Zero Tolerance

Zero Tolerance Teaches Students Important Lessons About Authority: Don't Share Information, Don't Consent to Searches

Suspended for honest mistakes and good faith efforts


beer, fishing knife, suspended, suspended
news screencaps

“It is much easier to apologize than it is to get permission,” the popular saying goes. One school in Texas has taught a student a different lesson: better to keep quiet and hope no one notices than to apologize for a mistake. What happened, via WLS:

Christi Seale says her 17-year-old son Chaz accidentally confused a beer can for a soda can and packed it in his lunch.

"He was in a hurry, running late. We were talking about school and he put it all together and took off for school," she said.

When he realized his mistake at school, Chaz gave the unopened beer to his teacher. But that teacher then reported it to the principal at Livingston High School, who suspended the boy for three days and then sent him to an alternative school for two months.

Chaz said, "I gave it to the teacher thinking I wouldn't get in trouble, and I got in trouble."

That kind of tone deaf, zero tolerance informed move isn’t going to discourage students from underage drinking, it’s going to discourage them from alerting school officials to inadvertent infractions of school policy.

Meanwhile, a student in Tennessee learned never to consent to a search, even when you don’t think you have anything to hide. Via News Channel 5:

On Thursday, Duren-Sanner, a senior at Northeast High School drove his father's car to school. During a random lockdown, his car was chosen to be searched.

Duren-Sanner gave permission because he said he had nothing to hide.

His father is a commercial fisherman on the West Coast and had apparently left a fishing knife in the car. Duren-Sanner's father said it might have been wedged between one of the seats.

Duren-Sanner said he told school officials and the Sheriff's department the car was his father's and he didn't know the knife was in it.

"He's like 'it doesn't matter it was in your possession anyway,'" Duren-Sanner said.

School officials suspended him for 10 days, the maximum allowed under school policy, and then he was reprimanded to attend 90 days at an alternative school.

He’s probably learned his lesson, not about the dangers of fishing knives, but about the dangers of consenting to a search. The beer can and the fishing knife cost the two students a combined 13 days of suspension and five months at “alternative” schools. Administrators at both schools insist procedures were followed, and what are they getting paid the big bucks for if not to defer to the rule book and deny access to their schools to students who’ve inadvertently run afoul of those rules, even when they haven't hurt anyone. Whether they like it or not, they’ve taught the students, and any classmates paying attention, a valuable lesson on authority and how stupid and dangerous it can be.

NEXT: Rand Paul: Some in GOP 'Stuck in the Cold War Era'

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. When he realized his mistake at school, Chaz gave the unopened beer to his teacher.

    Why in living hell would he do this, ever?!? Just take it back fucking home again!

    During a random lockdown, his car was chosen to be searched.

    Prison for children.

    1. The shocking thing is that he was asked to consent to the search.

      1. His parents were obviously remiss in his upbringing, since he didn’t know enough to refuse consent.

        1. Parents, teach your children to “just say no.”

          1. I blame the educational system for this lack of intelligence. Had this happened when I was in school, I can guarantee you that the cops would have gotten an anonymous tip that some of the teachers had drugs in their cars and I can also guarantee you that every single car in the staff parking lot would have a bag of dope tucked under the car seat. I can’t guarantee that every teacher would have learned a valuable lesson from the experience, but if it helps only one teacher it’s all worth it. It’s what makes education so rewarding.

            1. Yeah I’m a little confused about why it seems like the kids in these stories are always so lame.

              1. It’s like they don’t know that you can fuck with authority figures super easily as long as you’re somewhat careful.

              2. Today’s kids are lame because their parents over protect them.

                1. Not to mention they are brainwashed in school.

              3. The government schools train them to be lame.

              4. Because the kids who know enough to refuse consent don’t wind up on the news.

      2. They probably only asked because there’s still at least a few people who can comprehend that whole 4th ammendment thingy.

        1. Didn’t a teacher get suspended for telling the students about the Bill of rights?

      3. Maybe I’m old, but the idea of a “random lockdown” or random searches when I was in high school would have been laughed at. We had a fucking open campus, for Christ’s sake. I used to leave classes when bored all the time. I wasn’t supposed to, but nothing happened. And I don’t think we ever had a cop even step foot in the school (I’m not exaggerating, I cannot recall a single time the cops came to my school). Why would we? Teachers dealt with fights (which were rare) and anything else that came up.

