tweeking the nose of the principal. Forcing the school to make a stand.

    I hate to be offensive here, but you’re a teacher? And you write like that?! C’mon, Grant: you’re supposed to know it before you can teach it. I don’t even know what your point is because your spelling, sentence structure, paragraphing, grammar, punctuation and more is too painful to hack through. How in the world are your students supposed to learn to communicate if this is their example? -rc

  23. You know, at first, the dog would be disruptive to the students, and I get that – but once the newness of it wore off, if the teachers and staff handled it properly, the kids would very quickly learn to just accept the dog as part of the normal routine and no one would really even notice it as being out of the ordinary anymore.

    It takes a lot to get a service dog, and then training to learn how to work with that dog, and from my understanding, the dog and the owner are supposed to work/be together as much as possible, as though the dog is an extension of the person, acting as that ‘missing’ whatever it is that the dog is for… they bond, and this is important. Using that dog should be second nature – much like a hearing aid would be for someone who can hear some, or glasses for someone who has trouble seeing.

    As for zero tolerance, I have a disabled son – OMG, I have seen zero tolerance in action where he is concerned, such as in the fifth grade, when he covered a girl’s cheek with his hand and kissed the back of his hand (pretending to kiss her on his own hand) and one of the kids turned him in to the coach, who sent him to the principal, who in turn SUSPENDED him for three days under the ZERO TOLERANCE sexual harassment rules.

    This is just one of MANY examples I can cite where my son is concerned – I’ve recently pulled him out of public schools for it… sorry to run on and on, but this is a topic near and dear to my heart.

  24. Regarding service animals, it isn’t relevant whether the dog is needed specifically at school. What matters is that the dog helps the boy anytime, in or out of school.

    For example, I have a friend with a service dog to help handle panic attics. Probably, she (the friend) doesn’t need him (the dog) with us when we go out to restaurants. However, she will need him at other points during the day. The restaurant has to let them in together. The person-animal works as a single unit, in other words, and has papers from the sheriff identifying the dog as a service animal for that particular person.

    So the school says they have people to follow the boy around and make sure he hears alarms, or whatever. Are they going to follow him around 24/7 for the rest of his life? Is this how he is going to learn how to partner with the dog? Is this how he is going to learn how to become independent, employable, and a contributor to society? Even if the law did not require the school to allow the service animal, I think they are stupid not to want the boy to become independent. What is school for, anyway?

    Think of all the resources the school is spending on following around students … if I were in that district, I’d say that is proof they don’t need a bond issue or tax passed, and there’d better not be any complaints about no money for the art teacher!

    All of the issues about the dog being a distraction to other students, in the way in crowded hallways, or possibly an issue for students with severe allergies are irrelevant noise. Part of making an accommmodation is figuring out some other way to handle all of that. If there is a person with an identified allergy, to an extent that it is a disability, then that person would also need to be accommodated. Allergies don’t trump deafness.

  25. I would like to have seen the principal give it a try, even if he/she thought it would be a bad idea. It’s one thing to assume that the dog would be disruptive. It’s another to try it and see what would happen with that particular dog.

    If issues arose, those could have been handled with the boy and his family. The family has already had practice in being flexible and learning to deal with an imperfect situation.

  26. Whether the boy walks or goes by bus to school, he needs the help of the dog. Should he then leave the dog outside the school yard for the whole day? Would that not be cruelty against an animal? Or does the school have premises for the dogs, where people can leave them and where someone cares for them, feeds them etc., and where they can stay, if it’s cold or raining outside?

    In the school the boy needs help in emergency situations, as many have already written, but you cannot demand that anyone endangers his or her own life for the boy’s sake, that’s what he has the dog for.

    I know that ZT enthusiasts will ignore these points, but I had to write them anyway.

  27. Now, now, R.C.

    With respect, it seems that your “conditions for posting” are rather selective.

    How can Grant’s comments be posted if, quote, “I don’t even know what your point is…..” ?

    Could it not have been edited for ” brevity, flow, or grammar”.

    What point are you trying to make by using it?

    The thread, surely, is more about John Doe utilising the enormous power of Public Opinion to bring that relatively small number of proponents of Zero Tolerance and/or Political Correctness into line.

    Well publicised ridicule is a formidable weapon.

    Indeed it is, even though I was not attempting to ridicule the teacher who is, after all, virtually anonymous. Sometimes you just need to let someone talk to make a point. -rc

  28. The Globe and Mail (Toronto) had an article this weekend, “Why tolerance for ‘zero tolerance’ is running out” [link deleted: no longer online]. Nothing terribly new, but good stuff.

    A quote: ‘Dr. Boyd, the criminologist, believes that the pendulum is now swinging toward tolerance. “People have begun in most areas to realize how complex all solutions are.”‘

    Right on!

  29. First, Cody in Washington state has it wrong. No one can be required to “show proof that you need an accomodation such as a service animal”. Federal law forbids such demands, and it supersedes state laws. One can be asked whether an animal companion is a service animal and, if so, what it does for you. “Yes; it hears for me” is sufficient. No “proof” can be demanded; the animal must be admitted.

    Second, we have acquired a new “doomsday” weapon in the war on ZT, and we should not hesitate to use it. At first, I felt some sympathy for school officials caught in ZT policy traps. Many did the wrong thing because they didn’t know what was the right thing to do, or couldn’t find a way to do it without jeopardizing their careers. But now, I see, many know exactly what they should do and arrogantly choose to do otherwise.

    These scofflaws rely upon their “qualified government immunity”, a legal doctrine that shields government employees from civil liability for their actions performed in the course of their government functions. This immunity is necessary because you can’t please everybody, and everybody in this country is litigation-happy. Immunity is granted to avoid burying government employees in conflicting lawsuits when they act in good faith.

