Saturday, April 05, 2014

Zero Tolerance Hurts Kids and Ruins Schools

We need common sense in our schools, not mindless bureaucratic compliance

Virginia Beach sixth-grader Adrionna Harris took a razor away from a troubled student who was cutting himself and threw it in the trash. When school administrators found out, they gave her a certificate of merit for helping a classmate.

Ha, ha! Of course they didn’t. They gave her a 10-day suspension, with a recommendation that she be expelled. For three or four seconds there, she was in possession of a dangerous object in violation of the school’s zero-tolerance policies.

The only reason administrators found out about the incident was that Adrionna volunteered the information. And the only reason she threw the razor away instead of turning it in was because she didn’t want to violate school policy. As she told WAVY-TV, she didn’t want to "hold it in my hand long enough for it to, like, become an issue. The trash can was right there."

School officials eventually backed down—after getting slammed by bad publicity—and the young lady returned to school a few days ago. Administrators reportedly are tired of taking heat from the public, the poor dears. (Why do bad things always happen to them?)

Nathan Entingh wasn’t so lucky. The 10-year-old who pointed his finger and said "bang" was suspended for what the Einsteins of the Columbus, Ohio, school system considered a "level 2 look-alike firearm." After agonizing over that decision for weeks, officials decided that, on reflection, they had been right all along. They upheld the suspension.

Entingh got off lucky compared with Jordan Wiser, who spent 13 days in jail on a felony charge because he drove onto school property with a pocketknife in the trunk of his car. Then there’s Taylor Trostle, a middle-schooler suspended for pointing her finger and saying, "pew, pew." And Andrew Mikel, a Spotsylvania, Virginia, 14-year-old expelled and charged with assault for blowing pellets through a plastic pen tube. And 7-year-old Josh Welch, of the infamous Pop-Tart gun. And too many other cases to list.

Zero-tolerance policies have been around for a couple of decades. They were launched by the 1994 Gun-Free Schools Act, which required expulsion for bringing a firearm to school. But like diaper rash, they did not remain confined to one area. Soon kids were landing in hot water for bringing to school such deadly objects as a butter knife (King William, Va.) and nail clippers (Escambia, Fla.). They have gotten in trouble for engaging in such threatening behavior as drawing an Army man (Ouachita Parish, La.) and playing cops and robbers (Sayreville, N.J., and elsewhere). And for taking or handing out birth control (Fairfax, Va.), Midol (Pierce County, Wash.), Alka-Seltzer (too many places to name), and even Certs breath mints (Manassas, Va.).

Such stories invariably elicit outrage, and from time to time a district here or there will rethink zero-tolerance policies, or claim to. "Rethinking Zero Tolerance: A Few Schools Are Inching Away from One-Strike Policies," reported Newsweek back in 2001. A decade later, The Washington Post reported "More Schools Rethinking Zero-Tolerance Discipline Stand."

They must not be the fastest thinkers. In January 2013, a 5-year-old girl was kicked out of kindergarten for "threatening" to “shoot” classmates with a Hello Kitty soap-bubble gun. But don’t worry—this January, The New York Times confidently informed readers that "schools across the country are rethinking 'zero tolerance' discipline policies."

If your brain has more electrical activity than a bowl of lukewarm Jell-O, then you know why zero-tolerance policies are stupid. First, they ignore blatantly obvious distinctions. Gnawing a Pop-Tart into the rough silhouette of a gun does not turn it into a firearm. Breath mints are not a Schedule I narcotic. Fingers don’t fire projectiles.

Second, zero-tolerance policies don’t prevent the incidents they are designed to prevent. Deeply disturbed individuals who commit school massacres—the Dylan Klebolds and Adam Lanzas of the world—are not deterred by rules, and they do not commit mayhem with soap bubbles. So a rule that bans soap-bubble guns in school has zero effect on school violence.

School officials will reply that they have to apply school policies consistently: A knife is a knife, and knives are weapons, even when they are used to spread butter. Nonsense. By that logic everyone on the wrestling team should be suspended for fighting, and a student who sketches a rifle should be punished for "drawing a gun" (which has actually happened more than once).

It’s great that a school district here and there has second thoughts about first-strike policies. But that doesn’t solve the broader problem, which is rooted in a bureaucratic compliance mentality. Just ask Chaz Seale, a Texas 17-year-old who accidentally shoved a Coors into his brown-bag lunch instead of a soda. When he realized his mistake he gave the unopened beer to a teacher. The teacher told the principal, and the principal suspended Seale for three days and sentenced him to two months at an alternative school.

Like Adrionna Harris and countless others, Seale has learned two things from zero-tolerance policies: No good deed goes unpunished. And—as comedian Ron White likes to say—you can’t fix stupid.


Fla. 5-Year-Old Told ‘It’s Not Good’ To Pray By School Employee

A 5-year-old bows her head at lunch to say Grace before she eats may be considered cute and heartwarming by some.

That was not the case for a student in Florida.

The young girl was told by a school lunchroom supervisor that her actions were wrong.

