Crime

Maybe Next Time He'll Think Twice Before Recycling

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Tony Richard, a 17-year-old senior at Blaine High School in Blaine, Minnesota, works 20 hours a week at a local grocery store, where he uses a retractable razor blade to break down boxes for recycling. One day after work, he tossed the box cutter into his car, which he later drove to school. Anyone familiar with "zero tolerance" insanity can already guess where this story is heading: Richard was suspended from school, and may be expelled, for bringing a "weapon" onto campus. School officials say their hands were tied:

The policy flatly says any student found in violation will be immediately suspended, and expulsion proceedings will be launched automatically.

Tony has spent his entire high school career at Blaine, and the sum total of his behavioral mishaps until now were three marks for being tardy. That had no bearing on the school's decision to banish him.

The staff at Blaine High, Schwartz explained, has no leeway in such matters once a weapon is found on school property. These cases are referred directly to the school board regardless of circumstances.

[Thanks to Mark Lambert for the tip.]

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  1. I wish it was that easy to get expelled when I went to school.

  2. no leeway in such matters once a weapon is found on school property

    Unless you are the star football player and the big game is coming up.

  3. Zero tolerance – when the risk of making a decision that could be deemed unfair is too much to handle. What could go wrong when blindly applying a policy regardless of what happened?

  4. School officials say their hands were tied

    Which is exactly why you need someone with a box cutter.

    Don’t MAKE me come up there, people.

  5. I suppose that there’s the fear of some kind of school shooting or stabbing, and the victim sues the school district. The plaintiff’s lawyer asks indignantly of the principal, “you mean to tell me you didn’t enforce your weapons policy against someone who brought a 9/11-style boxcutter to school premises?” Even if the box-cutter guy is different than the ultimate shooter, this could be seen as evidence as a lax attitude toward security, for which the jury will be invited to punish the distrit or its officials. I don’t know if Minnesota law would allow this, but maybe they’re taking no chances.

  6. I’m guessing the entire baseball team will be kicked out next time they take batting practice.

  7. This almost happened to me when I was a senior in high school. My dad borrowed my car, his pocketknife fell out onto the seat and I went to school not knowing it. The only thing preventing me from getting expelled was the fact that I had a clean record, was already admitted to a really good school (so it would look terrible in the press) and had a lot of administration people backing me. Despite this, I was basically sworn to silence (which didn’t work) so that they could maintain the lie of zero tolerance.

  8. Can’t people sue the school over zero-tolerance punishment as being cruel and unusual in cases like this? Just a thought.

  9. Our hands are tied … by us … which we did on purpose years ago so we wouldn’t have to think.

    Now give us our paychecks, you know, for using our skills and judgment to run the schools.

  10. Hmm. Back when I was a youth taking commercial art in high school, they would hand out all kind of razor-bladey goodness like Xactos and box-cutters. They gonna throw the entire art department under the bus, too? Or did we lose art to budget cuts already?

  11. The plaintiff’s lawyer asks indignantly of the principal, “you mean to tell me you didn’t enforce your weapons policy against someone who brought a 9/11-style boxcutter to school premises?”

    And the answer would be “No, we didn’t. He had no history of behavior problems, we confirmed that the boxcutter was from his job, and he never brought the boxcutter into the school, but left it in his car. Why should we have kicked him out? Now, if he had brought a gun onto the campus, like the perpetrators you are so exercised about, that would be different, so we would have treated it different.”

    Really, would that be so hard?

  12. This almost happened to me when I was a senior in high school. My dad borrowed my car, his pocketknife fell out onto the seat and I went to school not knowing it.

    Hell, when I was in high school, the parking lot was full of pickups with gun racks sporting a variety of firearms, and half the boys carried pocketknives. Yet there was not a single shooting or stabbing. Go figure.

  13. As a person who drove to high school in a ’64 Chevy pick-up with a .22 and a .410 in the gun rack, I’m getting a kick out of these comments.

  14. School officials say their hands were tied

    Well there’s a thought

  15. “Hell, when I was in high school, the parking lot was full of pickups with gun racks sporting a variety of firearms, and half the boys carried pocketknives. Yet there was not a single shooting or stabbing.”

    With those odds, who would try?

  16. School officials say their hands were tied:

    Eichmann defense. Bureaucratic birds of a fether.

  17. R. C. Dean,

    It would be a dumb legal theory, but dumb theories are what courts exist to make up. With broad principles of liability, the grieving parents of a dead teenager sitting in the courtroom with tear-moistened eyes, and a defendant with deep pockets (or insurance), can you *guarantee* the school would win?

  18. I’m guessing the entire baseball team will be kicked out next time they take batting practice.

    Beat me to it. Hell, with the right shoes, a high school student could probably kick a guy’s head in pretty good. They should make everyone wear slippers to school.

    School officials say their hands were tied

    I believe rope can be potentially used as a weapon, so whoever tied their hands should be fired/expelled.

  19. I do wonder how people in the school mail room open boxes. Crates of new textbooks must be covered in teethmarks.

  20. I do wonder how people in the school mail room open boxes. Crates of new textbooks must be covered in teethmarks.

    Keys. When I don’t have a box-cutter or a knife or a letter opener I use my car keys.