    But many officials have forgotten that the immunity privilege is “qualified”. They think they can do whatever they wish with impunity from personal consequences. We are only beginning to remind them of the truth: that they are no more above the law than anyone else.

    A high school principal can be sued personally for violating civil rights that she knew or should have known were protected by clearly established law, ruled the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the notorious “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case.

    That is our “doomsday” weapon. Don’t sue a school district that will defend itself with your money. Sue the person who arrogantly trampled your rights and ignored plain law.

    So terrified are school officials of being held personally accountable for their lawbreaking that they are appealing the Ninth Circuit’s unassailable decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, wasting another $50,000 of local taxpayers’ money!

    If they lose, as they should, school teachers unions and administrators associations nationwide will no doubt lobby Congress for legislation that restores their undeserved immunity from responsibility. We must guard against that predictable ploy.

  30. I wish that those that are so repulsed by the idea of this child having his service dog in school could experience, just for a week, what it is like to live with a disability of any kind.

    Imagine what John might feel like to be in the middle of class and all of a sudden his classmates and teacher are up and leaving the room as quickly as they can and he, having not heard the fire alarm, doesn’t know why. That scenario alone is enough for me to think it is worth whatever learning curve there has to be for him to have that dog in school with him.

    Having the dog to alert him that he, too, needs to get up and move, to have a sense of a familiar companion to guide him out of the building as quickly and efficiently as he can go, is worth it. As a parent of a wonderfully, thankfully healthy child, I would never consider objecting to her learning how fortunate she is by seeing what others must deal with and to learning how to be a compassionate and helpful person who would be willing to help John down the hallway or with whatever obstacle might make things difficult for him.

    I think that having a service dog there would be a *good* learning experience for the other children and, again, that the learning curve would be valuable to them. In many of the other posts there were so many valid reasons for John to have the dog at school, but I really do wish that those who are against it could live as a deaf, blind or retarded (yes, I said retarded, not special) person for just a little while. I’m afraid that’s the only way they will ever be capable of feeling true empathy and understanding of the importance of his having the dog compared to the unimportance of the minor and temporary disruptions that may occur as a result of the dog being at school with John.

  31. Simple, If the school district feels that it does not need to follow State and Federal law, then logic would dictate that it does not need State and Federal aid either.

  32. Just have to share that The Arc describes themselves as “the national organization of and for people with mental retardation and related developmental disabilities…”

    Mental retardation is not a slur, it is a diagnosis. I am as strongly in favor of not being offensive as anyone can be. But it is important that we do not make the language so completely non-offensive that it fails to do the job of language – convey your point.

    A couple of years ago a student at my daughter’s school got a new service dog. The kids were told that the dog would be coming, he’d be around, everyone was excited, and please don’t touch, Fido is working and can’t play. Even the kindergarteners got it. Surely the high school students can manage.

  33. I’m with Michael. If a school district wants to ignore State & Federal laws, we should be able to ignore paying the portion of our taxes that fund them or designate it for a school that has leadership with common sense. ZT is just a lazy way to administer policies. We need problem solvers in our schools, not rule followers.

  34. It seems to me that the point in all of these ZT stories is: Why should it be the State’s “responsibility” to indoctrinate, er..edumacate, the chil’ins anyway? We continually see examples to show how poorly the job gets done by the state – in test scores, crime rates, ZT incidents, etc (I know, gross generalization….).

    If parents truly took the responsibility for educating their children, then these issues would be a moot point. If the parents made the decision to homeschool or enroll in a private school of their choice, then these issues would be dealt with by the parents, not some faceless
    bureaucrat trained in the latest socialist child control techniques. The boy that didn’t get “suspended”, but was “allowed” to homeschool has been given the best opportunity of all of the kids in these stories to get a real education – though the parents will probably complain because it will infringe on their choosen “lifestyle” (I admit that’s pure speculation on my part).

    When you choose your children’s education program, rather than taking whatever the State doles out, problems like these go away. Does your son need a service dog to help with his disablity? – then get one. Do you want your children to learn to properly respect and handle firearms? – then teach them. Do you want your preschooler to be able to hug the teacher? – then get a teacher that is not looking for a court ordered retirement plan.

    Why do folks think it is the State’s responsibility to decide how their child should be raised? – It is NOT! Let’s all stand up for freedom, and take the responsibility that comes with that freedom.

  35. Tom, I educate my child about guns, music, and more. So far, he is doing well in the public school system, and I think he is getting a lot out of it, but with the position of power that ZT grants the administrators, I worry about the future:

    • If he hugs a teacher (he’s in first grade, after all), should I worry if a third party deems the contact inappropriate?
    • If he were to find a gun after hearing rumors (and knowing that he knows how to handle one safely [yes, even at 7 years old, though I’m not expecting to run into that problem for a little while]), would it not be best to either retrieve the weapon or inform the school (I imagine the consequences would be the same; if he knew where it was and it was there, it would be his fault. OTOH, if it wasn’t there, it would be a false alarm and a “severe disruption” tantamount to calling in a bomb threat).
    • If he shares candy (he likes lemon-heads and red-hots), and is brought up on drug charges (especially as he has pet names for the candies)…

    And to think that these possible black marks can follow him forever; imagine having to deal with Megan’s Law for the hugging incident — your place on a map (without any explanation of the incident, mind you) forever.

    I’ll move him out of the system if it gets too bad (I think we’re close, and I am worried that a single incidence can even follow him after I’ve decided to pull him out), but then again, I think I’m barely able to pull off an education (elementary school – OK. Secondary school — I am not a historian/english teacher/??? — I am an electrical engineer who knows when he should consult others). I’ll do it if I need to, but I’d rather he be able to work with others his age and ability and get help from people with different backgrounds without too much trouble.

