Zero Tolerance Trick, No Treat

Zero Tolerance is insidious. An abdication of common sense and professional ethics, in schools it seeks to apply one punishment — suspension, usually leading to expulsion — to any level of “crime.”

In this particular case, it didn’t help that a fifth-grader’s “scary” Halloween image was a school assignment. It didn’t help that his art teacher helped him create the image. Where Zero Tolerance reigns, common sense is forgotten.

But let’s get specific, with this story from True’s 9 November 2008 issue:

Zero Tolerance Trick, No Treat

An art class at Pooler Elementary School in Savannah, Ga., was assigned to draw a “scary” Halloween mask. Fifth-grader Jordan Hood drew a bloody vampire with the caption, “I Kill For Blood”. Art teacher Lloyd Harold even helped him, showing how shading the figure’s eyes makes it even creepier. But when Melissa Pevey, the boy’s home-room teacher, saw the drawing, she found it “disturbing” and called in the assistant principal — and a school police officer. Pevey claimed the caption “could” be a reference to the street gang “The Bloods”, and the drops of blood “looked a lot like” gang tattoos. “They told me the droplets could actually be a gang symbol for the number of people he killed,” said Jordan’s mother, LaKisha Hood. While the campus cop “wasn’t sure [the drawing] meant anything,” said district spokesman Bucky Burnsed, Jordan was required to pass a psychological evaluation before he could return to class. He passed, and “the child is back in school where he belongs,” Burnsed said. (Savannah Morning News) …Yeah, but so is Pevey, and she definitely doesn’t belong there.

“Disturbing”? Really?

The so-called “disturbing” image is pretty much what most 10-year-old boys would draw when told to do something “scary,” as the school’s art teacher well knew. And here it is:

Kudos to the police who understood that the drawing didn’t “mean anything” — because it doesn’t. And indeed, clearly the professional that did the “psychological evaluation” agreed too.

You can argue that the teacher was “being careful,” but common sense should have kicked in when the police found no concern. The presumably better-educated assistant principal could have stopped the trauma to the boy, but didn’t (so why is he or she there?!)

Other parents should rally to support LaKisha Hood, and demand common sense from the “professionals” responsible for educating their children.

If school officials refuse to practice better judgment, they need to be fired. Simple as that.

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56 Comments on “Zero Tolerance Trick, No Treat

  1. Other parents should rally to support LaKisha Hood, and demand common sense from the “professionals” responsible for educating their children. If school officials refuse to practice better judgment, they need to be fired.

    Capital idea. And once we have fired all the ninnies and political cranks, I would be more than happy to recertify and go back to teaching again.

  2. I have zero tolerance for zero tolerance. All it really means is zero common sense will be used. The lunatics are running the asylum!

  3. I think what they need to investigate is whether this Pevey dame has some sort of “gang” fixation. Maybe she or her family had a run-in with gangs, or she thinks “gang talk” among the students is somehow noteworthy and ominous. Is it possible that she is (horrors!) “profiling” her students??

  4. If Miss Pevey was subjected to the same kind of review I bet she wouldn’t make it through a day without violating some tenet of this disturbingly inane, k-12 doctrine her and her mad hatter ilk call zero tolerance.

  5. This action is on the same idiot level with suspending a young child for having a drawn picture of a gun. Seems that sooner or later parents are going to wake up and revolt and change this culture of intimidation that is so prevalent in our society today. Let us just hope that it isn’t to late to do something about this lunacy that is going on around the country.
    Personally I believe most people want the government or agency (school) to take control so they don’t have to look like the bad guy in their childrens’ eyes.

  6. I hope the art teacher gives the boy extra credit — the assignment was to draw a scary picture, and his was so scary his homeroom teacher felt the need to call the authorities.

    The really devastating thing about this sort of thing is how those affected, even those who are exonerated like this boy was, are changed by the experience. Yes, he was “allowed” to return to school, but he had to pass a psychological evaluation first. And the next time he’s assigned a create project, does anyone think he’ll actually try to be creative? Or will he just do something he knows will be safe, so he doesn’t have to go through that again?