    Would a letter opener be considered a weapon too?

    I bet that the principals and any vice principle and deans and a few administrative assistants all have letter openers. Those things are as dangerous as a prison shank.

  21. *Sighs, bangs head on desk*

  22. Does this high school have scissors on the premises?

    Idiotic.

  23. School officials say their hands were tied

    Which is exactly why you need someone with a box cutter.

    Well played, joe!

  24. While 0-tol is definitely insane, this kid should have known better than to leave the box cutter in his car when he knew he was going to be parking at school. My high school had a similar policy and on my first day there the principal explained it using an example almost identical to this, saying you’d probably get expelled regardless.

    Stupid policy? Yep.
    Stupid kid? Also yep. (and I can’t muster up much sympathy for a high school kid who’s able to drive to school)

  25. I blame the people who wrote the policy. Oh for the simpler yesteryear, when I got suspended for skipping (in the hallway).

  26. Let’s see:

    Policy: Weapon found, leads to automatic suspension.

    Okay. Boxcutter found…you are suspended for this class period while you return the boxcutter to your house.

    Policy: Anyone suspended for weapon found has expulsion hearing.

    Hearing: Oh, I see you had a boxcutter from work, and were asked to return it home. You complied and have no complaints against you. No need for expulsion

    Now in this case, the mandatory suspension is overly aggressive (10 days), but the principle is the same.

    Talk to me when the kid is expelled for this incident.

  27. Would a letter opener be considered a weapon too?

    You must not know about Herbert Korfeld and the Letter Opener of Death.

  28. Of course, as has been pointed out above, the real problem is defining a boxcutter as a weapon.

    Common items that are dangerous are not weapons until they are brandished as such.

    The policy should reflect this by avoiding banning things that are only “potentially weapons” since so many things count as weapons.

  29. Good grief. If you’re so afraid of losing a lawsuit that you think only way to avoid civil liability is to enact a no-tolerance policy, then you really have two choices. (1) get a better lawyer, or (2) find a different line of work, like quilting, or tea-warming.

    What are we paying these people for?

    I read recently where “teaching” ranked as the #1 most stressful job in America. That’s right. The job with no decision making responsibilty and hand-me-down curriculum, where you don’t need to know how to do anything but read off whatever’s in the teacher’s guide…. #1. I believe that if the ranking is based on self-reporting. Nobody bitches and moans like teachers. You’d think they were performing open heart surgery while defusing bombs and directing air traffic.

    On a separate note, it’s nice to be back. I miss reason.

  30. That’s right. The job with no decision making responsibilty and hand-me-down curriculum, where you don’t need to know how to do anything but read off whatever’s in the teacher’s guide…. #1.

    Clearly you have never been a teacher.

    But on the topic of this post…zero tolerance policies are designed to provide procedural protections for both staff and students. As such they need to be well designed or they lead to the ridiculous cases that we see in posts like this.

    Procedural protections, however, are a good thing in schools as they avoid a bigger problem in terms of enforcement in schools…and that is the administration who capriciously punishes based on the whims of the teacher or principal.

    Finding the right balance, of course, is the trick.

  31. Nobody bitches and moans like teachers.

    Hear, hear. I know a lot of teachers. They almost all teach band, and you’d think they had the hardest job in the world from the amount they bitch. Oh noes, they have to deal with chillrun! I get to deal with whatever warm body passes a drug test and will work in a factory for $10 an hour. I’ll trade my workers for suburban band geeks any day of the year in terms of headaches.

  32. Fucking idiots. It’s a miracle kids even know how tie their shoes by the time they graduate. What? They all wear velcro now? Shit…

  33. He didn’t bring a weapon to school, he brought a tool to school. There are several items in my car that are potentially lethal if misused, such as the wrench/tire iron that serves as the lever to operate my jack to change a tire. I’m sure that it’s a hell of a lot more dangerous than a box cutter.

    “Zero tolerance” means “zero common sense.” If you ever hear anyone advocate it, slap them hard.

    -jcr

  34. Can’t people sue the school over zero-tolerance punishment as being cruel and unusual in cases like this?

    Regrettably, it’s no longer “unusual”. I think if I were in this kid’s shoes, I might try suing on a defamation theory, ie: by claiming that the box cutter is a weapon instead of the common tool that it obviously is, the administration is wrongly impugning the motives of the kid.

    -jcr

  35. So what do people think about a zero tolerance against violence policy at school?

    Really the weapon here is being used as a pre-emptive strike against the real issue.

    No?

  36. Are they searching all student cars these days?

  37. Zero tolerance policies are almost always dumb.
    As someone who got into great colleges, was almost never in trouble, and got strong grades, I would have been in trouble three times.

    I was sent to the principal once, for being attacked by a kid (who was expelled) for fighting. So was the person who pulled him off me, although we both ended up with nothing but a talking to.

    A friend and I were fooling around after school, but a teacher thought we were fighting so we were sent to the principal, again nothing happened because they listened to our side of the story (it wasn’t bad enough for even a detention, never mind suspension).