    I’ll do it if I have to, but since the state is taking money from me to do it already, I’ll try to fix the system first by complaining as much as I can about the injustices I see.

    I still don’t understand how Mr. Voels doesn’t know the laws about service animal accommodation; the hotel managers make the news at least once a year about this. I’m even more flabbergasted that the school board is “standing behind” Mr. Voels’ decision — they had the luxury of time to research the matter and come to a better decision, but I guess a “dissenting voice” would be close to “publically humiliating” a principal and undermining his authority (which, of course, is more important than the lawfullness of the action in question. If you question the rule, it is no longer able to stand “just because it is” [I’m certain there’s a latin phrase for that. But I’m an electrical engineer], and will result in other rules being questioned).

    Let’s bring this ridiculousness to an end. Zero Tolerance is an “end run” around the justice system that was carefully crafted to ensure that no one be punished without a hearing, and that the hearing encompasses not only the question of “has a rule been violated” but also “is the rule just” (in this case, or in all cases).

  36. For those who do not believe that a deaf, blind, or otherwise impaired person needs a companion animal because a teacher, peer, or other person will always be there to help them, let me disabuse you of that notion with an example from my own experience:

    On May 1st, 1992, a gunman walked into Lindhurst High School and opened fire. The students didn’t know what was going on or what to do. The lucky ones had teachers that took control and tried to either get them to safety or keep them hidden. But not all the teachers held it together, and everyone just wanted to get out alive. In the end three students and a teacher were dead.

    Are you going to bet your child’s survival in that kind of a situation on the hope that someone else will look out for him, literally pulling him out of the way of a bullet, or are you going to stack the odds in his favor any way you can?

  37. My husband has an autistic son from his previous marraige. In grade school, he went to handicapped classes at public schools with other handicapped kids, and he had a social group of all handicapped kids on the weekends. Those kids were happy when they were together. They laughed a lot, cheered for each other’s successes; they were loyal to each other, caring, and tolerant of each other’s limitations and “quirks”.

    Then, the public school system decided to “mainstream” the handicapped kids. I don’t know if they did it to cut costs or if they really thought it would be good for the kids, but it didn’t go well. For the first time in the boy’s life, he was treated unkindly; other students ridiculed him, stole his lunch money and jackets, laughed and pointed, tripped him. He began wetting himself at school, having anxiety about going to school, getting sick often, destroying things in his room, and he was sent to the principal for eating french fries out of the trash.

    Mainstreaming did not help him fit in with society or learn to be more self-sufficient or become more normal, and it didn’t make him happy. Mainstreaming didn’t help the normal kids accept or tolerate the handicapped kids. My husband’s son really thrived better when he was with handicapped kids and separate from normal kids.

    Perhaps some other people have had different experiences with mainstreaming, but the only people I have heard speak in favor of it are politicians and people who don’t have handicapped children.

  38. I wanted to comment on your arguments with people who think political correctness solves everything. I agree with you that certain words are used for a reason. All of a sudden these politically correct people are thinking that retarded must mean ‘stupid’. It doesn’t. It just is the name given to people who have trouble with a part of life. THEY are the ones who are discriminating. It’s been perfectly correct to use the word ‘retarded’ for the better part of my 57 years of life.

    I also went to school with retarded children, and there were no problems because nobody taught us to think that there was anything ‘wrong’. They even went on to high school with the rest of us. I remember when I graduated, some of the “retarded” children had completed their special education classes and were given certificates on the same night that we graduated. You should have seen the look on their faces when they went up to get their certificates. They were SO proud of themselves. Those of us who went to school with them were also proud to see them get that far.

    This whole story reminds me of my problem. I get seizures, so I can no longer drive. So, I use Disabled Adults Transportation System (DATS) to get wherever I have to go. It never ceases to amaze me how the ‘powers-that-be’ in this business seem to think that disabled means ‘stupid’. You wouldn’t believe some of the things that are done or said to us just because we’re considered ‘disabled’. Some people just DON’T think! And THAT is the problem with Zero Intolerance and with all this hullabaloo over words. People need to start THINKING!!!

    Thanks for standing up for all of these people.

  39. In Connecticut, the Department of Mental Retardation is seriously considering a name change because of the public’s perception that the word “retarded” is offensive. Like Randy says, it is the accepted medical term for anyone with stunted mental growth. Also, it seems that the only ones who are truly outraged that others would use such insensitive terms are those who have never known a retarded person, or had one in their family.

    I have an uncle who is severely mentally retarded. He lives in a group home with two other retarded men. He cannot hold a regular job; it’s been tried, but he doesn’t have the attention span. He is illiterate, and can only write his own name; again, it has been tried by many to teach him to read, even simple children’s books, but to no avail. His mother (my grandmother) and the rest of our family always describe him as retarded. We do this because that is what he is, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. Calling him “mentally challenged” is more of an insult because he is not challenged mentally, he simply does not have the cognitive functions that a “normal” 55 year old man has. He will forever be a six-year-old.

    If you have not been there, if you have not had a “special needs” child or family member, you have no business telling the rest of us what we should be calling our loved ones.

  40. I have a 4 year old boy. He is affectionate. He is also tall for his age, but he still only comes up to about an average adult’s waist/stomach. I would venture to guess that unless the teacher’s aide was significantly below average height and the kid was REALLY tall for his age, she had to bend down or kneel for the hug if the kid got his head in her cleavage. This lady needs to find another career path. AAAAAAAHHHHH!!!

