Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance

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Bizarre and senseless tyranny can make kids unsettled, the American Psychological Association concludes, after its study of the effects of "zero tolerance" policies in schools that treat, for example, aspirin as punishable as cocaine, or a plastic knife as punishable as a gun. An excerpt from USA Today's account:

There are growing signs that zero-tolerance policies are steering more teens into the juvenile justice system, says Russell Skiba, an Indiana University educational psychologist. "Things that used to be handled by principals land kids in juvenile detention," he says. The report also mentions racial disparities; minorities are expelled more often than whites for comparable offenses.

Principals who want to be flexible "may be caught in a catch-22," says Richard Flanary of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. If school boards set rigid policies, principals who defy them risk losing their jobs. "Then they're bashed in the press for overreacting to kids' misbehavior."

And rightly so. The school boards have the power to end the catch-22; while it shouldn't have taken the conclusions of a bunch of egghead psychologists to show them how stupid and counterproductive such policies can be, I hope it helps toward that end.

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  1. The report also mentions racial disparities; minorities are expelled more often than whites for comparable offenses.

    That’s a blatantly false statement.

    Some [racial] minorities are expelled more often than ‘whites,’ and other racial minorities are expelled considerably less often. I bet you can all guess which are which.

    And notice that the phrasing of the “comparable offenses” sentence is meant to imply unfair treatment, although such treatment hasn’t been demonstrated or documented.

    From USA:
    “There are cases such as the kindergarten boy who hugged two classmates. His teacher reported him for sexual harassment, and he was suspended.”

    We can thank the feminists for that crap.

    Read all about it:
    ‘Racial Disparaties in School Discipline’:
    http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/discipline.htm

  2. Brian, are you trying to say that it might be psychologically unhealthy for a child to spend his formative years surrounded by insanity? What a shocking and controversial notion.

  3. Ah, feminists. Is there any problem in America we didn’t cause?

  4. Ah, feminists. Is there any problem in America we didn’t cause?

    I see a new Chuck Norris-style game!

    Feminists killed the Kennedys.

    Feminists cause global warming.

    Feminists cause obesity.

  5. My kid just got a PRE-SUSPENSION BEHAVIOR NOTIFICATION for giving a kid (his buddy) a Wet Willie on the school bus yesterday. It was a big TOO DO and he lost his lunch recess for two days.

    He is now officially guilty of ASSAULT, BATTERY, & PHYSICAL VIOLENCE. It’s in his permanent record.

    Now I know that getting a Wet Willie will piss somebody off. Maybe even incite a riot or a fist fight. I even know that my son is a handful. He can’t sit still and he screws aroound on the bus when he should be sitting still and talking quietly. But it’s not like he gave some kid a bloody nose and shoved his face in the dirt.

  6. Feminists killed the Kennedys.

    Not true. After all, it was you and me.

  7. Ah, feminists. Is there any problem in America we didn’t cause?

    Well, now that you mention it, there have been a lot of problems ever since that whole let-women-vote thing got rolling.

  8. I think the real problem is that when a school system doesn’t a hard and fast policy for every contingency, they’re open to lawsuits claiming that they should have.

    Brian, are you trying to say that it might be psychologically unhealthy for a child to spend his formative years surrounded by insanity?

    Maybe it’s helps to better prepare kids for the insane environments they’ll have to deal with as adults.

  9. “We can thank the feminists for that crap.”

    By “feminists”, I can assume that you don’t mean “individuals coming from a certain point of view who fight for individual liberty and freedom from coersion/bullying based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation”, but something else, right?

    For example, you couldn’t mean this, could you?:
    http://www.ifeminists.net/index.php
    (or any other example of the interesting work by Wendy McElroy, for example)

    or Rose Wilder (“Give Me Liberty”. ASIN: B0006ASZWE)?
    Is that the “feminism” we should blame?

    A_R would include his namesake on this list, too:
    Ayn Rand. Blame her?

    Lemon Curry?

  10. first president to be elected with women voters? you guessed it warren gamaliel harding. great choice.

