Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Update - haven't we had enough of this?

More dialog on the 10-year-old girl arrested for using a steak knife on her lunch. I've corresponded with a group of friends on this topic and here's what's been said recently:
December 19


100 incidents is a lot to research and a lot to read. But is the number significant? 100 by itself means little. You'd have to know if this represents 1%, 10%, or 90% of the times a student was caught on campus with a 'weapon' before you could say 100 is meaningful.

YMCA, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, I would think , being private organizations, would not be under the same proscriptions as a public entity, and could more easily disregard an absolute policy. So that comparison may not be fair.

That it 'seems' to happen more in the schools can be explained by the lack of discretion that those in authority may perceive that they have. IOW, their hands may be tied. For some that is a frustration. For others a relief.

December 19


» IOW, their hands may be tied. For some that is a frustration. For others a relief. «

Ooooo! Good one! You have a future in the punditocracy, methinks.

As to the research, the 100 incidents chronicled on my site represent a fraction (not sure of the size of the fraction) of the total stories during that time. I focused on stories involving zero tolerance in the schools, but I didn't see every one. I only saw those that made national news, so there is an additional filter in place to the one you mention; i.e., the actual number of incidents vs. the number that were reported in the news.

One could just as well apply the same filter to reports of DEA agents breaking down the wrong door or incidents of racially motivated police harassment. What does it mean when those incidents are reported in the news? Sometimes it's enough to set off firings, police dept. investigations, protests, etc. Are those sorts of reactions justified or appropriate based on the total number of incidents? It's immaterial, really; the outcry and the reaction is still there, appropriate or not.

As far as zero tolerance policies go, the more reports there are of such things the better, as far as I'm concerned. Those reports may lead to a greater acceptance of school choice, vouchers, alternative schools, etc.

Steve Erbach
December 19

Dear Steve,

While I share certain sympathies with your position on this matter, lemme ask you this: Had this girl stabbed another girl with that "weapon", would you still maintain your position? Or, would you have asked "where were the responsible adults in this situation?" That's a rhetorical question.

Re: "I keep finding and reacting to these things"...yep! "Reacting" is the key reason that these laws, regulations and law enforcement is involved. Given the climate of the times (Columbine and it's clones), most responsible people wouldn't have it any other way.

You must have led a sheltered life...I entered a public high school almost fifty years ago (in rural Sauk County, Wisconsin): Here are merely some of the reasons you could be (and were) arrested for:

- Possession of any firearm, any knife with a blade greater than four inches (including steak knives), razor blades, slingshots, zip guns, clubs, ice picks, brass knuckles, steel-toed boots, fireworks, ammunition, etc.

- Possession of drugs, whether legally-prescribed or illegal, condoms, any tobacco product, liquor, pornography (including Playboy magazine), stolen property (including overdue library books), suggestive lingerie, etc.

-Truancy, assault (including verbal), battery, inappropriate sexual contact, etc.

You could be suspended or even expelled for:

- Fighting, wearing jeans or leather jackets, wearing suggestive clothing (girls were not allowed to wear pants of any kind...except in winter), wearing shorts, drunkenness or inappropriate / disruptive behavior (including cursing), smoking, pregnancy and a whole host of other offenses.

Most of these same rules are applied today here in, Monroe County, Florida where I live. What part of "zero tolerance" don't you understand?

Dickford Cohn
December 26


Sorry about not replying earlier on this one. Came down with a cold on the 20th, was out of town from the 21st to the 23rd, then Christmas and all. Not much time spent at the confuser.

The "responsible adult" thing was aimed directly at the school personnel that called the cops and the cops themselves who hauled this girl downtown. As you know, when laws are broken the cops have some latitude. When you're stopped for speeding there's a whole range of things that can happen: verbal warning, written warning, ticket, or haul your ass downtown.

What is unbelievable in this situation is that the ONLY response possible was that this girl had to be arrested and taken from the school. My ire isn't directed at the rules banning knives and guns, fer cry yi! It's the completely pig-headed and blundering policy to follow through with the inappropriate response.

Asking what my "reaction" would have been if that girl had stabbed someone is silly. Of course I would have been horrified. But the fact that the rule against knives did not, in fact, prevent a knife from physically being brought into the school in a paper sack illustrates the only role that law enforcement has in these situations: cleaning up the mess (if there is one). The teachers and administrators could tell immediately that this girl wasn't going to carve anybody up. So the follow-through involving the arrest of this girl served what purpose? To make everyone feel good about the rules?

I don't object to the rules. No knives, fine. No guns, fine. But laws are written with intent in mind, too. Why treat a 10-year-old who completely unwittingly and innocently brings a knife to school with her lunch the same as someone who brandishes that knife in a threatening manner? I object to the completely our-hands-are-tied reactions.

Steve Erbach
December 26


Sorry to hear about your apologies are necessary for the rest.

RE: When laws are broken the cops have some latitude.

Normally, you'd be right...but not when a "zero tolerance" policy is in effect. Apparently, that policy is what you don't understand. Using your very own "stopped for speeding" example...let me elucidate:

Where I currently live, the cops enforce a zero tolerance policy with regard to speeds in school and construction zones. Go 16mph in a 15mph school WILL be stopped. Absent any other charges...or aggravation, your fine and costs will exceed $ exceptions...for exceeding the limit by one mile-per-hour.

I am not disagreeing one whit with your disgust over this whole situation. I am merely pointing out that this is where OUR society IS at this point...and that all of the "authorities" involved did precisely what WE REQUIRE them to do. Apparently, we do not trust any "latitude" that they may have employed.

This is akin to "mandatory sentencing guidelines"...which remove ANY "judgement" from judges.

Dickford Cohn

December 26


Well, so, like, um ... you're agreeing with me by feigning disagreement and being tiresome?

Oh, I get it! You're using the old cross-examination trick of feigning disagreement and being tiresome to wear down the witness! Ho, ho! You have to get up pretty early in the morning to pull the hairy covering of a cloneable mammal over MY aging peepers, old son!

Steve Erbach

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