  41. My family had a couple of brushes with ZT when my son Chris was in the public school system. The first time occurred when he was in first grade. His regular teacher was out on maternity leave and his class was being taught by a substitute teacher. The sub was teaching a lesson on “basic” math. She put the equation on the board: 2-3=?. One of his classmates answered the way the teacher wanted, 2-3=1.

    My son piped out that the answer was wrong, he declared that 2-3=-1. The sub was horrified that a, to quote, “Mere 6-year-old would challange MY authority as the teacher and tell ME THAT I WAS WRONG! The nerve of the little bastard!” She dragged Chris down to the principal’s office and demanded that he be removed from her class. My wife and I were called in called in to school during our working hours, i.e. we had to take sick leave to deal with this ZT idiocy! My wife was about to go ballistic on the principal and the teacher, I told her, “Just let it go. There isn’t anything she could say or do that would change the shuttered minds of the these two poor excuses for ‘thinking’ simians that had the temerity to call themselves educators”. I took Chris out of the district system and we home schooled him until high school.

    Eventually Chris wanted to go back to school with his friends. With no little trepidition we let him go. The second incident involved another substitute teacher in his senior year. (Notice a pattern here?) They were reading some piece of fiction in Senior English, and the main character was in a lounge and ordered a “White Russian”. One of his classmates asked, “What is a White Russian?” Before the sub could respond Chris answered that it was a mixed cocktail that was made of equal shots of vodka and sweet cream, poured over ice and stirred. THIS sub was horrified that a minor knew it was a alchoholic drink, and even worse that he knew how to make it! Chris was immediately sent to the principal’s office.

    Fortunately the high school’s principal was a thinking man, he asked Chris how he knew about a White Russian. Chris told him that his mom was studying to be a bartender and that he helped her with memorizing cocktail recipies. The White Russian was one of them. The principal told Chris not to mention alchohol to the subs anymore because, to quote him, “Subs tend to be ZT zealots, and I really don’t want to have to deal with their ZT bullsh*t!”

  42. I can see why some people find the word “retarded” to be offensive, and it’s not always just for political correctness. When I was growing up, retarded was an insult, which translated into “stupid”. For the longest time, I had the concept in my head that that term was offensive, because I had never been exposed to the truth of the matter. I had never been around anyone that was mentally retarded, and I never realized that it was OK to say that. I do know better now, but my point is just that I think it is understandable for people to think it is offensive – other people make it so.

    Furthermore, someone once pointed out to me that nothing can be globally offensive or not offensive – it’s nothing you can argue about. If someone is offended by a term, you can’t tell them that it isn’t offensive. If they are offended, then it is offensive. That being said, you shouldn’t go the other way either, and try to tell everyone not to use a word ever, just because it is offensive to you.

    Anyway, on to ZT. I have always been a major opponent of ZT. It just doesn’t make sense that in a world of “innocent until proven guilty” that so many people should rely upon a policy that translates into “guilty until proven innocent”. I think it was started for a valid reason – how can you find the courage to make a decision of whether or not to expel a kid for bringing what could be a weapon to school, only to find out later you were wrong when the kid comes back and kills someone. When our children’s safety is in question, it is always a hard decision to make.

    However, I think what started out as a policy for the safety of our children has evolved into something that just hurts them. I don’t think it could go any other way. This is the perfect example.

    The dog could be a potential safety hazard. And I could see how someone might thing that it wasn’t really necessary. But that doesn’t create a valid excuse for violating clear cut law. Even if it wasn’t law, with even a modicum of research you would find that by not allowing the dog, you truly are hurting this child, could be hurting him very seriously.

    As for the peeing child, that was just outrageous. That wasn’t even ZT, that was a spoiled brat principal with a short temper abusing his power. The man should be thrown out at the least.

    You’re sort of arguing my point when you say that ANY word can be considered offensive. I agree. I’ve heard kids taunt others by saying “You’re a homo sapien!” Yeah, indeed they are — that’s just another way to say “human.” So might some kids grow up thinking “homo sapien” is offensive? Sure — just like some think “retarded” is. Yet they’re simple, normal, descriptive words and the offense is only in the minds of the offended, and it’s dumb to allow such words to be offensive. So I don’t allow it — I’ll continue to use the term “homo sapien,” just like I still use “retarded.” -rc

  43. ZT is not an exclusive domain of the school system. It’s pervasive in the workplace, in government, and even sentencing guidelines for judges within the legal system. ZT is a method to ensure that the public does not have to think, which much of the public desires.

    As for the school systems mentioned, I think a lot of people don’t understand that an independently elected school board and superintendent represents a political function of government that only has to answer to the voters every two or four years. Long enough to forget some of the transgressions from earlier tenure. And when was the last time YOU saw a vitriolic mudslinging war for School Superintendent at election time such as seen in Presidential campaigns?

    Yet, the Independent School Board could be considered the “Fourth Branch of Government” as mayors and city councils are powerless against them. And even courts are reluctant to go against school boards without clearcut violation of existing laws. Lawyers, without the incentive of massive cash awards, are reticent to take on school cases since they more often involve settlements to divert the initial claim.

    Even when there is a concerted effort to vote out an incumbent member of the School Board or Superintendent, it’s more often perceived as a politically-motivated issue than a community-wide backlash against stupid or intolerable decisions on the part of the Board.

    Intelligence is NOT a prerequisite for those who teach our children and is often a detriment.

  44. It seems to me that thought is required. Why, then, are the requirements for public school teachers higher that for private school?

    My 23-year-old daughter does not have a teacher’s degree, but is being recruited by a private (parochial?) school.

    In Oregon (as elsewhere, I am sure) one must have a certificate and education and an area of expertise…

    perhaps this is related to the tendency for private schools to score better on standardized tests, that they ALSO require thought?

