One of the more disheartening trends we’ve seen over the past year is the rise of “zero tolerance” policy enforcement in schools. Unfortunately the world is rarely black or white – when extenuating circumstances aren’t taken into account, good kids are unreasonably punished for not technically following the letter of the rules. Here are five of the most absurd examples of zero tolerance policies at play:
1. Giving a Drunk Friend a Ride
If North Andover High School wants to discourage its students from drinking and driving, it’s going about it all wrong. After receiving a call from an intoxicated friend, teenager Erin Cox showed up at an underage party to give her friend a safe ride. While most people would commend this type of behavior, her school has decided to punish her along with the partygoers for being in the presence of alcohol.
Even the police’s confirmation that Cox was entirely sober and trying to prevent drunk driving was not enough to sway the school from suspending her for her responsible act.
2. An Oddly Shaped Breakfast
Josh Welch was enjoying a strawberry pastry at school when he decided to get creative with his eating. The 7-year-old with ADHD decided to nibble the breakfast treat into the shape of a mountain, but from his teacher’s perspective, it looked more like a gun.
Welch did not even pantomime shooting a gun, but for chewing something that could somehow be construed as violent, he received a two-day suspension from school – and perhaps even more annoying to poor Welch – he was not allowed to finish his breakfast.
3. Science Experiment Gone Wrong
Kiera Wilmot, a star student with no history of discipline, found herself in a heap of trouble after a scientific experiment she was conducting caused a minor explosion. Curiosity inspired her to mix some household ingredient, but Wilmot neither anticipated the chemical reaction nor intended to hurt anyone with her scientific inquiry.
Though even school administrators believed Wilmot to be well-intentioned, she still faced expulsion and criminal weapons charges thanks to the school’s existing zero tolerance policy.
4. Water Balloon Fight
An end of the year water balloon fight at a high school resulted in seven student arrests thanks to the school’s zero tolerance policies. Officials called the police to report the water balloon fight, and the police responded aggressively. One student mistaken for participating in the fight was slammed onto the sidewalk and subsequently hospitalized. An on-looking parent who complained about the unnecessary force was threatened with a stun gun and arrested for “trespassing” on school grounds.
Detentions seem like an appropriate punishment for a harmless water balloon, but instead the kids received disorderly conduct charges with one even getting an assault and battery charge for hitting someone with a water balloon. It’s baffling how there’s zero tolerance for “violence” like water balloons, but excessive police force seems perfectly acceptable.
5. An Empathetic Poem
After the Newton school shooting, young poet Courtni Webb wrote some private verses to try and better make sense of the tragedy. Webb’s poem was a reflection on the culture of violence perpetuated in the United States, leading to a line of empathy with the shooter: “I understand why he pulled the trigger.”
Though the poem was dark in nature, it never condoned the shooting. Nevertheless, when Webb’s teacher discovered the poem in her personal notebook, she turned it in to the administration who deemed it a “threat.” Webb was subsequently expelled under the school’s zero tolerance policy even though her writing was being willfully misinterpreted.