    Zero Tolerance = Zero Thought because that’s how it works, but also because that seems to be the long term goal — the stifling of independent and creative thought.

  7. You can’t really blame Melissa Pevey, who is probably a decent human being has had her values corrupted by an almighty “politically-correct” establishment to the point where she can no longer perceive the obvious. It is the people who brainwashed her until she was crazy and unkind who should be the ones to take the fall. But the time is, coming, the pendulum will swing and they will see themselves as the idiots they really are.

  8. It seems to me that the school staff should be the ones sent to the shrink and tested before they are returned to school. I also have a formula they can use:

    Tolerence = Intelligence

    After looking at the picture I think I could be sent to prison for some of the pictures I’ve drawn.

  9. Sadly, I’m not surprised that something as innocent as an art project was “mistaken” for a gang-related sign. I know someone who brought a squirt gun to school and was written up for carrying it because it was a “fake weapon”, and the school confiscated it. The squirt gun in question was two inches high and shaped like a pink elephant.

  10. Schools are the worst. But this is an example of where an attorney and a lawsuit make sense. People and institutions will take the safe road — downside to not doing anything — “what if he kills someone”. Downside to zero tolerance and political correctness — none. The lawyer and the lawsuit create the down side.

    Ignore common sense and it will hurt your pocketbook. Sometimes that is the only way. (Of course just as ZT is misused, so are lawsuits, but that does not mean that each has its place. Lawsuits can allow for common sense to be brought into the mix).

    I have indeed encouraged lawsuits in some previous ZT cases. Indeed that threat may make the idiocrats think twice. -rc

  11. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

    Tis amazing what we can rationalize away when we use those rejoinders.

    And what home room school teacher “knows” so much about Gang Tattoos?

    It ‘could’ be a possibility that any home room school teacher who does know so much about gang tattoos, ‘might’ actually be a member of a Gang?

    It ‘could’ happen! Perhaps this teacher needs some closer scrutiny!

    My guess: she got a one-hour “training” on gangs, and figured she could use it on this kid. When the cop said “huh uh,” that should have been the end of it. -rc

  12. When will “zero tolerance” equal “100% outrage”? At 40 years old, I feel as though I am living in a surreal world these days. I wonder where if these ZT people just appeared, or if they were amongst us all along because I don’t remember having zero tolerance of this extreme when I was growing up — yet I turned out JUST FINE.

    Unfortunately this will turn out like everything else, and instead of fixing the problem (by outright correction and/or elimination of the root of the problem, we’ll simply mask it with another layer of bureaucracy and hope it goes away (either with more laws or by throwing money at the problem) …

  13. I agree, all the teachers that have no common sense should be fired. If that had happened to my son I would have made sure that the teacher would never teach anywhere anymore.

    Threats like that will get you …everywhere! Teachers need to know that there are parents who care, and that will not put up with such garbage. That’s what I mean by a righteous lawsuit! -rc

  14. Back when I ran for Congress, I coined this simple equation:

    Zero Tolerance Equals Infinite Absurdity

    It’s only going to get worse in the coming years.

  15. And that’s why I homeschool. All four of my college-aged homeschooled offspring are now in college, doing exceptionally well academically, and unscathed by the lunacy of zero tolerance. Whew.

  16. I can’t help but wonder if Pevey even bothered talking to the art teacher, Lloyd Harold, before going into panic mode. Surely a little communication between teachers might have prevented such an overblown response…but I suppose I shouldn’t say “surely,” since ZT seems designed to thwart all reasonable assumptions about logical behavior.

  17. While it may be fun to run the asylum at times, How ignorant does a person have to be to lose their job for lack of common sense? Obviously, a lot more ignorance is allowed in our teachers than the drivers who yank trailers around for a living!

    I’m guessing you know of what you speak. How sad that you’re surely correct. -rc

  18. Zero Tolerance was created by those “educators” who have ZERO BRAINS!

    Because they do not have the knowledge/skills necessary to judge ANY situation, they have bullied the school systems into Zero Tolerance which removes ALL responsibility for the teacher.