  45. Zero tolerance hits teachers just as hard as students, sometimes. My husband went through school to become a teacher. I watched as he and his classmates, filled with optimism and ideas, encountered the real teaching world during their student teaching sessions.

    Quite a few of them quit when they encountered the reality of the education system: no funds for needed supplies, no support from parents or administration, no power to maintain discipline in their classes without threat of retaliation.

    Rather than quit completely, my husband chose to become a substitute teacher. By subbing he gets the joy of meeting new students all the time, often returns to schools or classes where the students remember him and greet him warmly, and has learned firsthand more about our county’s schools than most teachers ever know. He can give an educated critique of the facilities, administration, student body, and curriculum of every school he’s been to.

    Some people may bash on subs, but they are as diverse a lot as in any other field; there are gems and there are rotten apples all around.

    My husband is in high demand because he is the rare male who is willing to substitute at elementary grade levels. Not a day goes by where we don’t get a call from a teacher desperate to have a positive masculine role model for his or her kids, especially since the county we live in has a high ratio of kids without dads at home. So it came as a shock when he was dismissed from one of the schools here and asked not to take any further assignments at that campus for the year because of an “incident”.

    The incident involved a sixth grade boy two years older than the rest of his classmates and big for his age — a notorious bully and the reason his teacher wanted to leave the class to a male sub. The boy was bullying another student. When my husband intervened, the boy picked up a metal chair and came at him, cussing at him, threatening to beat him with it. My husband calmly and firmly told the little punk “You’re not scaring me, so drop it and sit your ass down!” Fortunately the boy (likely stunned that someone stood up to him) listened. The principal was summoned and the boy removed from the class. The class was relieved to have the notorious troublemaker gone and everyone settled back into the daily routine. Problem solved, right?


    An assistant came to the class an hour later asking my husband to go see the principal. Zero Tolerance had reared its ugly head. He was being immediately dismissed because of how he dealt with the boy; the boy’s mother was irate because my husband used “foul language” when he spoke to her son. School rules firmly state that use of swear words in the classroom will not be tolerated (it’s vague as to whether the use is restricted for students, teachers, or both). The boy was sent home for the day, but would return in the morning as if nothing happened, while my husband, who had been cussed at himself and threatened with bodily harm, was dismissed for the year for telling him to sit his ass down!

    So, who learned what from this incident? One rotten student learned that he was above the rules, and that he can manipulate those rules to hurt those in authority. Twenty good students learned that they can be punished for standing up for themselves and that the school will not protect them.

    And one more teacher full of responsibility, potential, and good ideas is cut off from the children who need those qualities most.

  46. As usual, people go on rants before they think. The boy is deaf, he isn’t blind, he isn’t in a wheelchair, he doesn’t need the dog to assist him throughout the day. His mother’s assertion that he needs it for fire alarms is ridiculous. The boy has cochlear implants, AND surely he’d notice the rest of the students leaving the building! His mother says he needs to spend 24×7 with the dog in order for them to “bond”. Yes, bonding is important for service dogs and their owners, but is it important enough that he be allowed to bring a dog to school and disrupt other students? Teenage mothers need to bond with their babies, but they shouldn’t bring them to school either.

    You still miss the obvious point: the school is required to accommodate a service dog by both state and federal law. They are not exempt from the law just because you think the idea is “ridiculous”. -rc

  47. Service animals are used to give people independence. Period. And it would be a good opportunity for the rest of the kids to learn about them.

  48. Most states have laws allowing a civil penalty for anyone “business” not allowing a Service Animal into their establishment. What I would suggest would be to find your state law, copy it and then show it to the “ignorant-of-the-law” business (including schools), and if they don’t back down, go to Small Claims court. At that point, the business will either back down or have a decision against it and have to pay statutory damages (in California, it’s $1,000). Also, a complaint can be made to the U.S. Department of Justice and a letter will be sent from DOJ to the business making inquiry of the facts.

    The reality is, that threat of legal action, especially when the potential defendant knows he/she/it is legally in the wrong will usually have a better chance of getting the best result; much better than going up the chain of command. Money, or the threat of losing it, motivates many.

  49. The school district is taking the stance that the dog IS NOT REQUIRED for this boy to be educated. In the districts opinion IT IS NOT ACTING AS A SERVICE DOG. The mother’s comments seem to support the school district’s arguement. She says the boy has to have the dog “for bonding” reasons, NOT to assist the boy for educational purposes. If the boy is going to school to be educated doesn’t it seem entirely possible that while the boy is “bonding” with his dog HE IS NOT being educated. You and I may disagree with that stance, but I think it does need to be clarified by some oversite body. I don’t think this case is a ZT case at all. Legitimate differences of opinion are at the core of this story.

    No they’re not. Does a blind child need a service dog to hear lectures? Nope. Is it going to help him read the assignments? Nope. Thus he “doesn’t need” the dog at school, right? You seem to think like the school: that school IS life, and if they “don’t need” a service dog there, they don’t need one. But to properly train and bond a dog, it DOES need to be with the boy 24×7. It’s not up to the school to decide; the law is correct in protecting the boy’s rights, and the school is wrong to interject itself contrary to law. It’s a clear-cut case, and no “opinion” is necessary. -rc

  50. In general reference to Tom in Oregon;

    I have noticed a trend which fits with ZT when it comes to qualifications — actual knowledge is often ignored in favor of certifications. An idiot with a teaching certificate from the worst barely-accredited school in the nation would be allowed to teach in public school, while a gifted teacher who does not have a certificate because he or she just spent ten years in third-world countries teaching would not be. Private schools have some leeway to decide based on a person’s qualities, not just their paperwork. Public schools seem to be running screaming away from anything that even hints of leeway.

