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Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance
A pocket knife and a pen, these are two things I carry with me almost daily. I'm glad I'm not a middle school kid in the Henry County school system. Apparently, the mere possession of the latter turns 12-year-old Boy Scout into hard line criminal planning imminent destruction who needs to be handcuffed and detained for 48 hours in a juvenile detention center before my parents could pick me up on conditional release. That's exactly what happened to Miles Rankin because of an idiotic "zero tolerance" policy, and unfortunately, it was only the beginning.
"Zero Tolerance" is code for zero thought. It's an easy way to remove the requirement that school administrators exercise sound judgment. As Scott Burton writes for The Foundry:
Zero-tolerance policies result in part from the propensity of many parents to challenge and even sue school officials for almost any exercise of professional judgment and discretion. Many school boards and administrators try to protect themselves by adopting zero-tolerance policies that allow for no exercise of judgment at all. Zero-tolerance policies do nothing, however, to engender respect for the law or for the officials who tie their hands with them.
Of course, protecting students is a top priority, but in the process of ensuring safety, lawmakers and public officials must not abandon common sense and professional judgment. Miles Rankin and his family’s life have been scarred by an indiscriminate group of administrators who found it easier to hide behind a zero-tolerance policy than to exercise sound judgment. They were so caught up in their own policy that they could not appreciate the real-life consequences of such an irresponsible application of law.