Thursday, January 06, 2011

Zero tolerance in the 21st century: Justice sans reason

In America, it used to be that a kid caught with something he wasn’t supposed to have at school had it confiscated by his teacher to be returned to him at the end of the day with a stern warning not to bring it again. Kids used to bring their dad’s WWII swords and pistol souvenirs to class for show and tell while no one so much as batted an eye.

But times have changed drastically from only a decade ago when the “War on Terror” and “zero tolerance” found their way into the American lexicon.

Zero tolerance policy is uncooked justice without the pinch of reasoning. Draconian punishment, un-tempered by the essential elements of fairness, logic, perspective, and common sense, is the usual result.

The latest victim is an exemplary student athlete at a North Carolina high school, suspended for the remainder of her senior year, and charged with a misdemeanor for having a small paring knife in her lunchbox. She accidentally took her father's lunchbox to school; school officials searched it; found her Dad’s apple peeling utensil; banned her from campus; and then charged her criminally with misdemeanor possession of a weapon on school grounds. The incident is likely to ruin her entire academic career.

She might have brought a baseball bat to gym class without such unpleasant consequences, though that instrument could easily be employed to bash in the heads of fellow students and teachers alike. She might have used her athletic shoelaces as a garrote to strangle one of her classmates. Her school apparently isn’t afraid of shoelaces. A pencil or ballpoint pen might be used to gouge out a few eyes, but those aren’t considered weapons either.

Indeed, she might have brought a hundred assorted “weapons,” from bobby pins to paper shears, plastic bags to nail files, without arousing the mighty omnipotent high school Authority!

She could have left the little knife at home and gone to the school kitchen for a big knife were it her intent to stab someone. Of course, we all know that it was not her intent to bring a weapon to school in the first place, and certainly not for the purpose of harming anyone. The school officials know that. The police know that. The prosecutor knows that. Anyone with half a brain knows that.

So why didn’t the education thugs just confiscate the “weapon” and return it to her at the end of the school day with a warning, as any reasonable teacher has done for centuries? Why were they even searching through her lunch box?

Zero tolerance! Absolute and unequivocal zero tolerance – that’s why. The deception in consciousness in this case is the delusional necessity for zero tolerance. To Hell with circumstances; reason doesn’t count; she broke the rule which makes us safe from terrorists in our War on Terror. She’s a potential terrorist. She must pay the price for zero tolerance. Even if we all know she isn’t a terrorist, we’re going to treat her like one anyway because terrorism is serious business since 9/11 and requires zero tolerance.

By far, the most common terrorist of them all is this mindless governmental Authority!


IN: School sued for kicking boy off team over haircut

Schools that insist on dress standards do seem to get better results generally

An Indiana family is suing a high school after their son was kicked off the basketball team for having long hair, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Patrick and Melissa Hayden filed a lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis against Greensburg Junior High, claiming that the team's haircut policy that got their son benched from the team is unconstitutional.

The 14-year-old boy was kicked off the team last fall for failing to comply with team rules that require players' hair to be above their eyebrows, collar and ears, according to the paper.

"What they're trying to do here is teach (their son) a life lesson, which simply is that you fight for what's right," Ron Frazier, the Haydens attorney, told the Indianapolis Star.

The school tells the paper the policy did not violate the boy's rights, saying that participating in extracurricular activities is a privilege, not a right. An attorney for the school says the boy was not denied a right to an education; he just needed to follow a certain policy to play sports.

"It's two different standards. There is no right to engage in extracurricular activities," attorney Tuck Hopkins told the paper.

A similar case was brought before a Missouri federal court in 2003, but the judge dismissed the case, saying the grooming policy did not violate the player's constitutional rights.


Academy (Charter) status for one-in-10 British secondary schools

One-in-10 secondary schools has been converted into an independent academy in the most radical shake-up of state education for decades, it is revealed today.

Under the Coalition Government, the number of schools given new powers to break free of local council control has more than doubled to 407, figures show.

Many of the schools granted academy status are poor-performing comprehensives placed in the hands of third-party sponsors – private companies, fee-paying schools, universities and charities – in an attempt to drive up standards. Firms such as JCB, BT and the Co-operative Group and independent schools such as Sevenoaks in Kent are among organisations now helping to run academies.

Last night, the National Union of Teachers warned that the Government was creating an “unaccountable” system of state education in England. But Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said schools benefited from greater independence, insisting figures showed exam results among academies increased faster than the national average. "The Coalition believes that head teachers and teachers – not politicians and bureaucrats – know best how to run schools,” he said.

Academy status gives individual head teachers almost complete freedom over budgets, the curriculum, hiring staff, term times and the length of school day. Some 203 state secondaries were converted into academies under Labour as part of one of the former Government’s most contentious education reforms.

The proposals are strongly backed by both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats who both pledged to expand the number of academies. In one of the first pieces of legislation passed by the new Coalition, all state school can now apply for academy status. Outstanding schools can be fast-tracked into academies, while local councils are being told to draw up hit-lists of poor performing schools that can be converted under the leadership of a sponsor.

New laws also give primary and special schools the power to become academies for the first time.

According to figures released by the Department for Education, some 204 schools have converted into academies since September. Of those schools now named as academies, 36 are primaries and 371 are secondaries. Academies now account for more than one-in-10 of the 3,127 secondary schools in England. In total, 46 of the new academies have been opened under the leadership of a third-party sponsor, often replacing a struggling comprehensive.

Kunskapsskolan, the profit-making Swedish education firm, has stepped in to run two schools in south-west London, it was disclosed, and JCB is sponsoring a school near its Staffordshire head office. BT is co-running a school in Manchester and construction firms Bovis Lend Lease and Laing O'Rourke are also co-sponsoring an academy in the city.

Some private schools, including Sevenoaks, are also involved in the scheme, helping to appoint senior staff and sharing facilities with the new schools.

The Coalition wants academy status to become the “norm”, eventually paving the way for all 21,000 state schools to break free of council control.

But Christine Blower, NUT general secretary, said academies remained among the minority. “It is quite clear that schools are thinking twice about taking up academy status,” she said. “What we need to see for the benefit of all our children’s future is a democratically accountable education system operating within the local authority not some patchwork unaccountable provision”.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union, said: “This is no cause for celebration. The clear motivation for academy status is that most schools are being duped into believing that they will get extra money at a time when schools and education are facing savage cuts."


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