We have previously followed the suspensions and discipline of students under zero tolerance policies that are used by teachers to justify zero judgment or responsibility. I have long criticized zero tolerance policies that have led to suspensions and arrests of children (here and here and here and here and here). Here is a prior column on the subject (and here).Children have been suspended or expelled for drawing stick figures or wearing military hats or bringing Legos shaped like guns or even having Danish in the shape of a gun. Despite the public outcry over the completely irrational and abusive application of zero tolerance rules, administrators and teachers continue to apply them blindly. We can now add Johnny Jones, a fifth grader at South Eastern Middle School in Fawn Grove, Pennsylvania. It was not a finger gun this time. It was an imaginary bow and arrow. That’s right, an imaginary William Tell.
The move against Jones was followed by a familiar refrain: zero tolerance means no discretion and no thought by school administrators. Administrators appear to relish rules where they can claim no choice and thus no responsibility in punishing children. According to reports, his family’s counsel has sent letter protesting the action.
In this case, a girl complained to a teacher that she was witness to the violent act. Administrators were reportedly aghast that Jones used a “replica or representation of a firearm” in “making a threat.” Of course, even the most mentally challenged person could see that a make-believe arrow is not a threat but that would require someone to take responsibility to protect the child.