    The BAR Association has created another means of controlling the people. Scare everyone into SUING for anything. So the school systems escape consequences by Zero Tolerance’ing all situations that MAY lead to some form of responsibility.

    SHEEPLE – you should learn this term. It applies to anyone/everyone who decides to let someone else run their lives. By refusing to take any responsibility for your own actions, and allowing others to do the same, you are one of the SHEEPLE. Those who do as they are told by “those who have gov’t jobs” without liability.

    We need to get back to the basics where I must personally defend my actions. If I attack someone either verbally or physically then I must suffer the consequences.

    This does NOT mean that KIDS must pay the price of an adult! Nowadays, we are charging kids with adult crimes. When did this start? Why? Because we are too lazy to make our own kids behave so we allow them to get so bad that OTHERS must punish them?

    THINK ABOUT YOUR OWN ACTIONS & how they will affect others.

  19. It’s a shame that we have to teach our kids to be careful around the stupid people who make up zero tolerance. It’s a shame they put that little boy through all of that psych junk, which is going to make him believe there is something wrong with him, and might lead him down the road of future inappropriate behavior.

  20. Perhaps if schools, districts, administrators or teachers who promulgate this nonsense are hit with hefty lawsuits for traumatizing children or criminal charges or both, they might see the light. A few heads rolling might be enough of an example to warn the others off. The Roman practice of decimation (putting every tenth man to death) comes to mind.

  21. I’ve got to quit trolling various odd news columns for this kind of garbage because you manage to come up with the best stories.

    Way back when, I used to be a patrol officer, both as a cop and a patrol security officer. Thank every god there is I had the freedom to exercise a little common sense. Otherwise, I would have been working 365/24/7 writing reports on the people I had had to arrest!

  22. Okay, in fairness to Ms. Pevey that really doesn’t look like a vampire. No fangs. And the “I kill for blood” a bit creepy because it’s so blunt for a 10 year old. But gang related? She has a better imagination than the children she’s supposed to teach. I think they sent the wrong person for evaluation.

  23. Not to be in defense of idiots, but perhaps no one has established clear guidelines for ZT within the educational systems. If this were done, perhaps we would have less of these ignorant decisions by school officials.

  24. In our experience with schools, Zero Tolerance is always a class/wealth status dispersion system. Not at all a fair application of the rules. I wonder what would have happened if the student were a teacher’s child, a sport booster parent’s child, etc?

  25. From painful personal experience, I can tell you that the problem with people like the home-room teacher is that “perception is reality,” to quote a local middle-school teacher. If somebody (a teacher, a parent, an administrator, a student, or even the neighborhood busybody) reports that something is fishy, then everybody automatically assumes that it is. I’ve seen more than one teaching career ruined because a student or a parent chose to take a teacher’s words (or actions) the wrong way. I’ve also seen students caught on the wrong end of a false accusation, as in this story. The results are devastating, and yet the accuser — the person whose perception/reality ruined someone else’s life — receives no punishment, but instead sympathy (if a perceived victim) or praise for their diligence.

  26. The only problem a lawsuit solves is how to send some lawyer’s yuppie larva to Harvard to breed another generation of lawyers.

    Greedy parent sues school-idiot judge awards huge payout-bill goes to taxpayer (me; why am I being punished?)-law firm collects 100% of payout for unnamed “legal expenses”-teacher may or may not be disciplined-if diciplined the teachers union sues the school-idiot judge…

    Ah, yes, the Circle of Life.

    Yes, the taxpayer is on the hook. Now you know why you need to say something when this stuff happens at your schools, whether your kid is affected or not! -rc

  27. Stupidity in action! I suggest all those who wanted this child examined immediately contact their proctologist to have their heads examined!

  28. NJ has a hold harmless clause for teachers who follow the rules. It is up to the administrator to use good judgement. Depending on the prior behavior of the student, and if I was not aware that it was part of an art project, I might have filed a report also. As a teacher, I am caught between reporting something innocent, and not reporting something that escalates to violence. In the second case, I would be liable. Give the teacher a break, but the administration has a responsibility to investigate and used better judgement. That’s why they get paid the big bucks.