  11. first president to be elected with women voters? you guessed it warren gamaliel harding. great choice.

  12. Ah, feminists. Is there any problem in America we didn’t cause?

    I just re-read Dave Sim’s misogynistic rant, Tangent. So I’m prepared to say that, apparently, there is not.

  13. “I see a new Chuck Norris-style game!”

    Chuck Norris is a feminist — he believes a woman can take a roundhouse kick to the head just as well as a man.

  14. This cartoon kind of sums it up.

    Wine Commonsewer — That’s just awful. Typical, though. It’s as if this nation has collectively decided to make childhood a punishable offense. So your kid can’t sit still and screws around on the bus — like every other kid since the dawn of time. The regime of surveillance and control that modern schools embody works by taking stuff like that and pathologizing it: screwing around and doing Three Stooges stuff is now “assault, battery, and physical violence.” Once you pathologize something you can really bring the pain: when ordinary behavior becomes redefined as illness or sociopathy, it is dragged into the domain of medical treatment or legal sanction, and thereby into the machinery of medical and legal administration. I have any number of friends who are just opting out of the school system. I’ve thought about it myself. My son is a sweet, gentle kid who would rather chew his own arm off than do something wrong, but the schools are set up that no normal child can have the slightest idea when something they’re doing might be wrong, and there is absolutely no proportion between behavior and punishment. It’s literally insane. His big crime this year was playing tag, which is now against the rules. No tag! WTF?

  15. This school would be great if it wasn’t for the fucking children.

  16. Phord,

    I am of the opinion that I will never under any condition send my kids to public schools. I don’t understand how anyone does it anymore. I will sell crack and become a male prostitute to pay for a private school if necessary but I will not send my children to those PC jungles. If the private schools are not any better, I don’t know what i will do.

    Do you have to have a labotomy to be a school adminstrator these days? Banning Tag? You can’t even satirize this stuff anymore.

  17. His big crime this year was playing tag, which is now against the rules. No tag! WTF?

    See also: childhood obesity “epidemic”

  18. I don’t think it’s too bad, Wine Commonsewer. Maybe now your kid will learn to keep his fuckin’ hands to himself.

    (how I would have expressed it at such an age)

  19. We have become a nation of jailers. The schools are run by Idiots. It seems that the schools now do everything, except teach.

  20. wc: look on the bright side. this is a learning moment. you can teach your kid that despite the threats from his moron administrators, there’s no such thing as his “permanent record.”

    and thank god for that or i’d really, really be in trouble.

  21. John, we sent our kids to private school for a while. It was no better and may have been worse.

    Shecky, Doubt. 9 years of Keep your hands to yourself hasn’t worked all that well. Jake’s concept of personal space is very Asian. What may work is the week’s restriction from friends, the phone, and the game cube.

    Phord, My boy is a generous kid with a big smile that every kid and every teacher likes. I suspect that’s why he got off lite.

    Sandman, the schools ARE jails, you looked at one lately? I mean beyond the Tobacco Free School signs that is.

  22. John, we sent our kids to private school for a while. It was no better and may have been worse.

    I grew up in private schools, and I agree with you completely. No better and in some ways much worse.

    Shecky, Doubt. 9 years of Keep your hands to yourself hasn’t worked all that well. Jake’s concept of personal space is very Asian. What may work is the week’s restriction from friends, the phone, and the game cube.

    I meant, as a kid, brutal retribution was a good way of dealing with a wet willie. Accompanied by those exact words for emphasis.

    Yeah, I was a pottymouth from about 2nd grade on.

  23. John, we sent our kids to private school for a while. It was no better and may have been worse.

    I can believe it. Sometimes the more affluent parents are the most obnoxious. “He touched my precious kid! He touched him! Playing tag of all things! Somebody could have been hurt! My lawyer will be contacting the school!”

    It’s a little bit like the libertarian dream of a town where all land is private and subject only to contracts rather than public regulation. It sounds great…until you see the list of regulations from the Homeowners Association.