        1. Campus? Every public school where I grew up was a giant monolithic building with as little exterior surface area as possible. Even without signage you can spot them by architecture alone. They have limited points of entry – most of which were locked at all hours – and they parked the cops at the front one.

          1. My high school was run by the University of Connecticut, and it had a tendency to treat us all like college students. It was nice.

          2. A couple of years ago my wife and I drove past a high school like that. My wife said “Better not pick up hitch hikers, looks like we’re driving past a prison.”

            Then we saw the sign and I said “It’s actually a high school, so yeah, pretty much the same thing.”

          3. It’s called brutalist architecture, it’s a real thing, and unsurprisingly governments worldwide gravitate towards the style. Check out the wikipedia page.

        2. It was much more chill when I was in school too. The most notable thing was my first year of HS was the first year they banned smoking on the HS campus. We spent a lot of time trespassing in people’s yards across the street. And nothing else happened.

          1. We had a designated smoking area. Also, the teacher’s lounge was a smoke-filled cave. Weed smoking was mostly done in people’s cars, out in the parking lot where we had designated spots.

            1. My parents met in the designated smoking area of their HS when my dad bummed a smoke off my mom.

              The best part was that the previously designated smoking area in my HS, which was a courtyard (presumably for easy kid-watching), was never used again for anything. Those doors were locked and you couldn’t get into the courtyard. So instead people just left.

              1. Ha, my parents met the same way, though they didn’t get together at that point; not until my father came back from Vietnam.

                The best part of my school was that everything was ground floor and every single room had exterior doors, so if you wanted out, you just left or jumped out a window. I escaped many a substitute teacher through windows. Sub turns to blackboard, suddenly “scrape” of window jam, and bam, four of us just took off to go drink beer or do something else stupid. Also, after Fast Times at Ridgemont High, we had pizza delivered to our Social Studies class just to be like Spicoli. They delivered it directly to the exterior door.

        3. Epi, how old are you? I’m 39 and the first signs of Stalag High School were just starting to pop up when I was a senior (1992-93).

          1. I’m basically the same age–fractionally older–and I was also seeing the faintest beginnings of that stuff, but my school was particularly unique, being run by UConn and having a weird tradition of independence, so it wasn’t really happening there. I do remember hearing about other schools with cops in them and stuff and finding that completely alien.

            1. I graduated HS in 1990, and didn’t see anything like this, mostly because the HS I attended was in five buildings, with enclosed walkways over the road between buildings. You almost had to go outside to get from one class to the next in the quickest time.

          2. I’m 30, and it was in full swing when I was in school. Cops, drug dogs, locker searches, zero tolerance, etc. We also weren’t allowed to bring jackets or backpacks into classrooms (even though it was fucking freezing inside the school) because OMG WEAPONZ! Although, we still had an open campus and it was possible to ditch school.

            1. I am 44 and the only thing on that list we had was (off-duty) cops. We did not however, have an “open campus” – hell, the neighborhood was totally ghetto so it’s not like I wanted to leave at random times of the day.

              But my god, “random lockdowns” WTFWTFWTFWTFWTFWTF – why are we allowing this?

          3. He has the taint of a 90-year-old epileptic.

            1. I got it from your mom. She says hi, by the way.

              1. Better you talk to her than I have to.

                1. That’s exactly what she says.

                  1. Tell her the rent check better not be late this month.

        4. I cannot recall a single time the cops came to my school

          At my HS the police came with the paramedics on Friday afternoons when some idiots would inevitably take too many ‘ludes too soon before the bell.
          Not every Friday, but several times during the school year.

        5. I think it might be your age – when I was in school (in a rural area) kids drove to school in their pickup trucks with guns in the gun racks and nobody thought anything about it.

          (On the other hand, the principal once told a longhair passing in the hall to get a haircut, the kid told the principal to go to hell, the principal thumped the kid upside the head, and the next day the kid was in the principals office with his parents ordering the kid to apologize to the principal.)

          1. Same sort of stuff where I went to high school, except for driving pickups to school. Pickups were in daily use on the farms and we had to ride the bus. One faculty disciplinary technique was to lift the miscreant by the shirtfront and bang him a few times into the locker doors. The resounding crashes reminded us not to mess with Mr. S., the biology teacher / track coach.