  29. I just had to google the original Savannah morning news report (…kudos Randy on a crisp and accurate synopsis…); its details and publicly available information about Pooler Elementary are not encouraging.

    It seems that the teachers had received “gang-identification training”; this may be where she got the idea a bloody teardrop was a gang symbol instead of standard Halloween issue. I would suggest this “training” was, to say the least, not very effective.

    It also seems that Jordan was a new student from out of town. “We moved to Pooler thinking he’d be in a more diverse school with better opportunities,” [his mother] told the newspaper. The mother’s name, LaKisha, is used almost exclusively by African-Americans; we can assume the boy is mixed-race or black. Poller Elementary’s student population is 74% white (state average 48%), 15% black (state average 38%).

    Can it be that no other student drew a mask with something that could be interpreted as a “gang symbol”? No blood? No flames? No skulls?

    Put it together, folks.

    It is comforting to think that Zero Tolerance is merely Being Stupid. We can mock the foolish and hope to cure ZT with education (…and of course more mockery 😉

    But ZT is not merely stupidity. It can be a convenient tool for pushing out an unwelcome student, or at least making life troublesome for him and his family.

    Will Jordan spend the rest of his school career editing his work to avoid run-ins with authority? Or has he learned that he can get out of schoolwork by freaking out teachers?

    Which would be worse?

  30. “Give the teacher a break, but the administration has a responsibility to investigate and used better judgement. That’s why they get paid the big bucks.”

    I think the point is that those administrators who exercise such poor judgment are taking the “big bucks” under false pretenses. And should be treated to a major pay cut.

  31. Geez. I thought the poor kid’s title of the drawing was really clever. I mean, a vampire would “kill for blood.”

    I really hope that his creativity is not thwarted by this insanity.

    On a personal note, I have many public school teacher friends who work really hard to get around this ZT BS to actually provide a decent education, and it is definitely a challenge these days.

  32. I see that Don in Nawlins has already summed up my initial reaction to the story. Ms Pevey seems awfully “knowledgeable” about gang symbols, more so than even the police. And she’s one of the ranks of the Educators of Our Children. No, it’s not just her, or even just a few others.

    In literature, the joke is that the best trick played by the Devil is to convince the world he really doesn’t exist. The best trick played by the educational system is to convince the communities that it doesn’t happen in THEIR territories. It’s always a “rare mistake”, a bizarre one-time occurrence”, never a common attitude backed up by history of mankind through the ages. (How many forms of government and laws have been set up to protect us from OURSELVES, from the necessity of thinking?)

    The pervasive hope that the pendulum will swing back is nothing more than wishful thinking. I’m 57 years old, and I’m still seeing the same kind of thinking that was prevalent in schools back in the 1950’s. Public schools, in my lifetime, have never been about education, but about molding students into accepted mindset of the masses. Only recently has it been given a name, Zero Tolerance, but it’s always been around. Yes, beat out, badger, penalize, abuse, and humiliate any shred of independent thinking, and then award diplomas to the good zombies who remain.

    Before anyone thinks I’m ranting about one school district in one city, I’ve attended public schools in MI, FL, VA, TN, RI, & GA. I’ve gone through the experience with my kids in NY, CA & TX. It’s universal and it’s been around for eons. In religion, it’s called Dogma.

  33. Wow, I was expecting a rather violent picture…the vampire mask doesn’t even have sharp teeth! And at least the wording isn’t like cell phone text messaging. Well done to the art teacher for assisting expression. Not many persons are these days. And Mike’s comments made me laugh out load…Dogma, I like that!! “This is true!”

  34. Whenever I read these articles about ZT, I have the same reaction :

    1/ This can’t be true
    2/ Yeah, this must be a joke
    3/ OMG… this really happened and still happens.