    I once got in a real fight. I didn’t throw the first punch, but nor was I completely just attacked as in the first case: it escalated from a verbal argument which they started, but I did my part in responding to them in return (about a girl I was currently dating, who they had previously dated. Dumb, I know). In some schools that would result in suspension, because the fight was big enough for a crowd. I just had to miss a class and spend two hours in detention planting trees. The other person was suspended for a week, but he apologized and we were friendly for the rest of school, and he also went to a good college. If he had been expelled, even though it was dumb, that might have ruined him a great deal.

    Also, Joe’s response won.

  38. Do kids have no sense of civil disobediance anymore? If this had happened in my high school (not so many years ago in a nearby Minnesota suburb), we would have organized a protest where a long line of kids would walk into the principal’s office and set a box cutter down on his desk to make a point.

  39. I would have “no leeway” when I took the blade out and sliced all the motherfuckers’ throats.

  40. The plaintiff’s lawyer asks indignantly of the principal, “you mean to tell me you didn’t enforce your weapons policy against someone who brought a 9/11-style boxcutter to school premises?”

    I think we’re all overlooking the real scandal, that this guy was allowed to drive onto school property with a Mohammed Taheri-azar-style automobile, fer chrissakes, which he could have used to run down scores of teachers and students.

  41. Whenever someone suggests zero-tolerance for anything, I always reply in the affirmative: “Absolutely! I can’t understand why everybody forgets that Jesus preached zero-tolerance.”

    Shuts ’em up every time.

  42. “””Really, would that be so hard?”””

    Doesn’t sound that hard to me either. But the school begs to differ. Maybe becuase the don’t want to be seen arguing for someone bringing a box cutter to school. It’s all about looking tough on crime.

    For many, looking tough on an issue is more important than honesty, and a rational assessment of a situation.

  43. The recently deceased USC law professor Charlie Whitebread taught the bar review class in criminal law that I took. One of his many memorable observations was “The designers of the test will try to trick you, so don’t be taken in. You may wonder, ‘Is a lamp really a deadly weapon?’ It killed the guy didn’t it?”

    So if a lamp is actually used to kill someone, then yes, it’s a weapon. But until that happens, it isn’t. Unless you’re in school in Blaine, Minnesota, that is.

  44. My son was expelled (suspended) for skipping school. Go figure.

  45. He was also suspended 3 days before graduation for streaking. The administration was happy to see him leave. (graduate)

  46. Likely outcome: the kid gets his GED, and the world acquires another libertarian.

  47. I think we’re all overlooking the real scandal, that this guy was allowed to drive onto school property with a Mohammed Taheri-azar-style automobile, fer chrissakes, which he could have used to run down scores of teachers and students.

    Amen. I mean, they found a weapon inside another weapon!

    Completely irrelevant but my claim to I-was-affected-by-terrorism fame: Taheri went to my high school and college, taking his shortcut to South Road while I was there. I even knew a family member who was as normal as they come.

  48. The recently deceased is correct. Anything is a weapon in you know how to use it correctly.

  49. But on the topic of this post…zero tolerance policies are designed to provide procedural protections for both staff and students. As such they need to be well designed or they lead to the ridiculous cases that we see in posts like this.

    No matter how cleverly designed zero tolerance policies lead to inanities. They remove discretion from those allegedly in charge of the school.

    The priciple of a high school typically has at least a masters in education coupled with years of classroom experience. If you don’t believe he can handle discipline without a zero tolerance policy, what the hell are you paying him the big bucks for?

    Slightly off topic, do you think mandatory sentencing is a good idea too?

  50. So what do people think about a zero tolerance against violence policy at school?

    Define “violence”. If this is going to be a welll crafted zero tolerance policy, and I need to know what is and is not “violence”. Be careful, there are high school students smarter than either of us.

  51. My above mentioned son got his BA from U of Texas. 1/2 libertarian, 1/2 Texan

  52. All this knee jerk reaction and zero tolerance crap is so democrat party driven. Republicans and libertarians love guns and knives. It’s the Obama metro-sexual crowd that are such chicken shits and “Zomg! Your staple remover is a deadly weapon! You must be a homophobe conservative!”

  53. So if I bring a 15″ dildo onto campus, is it a weapon? Or do I only get charged after shoving it up the ass of one these dipshits?

  54. well played, joe.

    juris: only in Alabama…

  55. All this knee jerk reaction and zero tolerance crap is so democrat party driven.

    Insurance industry-driven. They’re the ones who pay the litigation bills when [fill in the blank] gets sued for something stupid. They’re behind the shrink-wrapping of America’s youth. To the extent the Dems are on the insurance industries payroll, yes, it is driven by them. Equally so by the Republicans. Of course, each party sports enough useful idiots and True Believers to give the whole thing the appearance of being grassroots.

  56. the kid is learning a valuable life lesson: adults are out to get you at the first possible opportunity

  57. Not to mention that he had better learn breaking down boses as a vocation, the board just screwed his chances of getting into any university.

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