Zero Tolerance Strikes Again: Student Suspended for Innocent Mistake
Everyone makes mistakes. Just ask Chaz Seale, a 17-year-old high school student from Livingston, Texas, who accidentally packed a can of beer in his lunch. When Chaz tried to do the right thing by owning up to his mistake, the school administration punished him severely.
According to the Seale family, while hurrying to get ready for school, Chaz reached into the refrigerator to get a soda and failed to notice that he had grabbed a similarly colored can of beer instead. It wasn’t until he opened his brown lunch bag later at school that Chaz realized his error.
Rather than hiding the can – or drinking it for that matter – Chaz immediately approached a teacher to hand it over in a responsible manner. “I gave it to the teacher thinking I wouldn’t get in trouble, and I got in trouble,” Chaz said.
That’s because the teacher reported the incident to the school’s assistant principal. Despite the fact that Chaz’s explanation seems entirely plausible, the principal handed down an excessive punishment that would last over two months.
The first part of the punishment, a three-day suspension, has already been completed. That alone would seem to serve as a sufficient deterrent from students bringing alcohol to school in the future – intentionally or otherwise. However, the subsequent punishment is even more severe: an automatic two-month transfer to a local alternative high school for troubled teens.
Though the Livingston Independent School District has publicly said it stands by the principal’s punishment, Chaz’s mother, Christi Seale, has appealed the decision. Thus far she has managed to get his time at the alternative school reduced to one month. Still, that’s one month too long to interrupt a student’s regular educational curriculum, particularly for a student who has previously had a clean disciplinary record.
Christi told the press that she doesn’t like how her son has been punished for being honest. She also worries that such a major mark on his permanent record will affect his chances of getting into college.
As schools ramp up zero tolerance policies in the hopes of discouraging even minor rule infractions, the number of ridiculous, unwarranted punishments being handed down has skyrocketed. Last year alone, there were several high profile examples of zero tolerance gone wrong, including suspending a 7-year-old that nibbled a PopTart into what a teacher thought looked like a gun, expelling a student who wrote a poem with dark (but non-threatening) subject matter, and arresting teenagers involved in a water balloon fight.
Yes, everyone makes mistakes, but the biggest mistake here was made by the administration at Livingston High School. By deciding that pre-established rules should trump common sense, the principal has taught Chaz far more about the fallacy of authority than the importance of discipline.
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