            It was a very orderly school with an atmosphere conducive to learning for anyone who wanted to learn.

        6. “Random lockdown” really stuck out to me as well.
          I didn’t have an open campus in HS, but the doors were all unlocked and you could get away with breaking a few rules here and there if you weren’t an asshole about it (for example, I had a knife in my pocket every single day and would use it as appropriate).
          I was a good student and liked by most teachers, but I doubt I’d make it through the same school today.

          1. In Pa the school are always closed the Monday after Thanksgiving for the first day of buck season, but when I started attending the local Pitt campus the a-holes profs always gave test that day to make sure students didn’t extend their holiday into Monday. So one year I wanted to be a dick about it, so I spent a couple hours in the morning out in the woods, drove onto campus around 10 am, transferring my rifle from the back seat to the trunk, then walked into class in my army field jacket and flourescent orange vest with a knife on my belt.

        7. Dude, how long have you been out of school. Those places are locked down tighter than a drum. Probably even your old school.

    2. Seale says the punishment is excessive. She says she always taught her son to be honest and forthright and now he has to pay a price for that honesty.

      Bad parenting?

      1. Pretty much. If your kid learns that he must always tell the truth – no matter what – then you’re doing it wrong.

  2. During a random lockdown, his car was chosen to be searched.

    A “random lockdown”? What the fucking fuck?

    1. Yeah that’s a terrifying thing to just casually mention.

    2. I imagine it’s like a fire drill, only instead of practicing for a fire they’re practicing for a shooting.

      1. Based on the likelihood of that actually happening, they should be practicing for a random meteor strike.

        1. Didn’t you hear? There’s a school shooting every week now!


        2. Anybody else do the duck-and-cover drill thing to prepare for a nuclear strike?

          I remember that from elementary school, but not after.

        3. Or a nuclear attack.

    3. I was just about to post pretty much the same thing, but you beat me to it.

      Seriously, this is a real fucking thing? It’s like they’re not even trying to hide the fact that schools are really just prisons that allow you to sleep at home*.

      *For now, I’m sure at some point they’ll insist that the state needs full 24/7 contact with children. Because we need to get over the idea that our kids are really ours or whatever that idiotic twat Melissa Harris-Perry said.

      1. A year ago, when the Senate failed to pass the latest gun “control” legislation, Barack Obama had a hissy fit where he said something to the point of, “If these ‘common sense’ gun laws can save the life of even one child, don’t we have an obligation to try them?”

        My immediate thought was, “If concentrating the children into camps where only responsible government-approved adults look after them can save the life of even one child, don’t we have an obligation to try it?”

    4. My kid’s school does “lockdown” drills. For them it means 20ish 9yo packing into the teacher’s office. He thinks it’s fun.

      1. That’s a great plan. “If a shooter shows up on campus, we’ll respond by herding the kids into packed formations!”

        1. “What else can we do to make the shooter’s job easier for high body counted needed to prove guns r bad. We’ve already disarmed the target – I know – pack them in tighter”

          On a similar vein of administrative stupidity, during my junior year of high school someone figured out how to call in untraceable bomb threats to the school district. The local news then went and broadcast the procedure to all and sundry. We got so many hoax threats that at the peak we evacuated the building five times in one day (the number of students still present at the end of the day was rather low). Since the assembly point was fixed, and we were required to remove backpacks from the building to speed the search process (which I know they didn’t do a thorough job of), we joked that all one needed to do to get a big body count is put a backpack bomb at the evacuation assembly point and call in a threat. The procedure then packs a lot of people in clode proximity to the device – more than you could hit with one inside the building.

          1. I had a buddy who was able to con the local radio station into declaring a snow day at least once a year.

            When it was iffy, he would go to his dad’s office which was in the same complex as the superindendent’s office and sneak in and call the station. Told them to call off school.

            By the time things had been sorted out, half the kids were already out and about and the school just ended up canceling anyhow. I don’t think they ever did figure out it was my buddy doing it.

  3. My stepson was suspended for three days for fighting. Well, not really. Some kid started hitting him so he pushed the kid away. Policy says everyone involved in a fight gets suspended. Period. Doesn’t matter who started it or if the defender never threw a punch. Policy is policy. And of course his cop father went along because being a cop, like being a principal, means blindly deferring to policy.