    I have a friend who is a gifted teacher and historian. He has a Bachelor’s in History and a Master’s in Education, and can literally teach anything he understands himself. He can no longer work in Denver Public schools due to what I consider to be a ZT incident. While working in one of the worst middle schools, a known troublemaker decided to “step up” to him. Several of the female teachers were literally afraid of this student. My friend, however, is ex-Navy and was unimpressed. He took the boy’s shoulders and sat him down in a chair. The boy didn’t take the hint and swing at him. My friend got hold of his hands and just held him away until a security guard could get there and take the kid outside. No one was hurt. The kid was in-school suspended for one day. My friend was almost charged with assault because he touched the kid first. Thankfully, the teacher’s union actually served its purpose, and he got off with “not having his contract renewed”, which is roughly similar to having your resignation “accepted”.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think that a teacher sitting someone down in a chair by pressing on their shoulders is an inappropriate way to deal with a student who is doing his best to start a fistfight. In an obvious dominance game, I think it’s a pretty good solution to “I’m not going to fight you, but I’m not backing down, either”. The fact that the kid swung and was rendered harmless without hurting him is likewise commendable, by my standards. We’re trying to get my friend to apply at some of the boys-only schools in town — they can’t keep teachers who will stand up to the students, so they should appreciate it when someone does.

  51. I would like to reply to RC’s editorial answer to Grants post of January 15th. (Grant is a deaf teacher taking sides with the school on this issue)

    Randy, your answer to Grant surprised me. I have been reading This is True, True Stella Awards, Cranky Customer etc. etc for years, and I think this was not up to your standards of fairness and honesty. Grant makes a valid point (whether you agree ornot, and I don’t). I read his post andit is quite clear what he’s trying to say. And what do you do? You slam his grammar, punctuation and spelling! Since when was that a prerequisite to having and expressing n opinion. I agree it helps if one is able to get ones point across clearly, which Grant clearly did. I am a terrible speller, and worse typer, yet I need to express myself through writing for work. Thankfully most people I deal with don’t take issue with occasional poor spelling if the content of the message is clear. Isn’t it about what we are trying to say rather than how we say it (e.g. the use of the word retarded…)

    This one smells like ducking and evading.Grant made a very goodpoint, form a possition of knowledge and experience (we assume he is not lying about being a deaf teacher) and you avoided the confrontation by slamming his character (infering he is not fit to teach).

    Grant is a teacher and can’t spell, punctuate, or use grammar. Your spelling is bad? It’s nothing compared to his, and he’s not Dutch!

    Between writing TRUE, researching TRUE, dealing with correspondence, researching Jumbo Joke, researching and writing Cranky Customer and Stella items, etc. etc. on and on and on, I work 70-90 hours per week. And now I also have to add in looking at these comments to weed out the spammers, the pointless posts, and other garbage so that these comments are actually worth the time of thousands of people to actually read. That leaves me very limited time, and if someone can’t communicate with reasonable clarity, I’m not going to spend a lot of effort dissecting their broken prose to figure things out. Yet here we had a teacher who can’t communicate with any clarity whatever? No wonder our kids are such a mess. You caught his point? Lovely! But even with clear writing you didn’t get mine. I suspect virtually everyone else did. -rc

  52. Incredible. Randy, I have to back you up on this one (as if you needed such support). Nonetheless, the writing I see from “Grant” appears to be more of a style from a low-achieving sophomore. Whatever point he attempts to make sounds more of a personal opinion than any experience in the adult world. There was no need to debate his position as he defeated himself with his own expression style.

  53. When I read Gullivers Travels, a story which is about 300 years old, I was about 13 years old. I thought that the story about the little people (the Lilliputians) going to war over which end of the boiled egg should be opened was so stupid and vacuous that I stopped reading it.

    The dog story makes it plain to me that Swift was well ahead of his time. And frankly, the dog story makes the Lilliputians look like masters of reasoning.

  54. Just read about the deaf boy and the “hearing ear dog” (as they used to call those here in Canada). I went to a normal school despite being totally deaf, and didn’t have (or need) a dog with me; it seems to me that that would have been an unnnecessary crutch and complication. Though I’m 100 percent in favour of your battle against ZT, in this case I don’t really understand why the kid needed the dog, and tend to side with the officials on this particular matter.

    All the same, I admit I might be wrong and maybe the kid DID need the dog to support his independence (maybe was too shy or something, to go to school without it? Dunno.) In my case, I got bullied and made fun of quite a lot, but I stuck it out and I think it made me stronger.

    The bottom line is, even though you do have experience, neither you nor any other outsider knows whether the kid “needs” the dog or not. He think so, and his parents think so. And federal law says if he wants to take the fully qualified and trained dog to school, he can. The school is replying with its middle finger, and the parents are well within their rights to sue. -rc

  55. I understand the needs of this disabled boy. I have a deaf father, hearing problems of my own and a 10 year old autistic son. I really don’t understand how this boy “needs” a service dog in school. He seems to have spent many years in school without one. Maybe I’m missing something here. Is there more to this story?

    I have a severe allergy to dogs and cannot spend 10 minutes in a room with a dog without having serious asthma, throat and sinus allergies. My autistic son is petrified of dogs. What of our rights if a service dog is introduced to an environment where our presence we are required? What are our rights? Believe me, I’d be screaming for them if my son or I had to share that classroom.

    As far as the word retard goes, our family has agreed to disagree. I use it to describe my mentally retarded son. My husband says we shouldn’t, because it’s “politically incorrect” (insert “cringing emoticon” here). My adult, university educated, daughter uses it to describe situations such as zero tolerance or extreme political correctness – “That’s retarded”.