    (Yes, I know, somebody can explain that the HA wouldn’t exist without some regulations. Be that as it may, those kinds of suburbs certainly should give us pause. If people want their neighbors to be regulated then their neighbors will be regulated, either by a politician desperate for votes or a company trying to woo buyers with the alleged pleasing aesthetics promoted and preserved by the rules of the Homeowners Association.)

  24. Ah, {feminists || communists || islamofascists || neocons || Republicans || Democrats || objectivists || homosexuals || the religious right || American imperialism || eurocentrism || immigrants || H&R Server Squirrels}. Is there any problem in America we didn’t cause?

  25. edna, there is no permanent record, but his file moves with him from grade to grade, giving each new teacher a skewed perspective of what to expect. OTOH, that same file cuts my daughter (every teacher’s dream student) extra slack.

    I’m in the same boat as you, good thing there is no permanent record.

  26. Edna,
    No such thing as a “permanent record?”

    Didn’t you get the memo? Everything’s changed since 9/11.

    You have a permanent record and they don’t have to show it to you. They can even deny it exists.

  27. the closest thing i’ve got to a permanent record is an original island pressing of “stand up” by jethro tull, bought in 1969.

    the real “permanent record” is the word-of-mouth in the faculty lounge.

    why is all this making me think of the seinfeld episode where elaine was the “difficult” patient?

  28. Where is the robust libertarian skepticism regarding the results of this study?

    It is not like this is an easier topic/conclusion to support scientifically than something like 2nd hand-smoke dangers or anthropic global warming.

    But sometimes a study agrees with your preconceived bias, so it gets a pass, I guess.

    PS. the study has astounding face validity, and is probably close to correct.

  29. Phord, My boy is a generous kid with a big smile that every kid and every teacher likes. I suspect that’s why he got off lite.

    Wine Commonsewer unfortunately reveals his place at the root of why public schools in the U.S. now suck so very, very hard: because everyone thinks their own kid is a harmless, adorable little imp who couldn’t hurt a fly, and anybody who tries to discipline him is an evil authoritarian who must be fired. The near-criminalization response comes from parents yelling at schools that they’re tired of having their kids take crap off of your perfect little angels. “Oh, but he’s got such a cute, rosebud, mischievous little smile when he’s being a punk-ass bitch to some other little kid!”

    You wouldn’t tolerate Wet Willies from your co-workers; why should your kid’s classmate have to at his “work?”

    If the boy’s such a peach, save us some money, take him out of public school, and spend all day educating him yourself. My theory is, most of the parents who claim their kids are harmless little angels would not be able to spend 6-8 hours per day educating the wee cherubim themselves without going insane.

    Kids are not sweet, innocent li’l darlings. School is like Lord of the Flies in f*cking Garanimals. Ask anybody who’s ever been a teacher.

  30. Zero, Fuck You. You don’t know shit from breakfast and you obviously didn’t read what I wrote.

    What level of idiocy makes a person unable to tell the difference between 5th grade horseplay on the school bus and adult relationships in a work environment?

    BTW, I’m not excusing the kid’s behavior, he’s on restriction for a week, something you would know if you had read my comments. And for the record, nobody at my house yelled at the principal when she called to discuss the problem.

    The boys are friends, they were screwing around on the bus. That’s not being a punk-ass bitch nor does it constitute Assault and Battery. Which was the point of Brian’s post and my comments. Only an insane person would think otherwise. In fact, Jake’s buddy got more detention than he did, because he was screwing around even more than my kid was, Wet Willy notwithstanding.

    And with your venemous, public confession of how you feel about kids I sure as hell hope you aren’t a teacher.

    What’s your problem anyway? The bullies shove your face in a toilet a few times in high school?

  31. There is only one solution to this…a state-of-the-art school bus where the children are held in place by magnets.

  32. What’s a Wet Willy? Is it getting a drink spilled in your lap?

  33. Wine Commonsewer unfortunately reveals his place at the root of why public schools in the U.S. now suck so very, very hard: because everyone thinks their own kid is a harmless, adorable little imp who couldn’t hurt a fly, and anybody who tries to discipline him is an evil authoritarian who must be fired. The near-criminalization response comes from parents yelling at schools that they’re tired of having their kids take crap off of your perfect little angels. etc. etc.