    Maybe it’s because I had interesting teachers who stimulated creativity, but I really don’t see anything wrong with that boy’s picture. It’s scary to people with the brain of a 10 year old (this includes Pevey), but drawing something scary was the assignment, right? Just imagine all the great painters of the last 100 years, and imagine what ZT would do to them if they were 10 year old boys!

    That Van Gogh boy must be a drug dealer… with his strange colored flowers. Da Vinci drawed body parts, so he must be a mass murderer.

  35. Having been married to a public school teacher for 30+ years if the teacher had not reported it and something happened they would have been labeled negligent. The checks worked, the parents were informed and the student was checked out by a professional.If it had turned out the other way and the student had been found to be in need of further counseling he would have gotten it.

  36. It seems to me like people are being kinda harsh in this instance. Don’t get me wrong, I love a chance to bash ZT, I think it is an incredibly stupid policy, and some of the stories I read are just incredible.

    In this case, though, I could see how that picture could freak some people out. Some people use art as a release valve, and “I kill for blood” seems a valid reason to raise a flag.

    I don’t really see how a psychological evaluation would necessarily equate to a trauma for the boy. What was involved in the eval? Was it just him talking to someone?

    Also, I think there is a big difference, Randy, between your assertion that the police understood that the drawing didn’t “mean anything”, versus the police not being sure it meant anything. Sounded to me like the police were not sure one way or the other.

    In this day and age, where you have such a high number of school shootings, and violence is so common, a little bit of caution is not a bad thing. I was sitting there expecting during the whole story that you would bust out with “and then the child was suspended for life for the terrible drawing”, in which case I would have been right there in my anger too. But just taking a precautionary step and having the boy talk to a psychologist doesn’t seem so bad to me.

    Um, Dustin? He was suspended. “Can’t come back to school until he sees a psychologist” is suspension, pure and simple. I can see concern if this happened at, say, Easter. But no, it was Halloween, and the assignment was to draw something “scary.” He was under the direction of an art teacher, not a mass murderer. -rc

  37. I had one son pulled into the principal’s office for doodling on his notebook. I was told that the drawings constituted a gang affiliation. I looked at the drawing and asked my boy what exactly was he drawing? He explained he was drawing nothing more the letter “S” over and over. The drawing looked like a maze and nothing more.

    The principal was hell bent on pushing the gang issue. I told him that I didn’t see what he claimed to see. I also told him that if necessary I would bring my attorney into the discussion. He threatened to have my son expelled and I made good on my promise! My attorney sent the school district a letter telling them that if the issue wasn’t dropped, I was fully prepared to sue!

    Since then, I have kept an attorney on retainer for this very reason. In my opinion, the innocent are punished and the guilty are ignored! Zero Tolerance…..what a joke!

    It’s pathetic that a parent thinks he needs an attorney on retainer just because his kid is in a public school. But you know what? I don’t suggest any changes. And that’s a sad statement indeed. -rc

  38. Look, I’m not saying that it was the best way to handle it, and I can see the arguments against the action that they took. But to get so upset, railing about the awful trauma to the poor kid, who will now become a mindless lump without creativity? I just don’t see it.

    According to the original article, he was “suspended” for a couple of hours. He didn’t even miss a full day.

    It seems to me like maybe everyone was being a little too cautious, and it could have been handled better. However, I would also say that this is actually an example of at least a little common sense prevailing.

    By strict zero tolerance rules, I would have expected the kid to have been fully suspended, for some specified period of time, regardless of psychological evaluation. Instead, the boy was back in school the following afternoon.

  39. This case is very similar to the military shrinks reply to the military instructors when I was in the Air Force in the 60’s. During training for crypto equipment, one of my students was caught doodling during a extremely boring part of the class. The instructor took great offense when he saw a swastika, or in other native American cultures a sign good spirits.

    The instructor sent the airman down to see the big man that was in charge and after following all of the protocol, the airman was sent to see the base shrink for a mental and psychological evaluation.

    The airman was sent back too class with the note and results from the evaluation. “This airman is no crazier than the fools that sent him for an evaluation.”

    Zero tolerance is an oxymoron. Zero is nothing and nothing can be tolerated.