The girl’s father, Marcos Perez, is outraged to the point where he is considering homeschooling his child. Today, the Liberty Institute sent a letter to the school administrators demanding they stop allowing religious discrimination, which is in violation of not only state, but federal law. The school denies the incident.

Jeremy Dys, of the Liberty Institute, on behalf of his clients has been speaking out against the school’s actions dismissing saying Grace in school.

Dys came on the Mike Pintek show to tell his client’s story and how they got involved with this case.

“I saw it probably like a lot of you did, I saw it on Facebook. And thankfully, I was able to get a hold of Marcos and say, ‘Hey, how can we help you? We want to stand beside young women like this that who are trying to do what their parents have taught them to do and have every right to do under the First Amendment. We want to come beside them unlike the teacher supervisor here and encourage their religious liberty.” Dys said.

The Liberty Institute is a national non-profit legal group that defends and restores religious liberty across the country. The Perez family is citing this offense as a reason for removal from the public school system; they feel not allowing her to say Grace was an attack on her religious liberty.

In a press release sent out by the Liberty Institute, Mr. Perez is quoted saying:

“Mainly because of this incident, we have exercised our option as parents to teach our daughter at home. We live in a very good school district, but we cannot, in good conscience, send our daughter to a school where her religious liberty has been compromised.” Perez said.

Dys wants the school to be held responsible for the oppressive actions of the cafeteria monitor and protect this from possibly happening to other children.

“We have sent a letter this morning to the school board here in Florida asking them to take immediate action and apologize to the community for what has gone on at this school and to reassure the community here, and the Perez family in particular, that this kind of thing will not happen again,” Dys said.

The school has denied the incident occurring, which brings up the questions who is lying here? Dys says he doesn’t want to call anyone a liar, but doesn’t believe that this little girl could make up this story.

“This is a 5-year-old girl, who is not having a bone to pick with anybody. She simply was asked by her daddy, by the way was asked multiple times leading up to that video what had happened, and the story checks out at every single point along the way,” Dys said.


Children at British secondary school 'infiltrated by Muslim extremists' listened to assembly praising Al-Qaeda leader, say teachers

A secondary school in Birmingham has been accused of praising senior Al-Qaeda figure Anwar al-Awlaki during assemblies.

Two members of staff at Park View Academy claimed a senior colleague had endorsed the teachings of the now dead American-born leader of Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula, and that a viewpoint politically sympathetic to the terrorist group had been promoted in an assembly.

The Department of Education confirmed that several schools in the area - thought to include Park View - are under investigation amid claims hard-line Muslims are trying to indoctrinate pupils.

Park View Academy denies the allegations, which were made by anonymous members of staff who were speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme

The two anonymous members of Park View staff reportedly insisted there was truth in the allegations that hardline Muslims had infiltrated the school.

They added that non-Muslim members of staff were being isolated, male and female pupils were being segregated, and that nepotism was apparent in the hiring of new recruits.

Allegations of radical Islamist infiltration of several schools in Birmingham, apparently including Park View, first came to light last month when a letter referring to a 'Trojan Horse' plot was sent to the local council, then leaked to the media.

The source and authenticity of the letter remains unclear, but it has led to the Department of Education investigating financial records and interviewing staff members at 'more than 12 schools' in the area.

Education Secretary Michael Gove is believed to have taken a personal interest in the investigation, which includes both faith schools and secular establishments.

Claims that Park View Academy employed members of staff sympathetic to Al-Qaeda were raised during the first visit by a journalist to the school since the 'Trojan Horse' allegations were made.

During an interview Tahir Alam, chair of governors at the school, insisted on accompanying reporter Sima Kotecha at all times, and restricted her access to other members of staff.

Speaking of the leaked letter and addressing claims he is the 'ringleader' of the hardline Muslim takeover of the school, Mr Alam said: 'You can go round the school, you can have a look at the school, and you will find there is no evidence for these things whatsoever.

'So whatever practices that the school is observing, they are actually voluntary. None of them are prescribed - they are purely optional,' he added.

Mr Alam - who has been a governor at Park View for 17 years and was also a pupil at the school, went on to say: 'I believe it is a witch hunt based on all sorts of false allegations which have been repeated over many weeks.

'I also believe it is motivated by anti-Muslim, anti-Islam sentiment that is also sort of feeding this frenzy,' he added.

The Islamic call to prayer is said to be played in corridors at the self-described 'multi-faith school', which is predominantly staffed by Muslims of Pakistani parentage.

The majority of governers at the school are said to be followers of the Wahhabi movement - an ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam, according to Birmingham's Labour MP Khalid Mahmood.

Mr Mahmood, who chairs the Tackling Terrorism All-Party Parliamentary Group and has long been a vocal critic of Park View Academy, said: 'The majority of kids are Sunni mainstream Muslims. It is an attempt at indoctrination.

'These are state schools, not Islamic. I am very concerned at the way non-Muslim staff have been dealt with and the effect on the children,' he added.

He suggested that education officials had previously steered clear of getting involved in disputes with Muslim schools for fear of being dubbed racist.

'Council officers were in a difficult position where they either went along with it or were portrayed as anti-Islamic,' Mr Mahmood said.


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