    “Is there more to this story?” Yes: there always is. The stories in True are ~100 words, and can be assumed to never be the whole story. The typical source newspaper story is 500-1000 words, and you can bet that write-up doesn’t tell the full story either! I’ve been noting that for many years on the sources page and in the book collections.

    What would be your rights if you were in that school, with your allergies? To also be accommodated. If that means putting you in a different classroom, then they must. -rc

  56. If people are so frustrated with Zero Tolerance in their schools, why don’t they become more active in their community (join and participate in the local PTSA, attend school board meetings, pay attention to who’s running for each position on the school board and VOTING, perhaps even run for a position, pay attention to who’s on the city coucnil, go to city council meetings, BE A PART OF YOUR COMMUNITY!), to help shape these policies, instead of reacting with righteous fury when things go horribly awry?

    What makes you think we don’t? By definition, the people who are interested in what goes on in our schools are …interested in what goes on in our schools. -rc

  57. Jessica, this has been stated before. There are LOTS of people who are active in the community and do attend school board meetings to resolve these issues. Unfortunately, way too many of the school boards arrogantly assert that they are much more professionally trained in handling our children than we, as parents, are able to do. Even when the entire community is overwhelmingly against an issue, the board will stubbornly maintain their position.

    Neither mayors (executive) nor city council (legislative) has any authority to supersede school board authority. That leaves the courts (judicial) which is time-consuming, costly and ultimately paid by ourselves whether we win or lose.

    The only real club to wield is the ability to vote out the buffoons, come election time. But that may be a long time away, too many other voters have no idea of the issues and so they vote for the name they recognize, and even when board members have been booted out, they still refuse to believe it was their own actions which prompted it.

    The only immediate solution is to embarrass the lummoxes in public through the media. Even then, though, educational figures are too stupid to be properly embarrassed by their own actions. Remember, they have that Certification that states unequivocably that they’re smarter than all the rest of us. Just ask them; they’ll tell you.

  58. I applaud True’s courage at pointing out zero-tolerance as nonsense policies. These, I feel, actually prevent any form of true debate and discussions around issues.

    The notion of reasonable accommodation has sparked wide (and passionate) debate in Québec, which all began with a student who fought for legal right to wear a kirpan (ceremonial dagger) in school. Far from over, the debate has shown the importance of applying common sense in interpretation of rules and rights, and that zero-tolerance in fact only breeds transgressions, and further hinders communication and discussions. These, I feel, are at the core of any healthy society and I hope that recent events in Virginia will spark true debate on the place of firearms in the USA.

  59. I also read Grant’s comments and while I’m a little behind the curve (time-wise) I felt compelled to comment on your response.

    I don’t know whether you’ve ever worked with a speaking deaf adult in any capacity, but I have, and I have to say that Grant’s grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence structure are consistent with what I’ve seen in the past from highly educated deaf adults, speaking or otherwise. There is actually a sound reason for this.

    Many speaking deaf adults cannot consider spoken English as their first language, but rather ASL (American Sign Language) is considered their first language (or possibly “house sign”, similar to spoken “slang” used with in a home environment that wouldn’t make sense to outsiders). Those in the hearing community who don’t know a great deal about ASL would assume that it is merely a “signalized” version of spoken English and they would be wrong. ASL is a complete, complex language with its own grammatical rules and sentence structures.

    Grant’s grammar, sentence structure and spelling are consistent with a deaf adult for whom ASL is their first language. As he is a deaf teacher teaching deaf students, odds are that he’s teaching them in ASL, not in spoken English, so his ability (or, in your eyes, inability) to write clearly would not be a detriment to his teaching in this capacity, but would aid in his communication with other hearing adults.

    Just my $.02.

    Thanks for that perspective. -rc

  60. So, let’s assume Grant’s authority IS true. All it takes to void the law is another person of a similar handicap to personally attest that it’s not necessary.

    Even if such a person is not present in that school, the principal can safely reject such a law since he knows that somewhere in this country, he can find someone of a similar handicap to agree with his reasoning.

    Sounds like the overwhelming caseload on the court system has just been alleviated. All we need is a few opinions from handicapped people to void the opinions of other handicapped people. The ADA is apparently null and void.

  61. I would like to state up front that I support the boy and his family for standing up for their rights. I happen to have one of the leading killer diseases among children (type one diabetes), and had a few problems with principals not wanting to make reasonable accommodations. Luckily, the first time it happened my mom was friends with the school superintendent and on a first name basis with half the school board. Now that I am working to become a teacher myself (high school math), I still disagree with ZT and all it stands for.

  62. Apparently many of the people posting that the animal will be a distraction and such have never seen a service animal in use or else have a fear of dogs, germs, or all of the above. The dog is not disruptive, he doesn’t snarl, go up to people and sniff them or anything like that. The dog has a harness on with a handle similar to that of rolling suitcases attached to it. The owner is in complete control at all times.

    And whether or not the principal *thinks* the dog is needed, apparently his physician does. These are highly trained dogs and very expensive. One does not get a service dog just because, “oh, I think I want a puppy to walk around with me all day”. In fact, the dog doesn’t even begin training until he’s out of puppyhood, and if I’m not mistaken, isn’t even placed with the disabled person until it’s 2 years of age.

    I have cystic fibrosis and am well aware of the ADA law which requires reasonable accommodations to be made for the disabled. My physician decided years ago that I could only work a 32-hour work week. At that time, where I worked, you couldn’t get insurance unless you worked 40 hours a week. However, under the ADA, the hospital had to still consider me a full-time employee. It didn’t matter if they thought I could work a 40-hour week or not. My physician was the one that made that determination.

    I am appalled that, in this day and age, someone with no medical training would “think” that something a physician says is needed, isn’t. In my mind, this man shouldn’t be in a position where he gets to “think” and make decisions such as this.