  40. Put the picture in context as I am sure the very smart (for once) cops on the subject of ZT. If the child had drawn this in February, I could see that there may have been some reason for concern. This is for Halloween for crying out loud. Halloween!!! Let common sense prevail!

  41. Randy, I have agreed 100% with the sentiment you display whenever you publish a ZT story… until now. This story just doesn’t fit the usual ZT mold, unless there are some significant details that you have left out.
    Jordan drew a picture. His homeroom teacher, Melissa Pevey, found it “disturbing” so she called the assistant principal and the police. Jordan wasn’t expelled, jailed, or even spanked. Neither he nor his parents have to pay any fines. He was given a psychological evaluation; when he passed, he returned to class.

    Did Lloyd Harold, the art teacher, explain to Ms. Pevey what the assignment was BEFORE Ms. Pevey made the calls? Your story doesn’t say. It certainly seems that Ms. Pevey over-reacted, but other than that, it seems to me that everyone did exactly what they should have done. If I was working in a school where a homeroom teacher was worried about the mental health and stability of one of her children, I would hope that the worries would be taken seriously. I would also hope that the child would not be punished merely on the basis of those worries. It seems to me that asking a psychologist to evaluate the child, and then following the psychologist’s recommendations, is EXACTLY THE RIGHT balance to take.

    On one extreme, we sometimes have schoolchildren giving relatively obvious clues of mental imbalance, hinting that they have access to a gun and plan to use it, with teachers ignoring these signs until it is far too late. At the other extreme, we have your much-more-typical ZT stories: someone getting arrested and expelled from school for drawing a picture of a man with a gun. This story seems far between these two extremes: a teacher feeling that she has cause for concern, and then people acting rationally to find out if there really is a problem. This is what we WANT them to do, isn’t it?

    Randy, you’ve sometimes said that one of the purposes of TRUE is to make people think. Well, I think – based only on your own summation of the events – that this does NOT fall in the ZT zone. You wrote: “Where Zero Tolerance reigns, common sense is forgotten.” But it seems to me that in this particular case, common sense was followed, and the right result emerged!

    Looking through comments that others have already left, it seems like I’m only the second person (after “Pete, Toms River, NJ” and “Dustin in Lawrence”) suggesting that this is not a typical ZT story, or that the school was not crazy-out-of-control… I find that surprising.

    I don’t know if the art teacher was consulted or not, since the story didn’t say (definitely a failing of the reporter). Certainly, he should have been. The issue isn’t whether the teacher was worried, but rather how reasonable that worry was. When one considers the kid acted at the direction of, and under the supervision of, a teacher (and a specialist in the field at that), the worry is certainly not reasonable.

    That said, I lay out the information and let people make up their own minds — that’s where “thinking” comes in. You thought about it, and I won’t criticize you for coming up with a different conclusion. Yes, as you saw most readers are finding this story disturbing, if not outrageous. That should indeed tell you something, but reasonable people can differ, since we all come from different backgrounds. -rc

  42. Idiotic behavior by ‘professionals’ like Pevey and the assistant principal is one of the main reasons my wife and I homeschool our two children. My twenty-year-old daughter got 1100 on her SATs and is currently maintaining a 3.92 GPA in college. Her main teacher was my wife, who ‘only’ has a high-school diploma and is thus ‘unqualified’ to teach anybody. My eleven-year-old son is also being homeschooled, and will hopefully do as well as his sister. I suspect that he has a far better chance of doing well by being homeschooled than by being processed by the State.

    My wife and I recently had a contractor work on the ceilings in our kitchen and living room. He came when he said he would come, he did the work for the price he said he would charge, and did an excellent job finished in a timely manner. His work was the epitome of professionalism. Holding a certificate may mean that one ‘has a profession,’ but it certainly does not mean that the holder has a professional attitude. Why is anybody surprised when a State-controlled industry, ignoring feedback from the market and only grudgingly letting ‘customers’ opt out, repeatedly fails to deliver and goes to extremes?