    On the contrary, no-one knows a child’s shortcomings like his parent. A halfway decent parent will not make excuses for bad behavior, but will try to teach their kids the proper way to treat others. You’re right that some parents refuse to face up to their children’s bad behavior, and certainly their own lack of responsibility rubs off on the kids. I know, cuz I’m a teacher and I see it all the time. But this is a matter is individual morality, isn’t it? Some people take responsibility and some don’t. To say “that’s what all kids/parents are like” is to deny the role individuals have in making their own decisions, good and bad, and to resort to the kind of lazy categorical thinking that libertarians rightly mock when it comes from the doctrinaire Left and Right.

    By the way, we’re talking about kids here, not miniature adults, and treating kids as small, defective versions of adults is a lot closer to the “root of why public schools in the U.S. now suck so very, very hard” than a parent protecting his kid from a brutal, stupid educational apparatus. An elementary school is not “work” like you and I experience it, and it is absurd to claim that there is some sort of equivalent standard for children’s and adult behavior. (When’s the last time you saw a lawyer carry her papers in a Hello Kitty backpack?)

    I’ll say it again: we are treating childhood like a punishable offence. When I was a kid if you screwed up too much you’d get strapped across the palm of the hand — which hurts like a motherfucker — but at the same time there was a lot more latitude for dealing with smaller offences. This makes sense, because kids are still kids, and you can teach them all you want but they’ll still do dumb things, and you need a bit of wiggle room in the system to account for that. “Zero tolerance” is stupid and cruel because it doesn’t respect that principle, and so it doesn’t respect kids. It envisions them in the same way zeroentitlement does, as nasty little homunculi that ideally would just go away but, failing that, can be ground slowly into paste and molded into replicas of our own impressive selves.

    “Why is it that we are all born originals and die copies”? I don’t know who said that.

  34. Wet Willie is a great blues band

  35. Yeah, zeroentitlement, what the fuck? Just exactly what trauma from your past explains that little tirade? Are you a disgruntled former hall monitor? A teacher’s pet who no longer receives adeqauate petting? A jackass?

    “You wouldn’t tolerate Wet Willies from your co-workers; why should your kid’s classmate have to at his “work?””

    I feel the same way about recess. I don’t get any, so those damn self-entitled little shits in the 3rd grade shouldn’t either. They should be filing memos and going on business trips, the freeloading non-producers.
    Oh, yeah, I forgot – they’re kids, you douchebag.

  36. Jennifer and the feminists really must move over and let the public school teachers accept the blame. Don’t worry, we’re used to it. Nearly every social problem ever recognized has been laid at our doorstep at one time or another.

    Actually, however, much of the blame for crazy rules for students belongs with two other groups: insurance companies and lawyers. If you follow the trail backward, most of the nightmare restrictions can be traced to suits that scare the pants off of school board members and administrators (the one mental image that allows me to continue laughing at school these days). Most educators are apalled by the rediculous rules we often must abide by, but we ignore them at the peril of our careers (you know, those high paid jobs that all of the brightest and most capable college graduates are lining up for these days).

    A “safety” inspector funded by the insurance company has cost us our log fort (preservatives in the wood), our thirty-year-old slide (too tall and fast), our Stride-n-Glide (a cool toy that allowed several students to swing around a pole together but sometimes resulted in bumped heads), our teeter-tottors (too DANGEROUS), playing catch with hardballs (same), and too many other activities to list. We have managed to keep a few things that have been banned elsewhere, even if we do catch heck whenever anyone is injured: tag, touch football, running (yes it has been banned in at least one school), and (dare I say it) dodgeball!

    After thirty years in the profession, it is still tiresome to hear some folks try to tear down public schools, and public school teachers in particular. All of the teachers I know do the very best that they can for all the students they are able to reach given the circumstances. The public schools did a pretty fair job for my boys (a geologist and an engineer), and for most of the students that I’ve taught. Two of my former students now teach with me in the same K-8 school they attended years ago. I dare say that most of the posters here attended public schools, too, although I can’t be certain. Really rotten, aren’t we?