    1. He thought he was doing the right thing by pushing the kid away instead of hitting him. Learned that lesson. Next time this happens, if he follows my advice anyway, the aggressor will be bleeding by the time it’s over.

      1. Yeah, I’d say if you’re going to get suspended anyway, you might as well send a message to that kid and any others watching that you’re not to be fucked with.

        1. Apparently, in that school, the only way to avoid being suspended is to be so friggin scary that no one will even start a fight with you.

    2. I’m surpised his cop father wasn’t able to get him out of that.

    3. That’s worse than my zero tolerance fighting suspension. At least in my case, I actually did fight back (and probably hit the guy a couple more times than was necessary).

      1. Probably took the kid around to humane societies to help him beat up puppies and kittens on their mutual day off.

        Childhood is when you build memories for a lifetime.

      2. If he survived, you didn’t hit him enough.

  4. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. How I wish it was this easy to get suspended when I was in school. I’d have given anything to be able to sit at home and watch Andy Griffith reruns rather than go to school. And if it was some bullshit that wouldn’t even make my parents mad, bonus.

    How in the fuck do they think they are punishing these kids by not letting them go to school? That even made a name for that- vacation.

    1. The initial purpose was to remove actual disruptive elements from among the populace that wanted to learn. When used in that role, it helped the other students. Since then, it’s mutated into something unrecognizable.

    2. If you want to punish students, make them sit in the Library on Saturday mornings

      1. ??? I’d have done that voluntarily to get away from my family and get some reading done.

        1. I guess we know which Breakfast Club character you were.

          “I had nothing better to do.”

          1. Never saw that.

            1. You should probably see it once just to laugh at the absurdity that the John Bender character would actually show up for Saturday detention in the first place.

              Also, then you’d understand all the references down thread.

              1. Judd Nelson’s IMDB photo FTW.

            2. You’ve never seen the fucking Breakfast Club? Do you routinely avoid incredibly and justifiably legendary pop culture for a reason?

              1. It just never sounded interesting.

                1. Sigh. The point of this thread is the lesson to never self-incriminate. You have not profited from that.

                  1. Maybe this will help him get the idea.

              2. I walked out of Breakfast Club in the first half hour.

      2. And then write a paper about who they think are, right?

        Just make sure the group includes a jock, a princess, a brain, a basketcase, and a criminal.

      3. “You mess with the bull, you get the horns.”

        1. Does Barry Manilo know you raid his wardrobe?

          1. You’re not fooling anyone, Bender. The next screw that falls out will be you.

          2. You’re not fooling anyone, Bender. The next screw that falls out will be you.

            1. GOD DAMN IT

              1. If you act as you think
                The missing link

            2. “What do you need a fake I.D. for?”

              “So I can vote.”

        2. Could you describe the ruckus, sir?

      4. Yeah, except they may end up getting high and doing really stupid dance sequences.

  5. “It is much easier to apologize than it is to get permission,” the popular saying goes.

    “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission” for those who don’t butcher quotes by making them unnecessarily bulky.

    1. “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission” for those who remember prepositions.

    2. You must be a riot at parties.

      1. And a party at riots. Versatility, that’s the key.

  6. How do you know these 2 kids learned the lesson that seems so obvious to you? Maybe they learned the lesson to double, triple and quadruple check their bag/car before going out of the house. Maybe they learned the lesson that the state wields great power over them, and they need to be very careful of what they do.

    You’re assuming that these events made them more anti-authority, possibly it made them knuckle under more.

    1. Even if those particular children did not learn from this, one hopes that other children in the same schools did learn.

      As outrageous as these incidents are to us, they are good breeding grounds for future libertarians.

    2. You’re right. They may be shit heads.

    3. I’m hoping they learned both lessons.

    4. Here in Sunny Minnesota a teen was suspended for a tweet.

      It doesn’t sound like he learned anything from the incident:…..05341.html

      Although his lawyer seems cool:

      Friedberg [Lawyer], who is expected to represent the family Monday night in Elk River at a school board meeting, said Beahen and Superintendent Mark Bezek should resign.

      “In my opinion, the police chief must be an imbecile and the superintendent is not far behind.”

      Beahen [PoPo Chief] said he regrets suggesting that a felony may have been committed.