  43. I see the sickening adoption of ZT in all sorts of places, but question also the latitude given to other more “disturbing” things children are exposed to. A particular peeve of mine is the way various groups are permitted to expose their beliefs and “values/judgements” without being subjected to similar revulsion – I saw the PETA “comics” which were distributed to schoolkids, and would be disgusted to think that was permitted (or even invited) in a ZT school, yet a kid drawing soldiers would be expelled. I see a lot of people see ZT as “Zero Thought”, but then see and hear accounts of extremist thought being promoted in the same schools. What do they (not us) want the next 2 generations to be if they grow up?

    I subscribe to This is true (free and premium) since I like to think, and laugh – but find myself increasingly concerned about how many people believe thinking is “optional” in their development as human beings.

  44. Allan lays out a very thoughtful response to this story, defending the reactions of the various personnel involved once the teacher raised a concern. It’s true that the police officer and psychologist reacted appropriately. The problem is that they should never have been involved. Based on the evidence, the teacher grossly over-reacted, and the assistant principal failed to apply any common sense to the situation (yes, there is still common sense in schools, although the constant ZT stories make me fear that it’s a dwindling commodity).

    As a veteran teacher (of ten-year-old students, no less!), I’ve seen countless pictures more or less similar to this one. Did any of those pictures indicate gang ties, mental health issues, or an impending crisis? Nope. What they indicated is that ten-year-old boys are heavily into (what they perceive as) shock value. They like vampires, ghosts, monsters, and anything else likely to gross out ten-year-old girls. If it also shocks the teacher, so much the better. The fact that this picture was produced in response to an assignment just makes the teacher’s reaction that much more inexcusable.

    Having once been a ten-year-old boy myself, I’ve never worried about students producing pictures like this, nor do I worry much if there’s a little violence in their writing (I have a ‘PG-13’ policy for stories — battles are fine and characters can die, but you don’t need a bunch of blood and gore. This is in direct opposition to many teachers I’ve worked with, but it’s always worked well for me and I’ve always had luck getting boys to read and write in my class).

    If I see something that does raise a concern, I **TALK** to the student about it, a step I’m virtually certain wasn’t taken in this case. Had the teacher simply asked Jordan about the picture, her fears would probably have been eased, and the whole farce avoided. Because she jumped to a conclusion — and the assistant principal didn’t have the sense to stop this in its tracks — Jordan was put through an entirely unnecessary and ridiculous ordeal. I hope that she’s simply a new teacher who made a stupid move and will learn from her mistake.

    At any rate, thanks to Randy for continuing to bring ZT insanity to light — just don’t forget that there are still people in my profession who actually use and apply common sense!

    And I’m thankful for it, Chris! Keep it up. -rc

  45. This (as most ZT Stories) would be hysterical — a ten year old is more mature than his home room teacher. However, it isn’t funny that the result was carried so far. I think the school should be held liable to pay for the cost of any examination, the parent’s time required to take the child for examination, and anything else we could dream up. That way we could not only have this story, but also one for the stupid lawsuits newsletter — not that you are having a lot of trouble finding those.

  46. I guess I’m the prude in the crowd; while this image doesn’t truly upset me, neither do I think that it’s a healthy sort of thing for a 10 year old boy to draw.

    I think what we see and hear makes a difference and has meaning, that it is worrisome that our children are becoming numb to images of violence. I think that the school was right to look into it, and if it was my 6 or 9 year-old I wouldn’t be pleased with it. Of course, if the child ever did later have an incident, the school (i.e. taxpayers) would be sued for millions for having missed this obvious clue.

    I understand that I’m probably in the minority here, but I think all would draw the line somewhere…this isn’t over the line, but it’s getting there.

