Childhood is a fanciful time filled with wonder and discovery. At least that’s what it should be. While it is true that childhood is also a time when we teach our young the rules of life, we do so in increments. There is no reason to bring the weight of the world down on a five year old. Contrariwise, it is a time when parents the world over shelter their young and guide them to what, they hope, will be a bright future. But, sadly, there are those who walk among us and breathe our air who think that the only guidance a child should get should come from a prison guard. That the only hope they should engender should be for early release. And, even sadder still, these miscreants have risen to power across our fair land and have enacted “Zero Tolerance” laws designed to – ahem – keep us safe. The nice people over at Stop The New World Order have listed just a few examples the festering madness that is encroaching on our young.
Police state madness – more and more children being arrested for trivial things – things we all got up to as kids:
#1 At one public school down in Texas, a 12-year-old girl named Sarah Bustamantes was recently arrested for spraying herself with perfume.
#2 A 13-year-old student at a school in Albuquerque, New Mexico was recently arrested by police for burping in class.
#3 Another student down in Albuquerque was forced to strip down to his underwear while five adults watched because he had $200 in his pocket. The student was never formally charged with doing anything wrong.
#4 A security guard at one school in California broke the arm of a 16-year-old girl because she left some crumbs on the floor after cleaning up some cake that she had spilled.
#5 One teenage couple down in Houston poured milk on each other during a squabble while they were breaking up. Instead of being sent to see the principal, they were arrested and sent to court.
#6 In early 2010, a 12-year-old girl at a school in Forest Hills, New York was arrested by police and marched out of her school in handcuffs just because she doodled on her desk. “I love my friends Abby and Faith” was what she reportedly scribbled on her desk.
#7 A 6-year-old girl down in Florida was handcuffed and sent to a mental facility after throwing temper tantrums at her elementary school.
#8 One student down in Texas was reportedly arrested by police for throwing paper airplanes in class.
#9 A 17-year-old honor student in North Carolina named Ashley Smithwick accidentally took her father’s lunch with her to school. It contained a small paring knife which he would use to slice up apples. So what happened to this standout student when the school discovered this? The school suspended her for the rest of the year and the police charged her with a misdemeanor.
#10 In Allentown, Pennsylvania a 14-year-old girl was tasered in the groin area by a school security officer even though she had put up her hands in the air to surrender.
#11 Down in Florida, an 11-year-old student was arrested, thrown in jail and charged with a third-degree felony for bringing a plastic butter knife to school.
#12 Back in 2009, an 8-year-old boy in Massachusetts was sent home from school and was forced to undergo a psychological evaluation because he drew a picture of Jesus on the cross.
#13 A police officer in San Mateo, California blasted a 7-year-old special education student in the face with pepper spray because he would not quit climbing on the furniture.
#14 In America today, even 5-year-old children are treated brutally by police. The following is from a recent article that described what happened to one very young student in Stockton, California a while back….
“Earlier this year, a Stockton student was handcuffed with zip ties on his hands and feet, forced to go to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation and was charged with battery on a police officer. That student was 5 years old”.
#15 At one school in Connecticut, a 17-year-old boy was thrown to the floor and tasered five times because he was yelling at a cafeteria worker. (ED NOTE: He was yelling at the cafeteria worker because he wanted the food he was entitled to, just like the other students had gotten)
#16 A teenager in suburban Dallas was forced to take on a part-time job after being ticketed for using foul language in one high school classroom. The original ticket was for $340, but additional fees have raised the total bill to $637.
#17 A few months ago, police were called out when a little girl kissed a little boy during a physical education class at an elementary school down in Florida.
#18 A 6-year-old boy was recently charged with sexual battery for some “inappropriate touching” during a game of tag at one elementary school in the San Francisco area.
#19 In Massachusetts, police were recently sent out to collect an overdue library book from a 5-year-old girl.
It is true that some states are attempting, and failing thus far, to bring common sense to the table. The folks over at Education Forum take a look at the efforts to date.
Several states are reconsidering “zero-tolerance” policies, the draconian regulations affecting many public school children since the 1990s. Even in Colorado, where the 1999 Columbine school shooting catalyzed a huge increase in zero-tolerance legislation nationwide, legislators have been reconsidering the policies. “We tried to add a little common sense,” said Colorado state Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-15th District).
