Saturday, May 03, 2008

A Recent Editorial

. . . in our local paper. See what you think. My comments are below.

In the minds of many, the "zero" in the term Zero Tolerance is clear and unequivocal.

In street vernacular, the concept is expressed thusly: If you do the crime, you gotta do the time.

But recent events involving the discovery of a gun on school grounds in Port Lavaca have others questioning whether a Zero Tolerance policy flies in the face of common sense.

Here are the facts: On Monday, a K-9 unit conducting a routine drill found an unloaded gun in a truck driven by a 16-year-old student at Hope High School in Port Lavaca.

School officials, following strict Zero Toler­ance school policy regarding guns on campus, expelled the student.

On first glance, this appears to be an appropriate use of the school policy of Zero Toler­ance. After all, recent tragedies at schools and universities around the country have made it painfully clear that guns have no place in our educational institutions.

Zero Tolerance proponents argue forcefully that the policy is necessary to prevent future tragedies. The unambiguous nature of this policy, proponents say, is a powerful tool to keep weapons away from our schools.

But there are important mitigating facts about this particular case.

First, all parties agree that the student was unaware that a pistol was in the vehicle.

Second, no one on campus was ever threatened by the weapon.

And, finally, the vehicle the gun was found in was the pickup truck of the student's father, who works for the Calhoun County Sheriff's Department.

We have spoken out many times in this space about school officials' right and respon­sibility to ensure safe campuses. Calhoun County ISD officials acted within the scope of the zero tolerance policy by expelling the student.

But, we maintain, in this particular instance, the "crime" doesn't fit the punishment. We wonder if, in cases where there are clear mit­igating facts, Zero Tolerance does more harm to the student than the good it is designed to do in promoting school safety.

We wonder, in this case, if a rational review of the facts shouldn't lead to the student be­ing reinstated.

We wonder if zero tolerance in this case goes just a bit too far.

My comment: Excuse me!?! You “wonder?”

I wonder too. But what I wonder is: What the HELL are you “wondering” about? At least you had the good sense to put the word “crime” in quotation marks.

Any rational person would be able to see immediately several things:

1. There was no crime committed. Period.
2. Therefore no “punishment” (to the student) was appropriate.

Given the fact and circumstances of the discovery of the gun, the student should have been taken from the school and the incident investigated. Absent any knowledge on her part (the sudent WAS a girl, by the way) of the presence of the gun, or of any intent to do harm (both of which, in my opinion, shouldn’t be too hard to ascertain), then the focus should be placed on the careless father – the irresponsible party in this case.

(Further comment):

This case illustrates a common principle that has been expressed from Biblical times (or before) to today. To paraphrase from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, “the letter (of the law) kills, but the spirit gives life.”

Yeah, I know. In context Paul is talking about the letter of the Old Covenant law, and that the Holy Spirit gives life. But in another context, and often today, we can find laws and rules that are intended for good (the “spirit” of the law), but which, if enforced strictly to their letter with no ifs, ands or buts, end up being (take your pick): stupid, unjust, cruel, harmful, counterproductive, etc., (i.e.: they “kill”).

I’ve got lots of examples. But this post is already way too long, and I don’t usually take a political stance or “preach” on this blog, so I’ll close.

For now.

1 comment:

Karyn Lyndon said...

I hear ya! 0 tolerance is the opposite of the doctrines on which our judicial system is based. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? When did schools become mini-dictatorships?