    Read the comment from the teacher, Chris, just two comments above yours. Children are certainly not “becoming numb to images of violence,” we’ve been numb to it for generations. This sort of silly image is common, and dare I say normal. The idea is to shock, and real violence, not this cartoony stuff, is a concern. Monsters, vampires and such are how we learn to deal with fear of the unknown, and is healthy. Stop your kids from doing it will increase damage to them, not lessen it! -rc

  47. Why would anyone get upset over a picture drawn by a 10-year-old? That is with or without a teacher’s help?
    I lived in Japan, by far the worlds safest country, and children there produce and are exposed to the most hideous, violent and bloody art, stories, swordplay and TV available anywhere. And with what results? I said it before; there were no muggings, stickups or violence against others such as seen in Western nations that I saw.

    And there was a level of honesty that was unbelievable — a lost wallet always beat the loser back to the ship, or to the police, and. get this; with the money intact! Maybe Japanese are only violent when engaged in a foreign war. And perhaps we should do better studies of the effects on the young of depictions of violence in all media.

  48. I would advise the home teacher not to watch Tom and Jerry or she will go into psychotic shock. As for the cartoons on the Simpsons.The mind boggles. I bet she has no children of her own or maybe she is training to be a School Principal. He/She must be as nuts as the teacher.

  49. Alternate strategy to hasten the demise of ZT. Stephen Jay Gould once wrote that people were fundamentally nice, and that every day a thousand acts of kindness happen unreported while the relatively rare horrific acts do get reported.

    While the ZT stories are entertaining and provoke righteous anger, they also leave me with a sense of “don’t make waves, it ain’t worth it”. Maybe a special issue of events, or non-events, where common sense prevailed over ZT would balance this. Maybe combined with your other newsletter on heroic acts?

    RC replies: “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” –Edmund Burke

  50. Maurice overlooked one possible reason for the difference in Japan…they still (rightly!) believe in disciplining children who misbehave. They haven’t bought into the horse hockey that doing so would damaging the little darlings’ self-eszteem.

  51. I’m surprised this person didn’t call the police when all those kids in SCARY MASKS showed up at their doorstep on Halloween. All those potential mass murderers! The horror! They must be detained, taken from their parents and retrained by the State, which knows best and cares for all!

  52. Randy, you call ZT enforcers “idiocrats”, which set me thinking. I believe that that word combines the Greek for “private” and “ruler”, and thus would denote the idea that the people should be left alone by the authorities – exactly the opposite of what they were doing in this case.

    The Latin idiota is from the Greek idites — yes, a “private person.” But it also means “layman, a person lacking skill or expertise” and is the root for “idiot.” Thus, “idiot bureaucrat” — which is exactly what I’m conveying. -rc

  53. St. Louis has got a wonderfully ironic case of ZT that just concluded in the courts. A school principal was fired for trying to use his experience and better judgment in case involving sex abuse. The state law has no tolerance for people who don’t immediately report any such allegations. And since the principal had unanswered questions about the allegations, he hesitated before making a report. In doing so he became a lawbreaker.

    It is a sad, sad story about a system gone haywire. While our schools are frequently the instigator of ZT, the irony of this case is that a school principal tried to use his head and got beat down for it. No wonder our schools are so messed up.

    For those who wish more details (and have the stomach for such news), the details of the story can be found in the Post Dispatch story [no longer online]. One of the lines from the story is “Prosecutors say the details of the alleged abuse and whether the computer instructor truly assaulted the student is immaterial”. Truth is irrelevant. You must blindly follow the law or you will face punishment.

    God help us all.

  54. The elementary school in St. Louis described by Bill, who hails from there, reminds me of my high-school, where there actually is a problem. At least once every year, my old gym teacher is accused of inappropriately touching one of his female students through her clothes. These accusations have been taken to the principal, but the principal’s never reported them, even though they’ve been made repeatedly by multiple people. Oh, and, by the way, everyone at that school is required to take gym as a FRESHMAN. These are 14-15 year old girls. Now, some of the girls who made the accusations were dishonest or mischievous people and MAY have lied about it. But others of them would never have made it up.

    I agree with the principal in St. Louis’s decision not to report the accusations he received, because it was one girl who had already made a false accusation, and he didn’t want to risk a teacher’s career over a lying little girl. But the situation at my alma mater is ridiculous. Saying it should be phoned in would be a far cry from ZT…


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