      “I admitted I erred,” he said.

      Bezek, who said he is still “looking at some kind of resolution,” responded to Friedberg’s comment by saying, “That kind of talk is disheartening.

      1. You want to settle out of court? The warden (principal) resigns, the prison commissioner (superintendent) resigns, and the chief of police resigns and surrenders his POST certification. Then you can hand the student ten million dollars to cover the lost wages he’ll experience when prospective employers Google his name.

  7. Administrators at both schools insist procedures were followed…

    Wait until the kids get a load of “Stop resisting your education!”.

  8. Never create joinder.

  9. I hate ed bureaucracy as much as anyone else,but I think the 800 pound Gorilla in the room is that “zero tolerance” is there to reduce the possibility of disparate impact in school discipline. In other words they have to take this hard line across the board, no matter what, or else they might get into a heap of legal trouble in case the disciplinary figures don’t match up with the demographic composition of the school. So yes, those people are dicks, but they have a legal dagger dangling over their heads all the time. I’ve said it before, but the legal doctrine of disparate impact will probably prove to be the most destructive concept with regards to the erosion of personal liberties, even more so than the nanny state.

    1. Actually, even if they’re consistant, the current DoJ has stated that if their demographics and punishments don’t line up, they’re getting prosecuted, regardless of the distribution of rule-breakers in the student body.

    2. Or they could just do what NYC is planning to do: tell schools that disciplinary figures must match up with the demographic composition of the school. Yes, they’re not even trying to hide it.

  10. I’m old enough to have been “paddled” in elementary and middle school. I learned to slip a book down the back of my pants and sound enough in pain to suit them. Sadist fucks.

    1. And to think now that some people have to pay to have middle-aged women in school marm outfits tell them they’re a very bad little boy as they spank them.

    2. I learned to slip a book down the back of my pants and sound enough in pain to suit them. Sadist fucks.

      Whatever, you know you loved it. NTTAWWT

      1. There was no room to slip anything down the front of his pants.

    3. Were you a masochist because you kept repeating the behavior that caused the paddling? NTTAWWT.

      1. It is not in my nature to obey.

        But also, there was a wide range of infractions I was able to incur. But the beatings didn’t help much, I mostly just spent the next few days thinking about how to get away with killing the vice principal’s entire family.

        1. The beatings will continue until morale improves.

  11. Echoing some of the earlier comments, but when I was in high school (class of 75), I had little respect for the authority of teachers or administrators…and why would I ? A few really thought they were hot shit, but that just amused me…..what kind of grown man gets his jollies lording it over a bunch of teenagers ?

    And I can’t even imagine consenting to a search of my car; I’d have told them to go screw.

    To me Dazed and Confused is a documentary.

  12. Duren-Sanner said he told school officials and the Sheriff’s department the car was his father’s and he didn’t know the knife was in it.

    “He’s like ‘it doesn’t matter it was in your possession anyway,'” Duren-Sanner said.

    I remember being a jury member at a drug related trial. The key aspect that got the guy convicted was his accidental acknowledgement that he knew there was a drug in his car. Possession requires control. Control requires knowledge (that the item was present). Legally the school could not have made a case of possession. Schools – outside the law.

  13. I have a kid in HS right now (junior) in VA, and her high school is downright anarchist compared to this crap. They do block scheduling so kids are coming and going all the time, the front doors are actually propped open, and according to my daughter, there is a well known designated “stairwell” for smoking whatever you have on ya. Due to the HS having the toughest academic program in the district, the school has this weird mix of upper middle class/nerd and straight ghetto.

    All of the stories she comes home are the same kind of legendary stuff from ‘the good ole days’. Thankfully, no one seems to be bedwetting over it…yet. And it’s been the source of some serious hilarity.

    “You know when there’s weave all over the hallway that shit just got real.”

  14. This is still a really stupid abuse of power. Public schools (and all public institutions) are really, truly useless and damaging to society.

  15. Are we really in an era where I have to tell my kids when you see authority run the other way? I mean, unless your life is threatened what good can they possibly do for you?

    The teacher is supposed to have the best interest of the kid in mind. Instead she destroyed his life. Probably says more about our education system than anything else.

    1. If there is authority in your vicinity there is a better than even probability that your life is threatened.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.