  37. ….given the circumstances.

    Need I say more?

  38. Response to rm2muv:

    Why is it that every discussion about schools ends up with at least one public school teacher whining about how hard they work, how little they get paid, how little they are respected…and the inevitable comment about lawyers?

    If you are all dissatisfied with your lot in life, if you believe that school board members are all blathering idiots, etc., why do you not do what lawyers do: Form your own firms, or in your case, private schools. You could then establish your own curriculum, set your own rules, make your own decisions, keep all the profits for yourselves, and prove to the world just how brilliant and wonderful you really are.

    Of course, that might require working more than ten months per year, taking risks, putting your personal credit on the line, and encountering the hazards that any other business owner encounters. It also means walking away from statutory tenure (which no lawyer or insurance agent has), statutory pensions, mandatory ten sick days per year, statutorily guaranteed holidays, and a statutory pension — not to mention what in New Jersey is statutorily-mandated paid leave to attend the annual teachers union convention in Atlantic City, all at the taxpayers’ ever-increasing expense. However, being the hard working, dedicated and caring professionals you all perpetually claim to be, that should be a minor sacrifice.

    But I suppose that I am doing nothing more than implicitly supporting school choice, which you and your fellow caring professionals will have nothing to do with. Hey, if your local lawyer could statutorily mandate that everybody in town use his services every year for thirteen straight years whether they wanted to or not, he wouldn’t surrender that monopoly either.

    And no, this is not a reaction to some imaginary childhood slight. It is a reaction to my latest property tax bill.

  39. Ah, feminists. Is there any problem in America we didn’t cause?
    A rather inane response, therefore not unexpected.
    http://www.now.org/issues/harass/

    Actually, however, much of the blame for crazy rules for students belongs with two other groups: insurance companies and lawyers.
    Good point, but go one step further up the food chain – an out of control civil/tort legal system.

    I dare say that most of the posters here attended public schools, too, although I can’t be certain. Really rotten, aren’t we?
    As far as results with students are concerned (education, behavior, etc.) there really aren’t any measurable and statistically significant differences between public and private schools.
    But nowadays it’s popular ‘n’ P.C. to blame “failing schools” when then blame actually lies with the students and parents.

  40. Kids are not sweet, innocent li’l darlings. School is like Lord of the Flies in f*cking Garanimals. Ask anybody who’s ever been a teacher.

    Or ask me, someone who was at the dead bottom of the Adolescent Food Chain. I’m 31-years-old and I still have nightmares about the 4-years of utter Hell that was High School, and the physical and mental abuse I was put through while the teachers and administrators looked the other way. (“We’re educators, not security guards,” my principal told my concerned parents during one meeting on the situation.)

  41. I still have nightmares about the 4-years of utter Hell that was High School, and the physical and mental abuse I was put through while the teachers and administrators looked the other way

    That is horrifying man. And anyone who went to high school knows it happened. Most of us escaped with just a few altercations but there were always a few kids who were tortured by the jocks, or the cool kids, or the low riders, or everybody while the school administrators did little to resolve the problem. Often the kids were too scared to even complain to officialdom.

    A year or two ago a Jewish kid in NYC schools finally had enough and lashed out at his tormentors. The administration reacted to this by expelling the victim.

    Mrs TWC has done some studies of school violence and has discovered that the smaller the high school the less violence. Not a surprise I suppose because in a small school everybody knows who you are.

  42. rm2muv, if your kids go to a middle class or upper middle class school, public schools do a decent job of educating most kids. The failures come in the bad part of town and the contrasts are striking when you compare parhochial schools to public schools in areas like South Central LA where the schools draw from the exact same demographic slice of the pie.

    The other objection some of us have to public education is the indoctrination factor. Good public schools do a good job of indoctrinating kids in left-of-center ideology.

  43. “schools do a good job of indoctrinating kids in left-of-center ideology.”

    Left of center?
    Go back to the main page…
    https://www.reason.com/hitandrun/2006/08/only_turks_doub.shtml#comments

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