  63. Randy, I would like to respond to your comment: I refuse to bow to political correctness; “retarded” is now nasty so we switch to “special” — until that becomes pejorative. “Retarded” is a clear word, people know what it means, and therefore I’ll use it.

    Before we used the word “retarded” to describe a person with a mental disability, we used the word “idiot”. These words are now used to insult others, whether they have a disability or not. The drive to change the words or terms we use to describe a person who has a disability is in response to this misuse. It is an attempt to describe a condition in a way that is not insulting or hurtful to those who have it.

    It can be frustrating to try and keep up with what is currently considered “politically correct”, but it is most certainly worth it for those who are being described. As a special education teacher, I have had many of my students tell me that being described as “retarded” is the equivalent of being told they are stupid. I would ask for their sake, that you consider changing your use of the word “retarded”. For example, rather than saying “the retarded girl” you could say “the girl who has a mental disability”. I, and they, would really appreciate it.

    I do understand your point; I wish you better understood mine. It’s when words are used improperly that they become epithets. “Idiot” is a good case in point: it’s a perfectly good word, just like “retarded,” when used correctly. Activists for the disabled insisted on “special” — but now that’s a “bad” word too. “Crippled” became “handicapped” then “disabled,” and now those words are out of favor. We can either keep going along ruining perfectly good words, or we can stand up and simply insist that words be used correctly without regard for political correctness. That’s the rational approach; that’s the approach I’ve chosen. And I see no reason to detour from that rational approach. -rc

  64. Zero Tolerance is a way for angry people to let their inner bully come out. They feel the need to punish someone, for whatever personal reason, and they find a socially tolerated way to do it. Well, we shouldn’t tolerate “Zero Tolerance”, if that makes sense. If the reader thinks the proceeding sentence does not make sense, just try the reverse. (We should tolerate “Zero Tolerance”.)

    We Americans have a lot to learn about civil society, freedom, and liberty. And we have a lot to unlearn about restrictions, punishments, and rigid conformity.

  65. Randy, I have to agree on the euphemisms. I knew a guy years ago whose legs didn’t work. He HATED the word *handicapped*, and preferred *crippled*. He was the one who taught me the phrase: “You can’t change your condition by changing its name.” He fully accepted the fact that he was physically crippled. People should look up the word, it’s perfectly legitimate.

    Mentally Retarded is another legitimate phrase. Maybe the retarded children that Kati deals with have been taught that the word is insulting. How else would they know? Really. I’ve met retarded people who do not have a problem with the word. Maybe they were taught that it’s a scientifically acceptable way to describe their condition rather that a demeaning phrase.

    Kati, and others: if you want to change things, work on changing people’s perceptions of crippled and retarded folks, not wasting your time forcing people to use silly euphemisms that attempt to mask the conditions.

    I think you will find that people accept honesty, even unpleasant honesty, a lot quicker than you choose to believe. An honest crippled person taught me to accept that people around me weren’t just like me. You know why? Because I saw him accept it first.

  66. To be fair, ZT is just another side effect of the bureaucracy and red tape that emerges in response to a litigation-happy society where people make regular habits of abusing rules. Innocent people are suffering every day because the few honest people amongst those in power need to plan their actions around the fear that someone will sue them for even the most trivial mistake, because in America, that happens on a regular basis. Punishments COULD be meted out fairly and reasonably if litigious idiots would stop selfishly exploiting every loophole they can find in the rules. The word “discretion” is a dirty word because every time someone in power uses it they open themselves up to a lawsuit by some get-rich-quick jerk.

    That said, ZT is indefensible no matter how you look at it, because it does not even remotely come close to SOLVING any of the problems that gave birth to it. It’s one of the worst “solutions” ever devised to solve the problem of protection against frivolous lawsuits, and it does nothing to really protect people.

  67. Re: ZT & Political Correctness

    I frequently use the term gimpy to describe myself among friends or family. I’ve actually had people who overhear in restaurants tell me I should be ashamed of myself for using that word. Please note, no one who has ever said this to me was handicapped, nor did they claim to have a family member who was. No one else I know that actually is gimpy, has a problem with it!

  68. I’ve noticed a lot of stories about Zero Tolerance here and elsewhere and also how much the concept seems to be spreading around the world. One thing I’ve noticed in them all is one unifying aspect. This leads me to believe we shouldn’t call these Zero Tolerance Policies but Zero Intelligence Policies as anyone enforcing one immediately proves they have a zero or negative intelligence number. I also like the acronym of ZIP much better than ZTP.

  69. Our local elementary school just went zero tolerance this year. What’s happening to my daughter isn’t as extreme as some, but it shows how the innocent are victimized by the lack of common sense zero tolerance demonstrates.

    My nine-year-old daughter has been trying to work through school-related stress, resulting in acting out in class. She told me that upset over a poor show on an interim report, she was surrounded by her concerned classmates and couldn’t get away to practice her usual calming techniques. She yelled to be left alone, and after doing that several times, she was told to get her things and leave the room to wait for me. I picked her up with no contact from the a school authority, and nothing about the incident.

    I received a call from her principal two hours later that a classmate had reported she had threatened to kill someone. My daughter is suspended until they can conduct a “Threat Assessment”.

    My daughter denies it. I mentioned that to the principal, and he essentially stated that kids lie. So my daughter’s statement has no weight for that reason while her accuser’s does, even though they’re the same age.
    As a result, my daughter, who was already dealing with emotional issues regarding school and wouldn’t hurt a fly, cried herself to sleep and is now scared to go back even if allowed to because someone else might tell on her and get her in trouble.

    I’m very glad these procedures are in place to protect all the other children – I’m sure that makes it worth the trauma an innocent nine-year-old girl had to go through.


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