The legislation that Lundberg sponsored added a small exception to Colorado’s zero-tolerance policy on weapons in schools. The policy now allows students to bring facsimile or prop weapons to school if they leave them in their cars.
Earlier this year, Colorado public school student Marie Morrow was expelled because there were three facsimile drill-team rifles in her car while it was parked on campus. After she had missed six days of class, a school hearing officer ruled she could return to school after all. Lundberg’s legislation responded to that incident. “I wasn’t trying to challenge zero-tolerance policies on dangerous weapons,” said Lundberg. “I was trying to define what a dangerous weapon is.” The bill passed unanimously in both houses, but lawmakers resisted efforts to further clarify the definition of a “dangerous weapon.”
In Florida, students have been arrested for bringing a plastic butter knife to school, throwing an eraser, and drawing a picture of a gun. The eleven-year-old who allegedly brought a plastic butter knife to school was handcuffed, taken to jail, and charged with a third-degree felony. Legislation recently passed unanimously by the Florida Senate could change all that by prohibiting schools from calling the police for nonviolent misdemeanors. “Throw an eraser and they want to call it throwing a deadly missile, which is a felony,” said state Sen. Stephen Wise (R-Jacksonville), the senate sponsor of the legislation, which has yet to clear the state house. “When you get into the juvenile justice system everybody thinks your sins are forgiven when you turn 18, and I will assure you that doesn’t happen. It’s a blemish on your record.”
Wise’s bill also attempts to “define and distinguish petty acts of misconduct as opposed to offenses that pose serious threats to school safety,” and requires Florida schools that still allow spanking to bring their corporal punishment policies under public review every three years at a public meeting.
Texas, Rhode Island, and Utah have also attempted to improve their zero-tolerance laws in the past few years. Texas recently passed a bill allowing school officials to consider “mitigating factors” before they punish students under zero-tolerance policies.
Texas’s previous zero-tolerance hall of shame includes the case of 13-year-old Christina Lough, a Houston honor student who was punished in 2003 for bringing a small cutting implement with a two-inch blade to school. Christina’s mother, Sumi Lough, grew up in Korea, where this implement is the standard one that students use to sharpen their pencils, and Mrs. Lough gave it to her daughter for that purpose. School officials forced Christina to attend a special disciplinary school for seven days, and removed her as president of the student council and honor society. The school district’s attorney, Christopher B. Gilbert, explained the district’s rationale: “If we vary from the rules, that’s when the rules fall apart.”
In 2007, Rhode Island passed a bill allowing discretion to school officials in deciding how to punish students who bring weapons to school. Utah made an exception to its zero-tolerance policy on drugs to allow asthmatic students to bring their inhalers with them to school.
Although these actions in states certainly indicate a trend away from zero tolerance, it is unclear whether school districts, which make and enforce their own zero-tolerance policies, will follow the trend. Fred Hink, co-director of Texas Zero Tolerance, said it is very possible that schools will continue to enforce zero-tolerance policies even if or when their state legislatures change state law to allow greater discretion and flexibility. “The prevailing wind among school administrators is that ‘We don’t want to have to think about it. It’s just not feasible to take these things into consideration,'” said Hink. “It’s extremely frustrating.”
When I was a kid I had one of those pencil sharpeners too. My grandfather gave it to me when I was five. I also had a pocket knife. It was clearly understood that said knife was a tool and not a toy and it was to be treated with respect. We won’t even begin to discuss my uncanny ability to turn any scrap of paper into an airplane or my burps that sound as though they were generated in an echo chamber.
If I were a child today I’d need you to come bail me out.
As to Mr. Gilbert, above, I feel safe in saying that he’s a moron. If he’s that slavishly devoted to nonsensical rules then he can be told anything and he’ll go along with it. Tuesday’s pink tutu day! And we know he’ll wear one. After all, it’s a rule, right?
Kind of like that girl who met a French fashion model on the internet.
They’re both in for a world of disappointment.
School Portrait from Michael Berliner
Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG (FOX! Sports) every Friday around 9:10 AM.