Texas Teen Suspended After Mistakenly Grabbing Beer Can With Lunch And Then Turning It Over To Teacher

1512300_1388018118085485_638287165_n220px-Drinking_can_ring-pull_tabChaz Seale, 17, would normally be considered a model student. In running out of his home one morning, he grabbed what he thought was a can of soda but realized at lunch that he had grabbed a can of beer. He turned it over to his teacher who reported it to the principal of Livingston High School. According to news reports, the principal then suspended Seale under another blind and senseless application of zero tolerance rules.

In an all-too-familiar scene for those of us with kids in elementary, middle, and high schools, Seale was running late according to his mother. Such things happen. Last football season, we were watching the Bears (aka God’s Team) when my youngest son Aidan asked if he could have a root beer. I said yes and he then came in to tell me that the root beer tasted weird. It was a real beer. It happens. The Seale case reminds me of the arrest of a father who mistakenly bought his son a hard lemonade instead of a regular lemonade at a baseball game.

Principal Bakewell Barron suspended Chaz for three days and required him to attend an alternative school for two months — for an act of self-reporting. The school district is standing by the decision and said that Barron acted entirely appropriately under the governing rules of the school. The district released a statement that “The principal of Livingston High School followed appropriate LISD administrative procedures and protocol. LISD encourages any parent who is in disagreement with an administrative decision to seek relief through the appellate process as provided through Livingston ISD policies. Livingston ISD policies may be accessed through the Livingston ISD Homepage.”

I briefly tried to find those policies but could not locate them. Where ever and whatever they are, it would be entirely illogical to punish an act of self-reporting unless the school had reason to believe that the student was lying and only reporting the beer after being spotted by the teacher. There is no evidence of that in any of the news reports. 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.

What bothers me most about these rules is how they make a mockery out of the legal process. Blind and often senseless acts (that harm children) are defended under a false veneer of legality. Justice is supposed to be blind only in removing favoritism not blind to the merits or mitigating circumstances of cases. School administrators seem to relish the notion of rules that do not require judgment or accountability — just strict liability with no defense or deliberation.

Referring families to policies (wherever they can be found) is hardly an adequate response. All rules demand interpretation and yes judgment. That obligation is particularly great in dealing with children as an educator.

36 thoughts on “Texas Teen Suspended After Mistakenly Grabbing Beer Can With Lunch And Then Turning It Over To Teacher”

  1. I agree with Mike Appleton on this case. Zero tolerance policies and mandatory sentencing laws are bad. Of all places, the school system should be a model of how to think, not how to blindly follow policies.

  2. I view zero tolerance policies with the same disdain I have for mandatory sentencing laws.

  3. Kraaken, Stories like this come from all states and are indicative of how toxic and stupid are education industry has become.

  4. Darren Smith: “Haven’t the faculty in this school heard of a thing called discretion?”

    Darren, it IS Texas, after all. 🙂

  5. Ms. Treadwell,

    It really isn’t at all necessary to “read clearly where he handed it over to a teacher.” The article states quite obviously: “When he realized his mistake at school, Chaz gave the unopened beer to his teacher.”

    On the other hand, your claiming that it may have been some sort of set up, that it wasn’t an accident, and that the kid may have been “a malicious idiot who wanted to get his teacher in trouble” has no basis in the information contained in the article. Indeed, such claims go well beyond speculation into the realm of sheer invention.

    When you “go off” and say: “We just don’t know, hence the ZERO tolerance,” I’m sure it makes more than a few rational people want to have a drink.

  6. I forget what another post was about sometime back but same type of scenario: the kid did the right thing and was sus[pended for doing it. Once again the take away for the kid, and other students is – do not do the right thing, you may have to pay for it.
    (When I was in HS a teacher gave me a detention for misplacing my textbook. That was not a legitimate reason (at least then for detention) I tried to find a teacher or vice principal or principal to tell them what had happened and that I did not deserve the detention. Not finding anyone I went home.
    The principal was apprised of why I did not stay for the detention. He told me I was correct, I never should have been given one (and I had never had one in my entire high school career) but I had to take one because I left, not because I was wrong to leave, he agreed I was right to do so not being able to find someone to tell (and why wasn;t there someone in the detention room overseeing us?) but because it would be a lesson to all the other kids who wouldn’t know the circumstances but then decide it was okay to leave. – I tell this longish anecdote because I did the right thing and still was made to pay for it. But at least in my case the lesson was you need to stay when you get detention as opposed to never do what is right and ethical.)

  7. Zero tolerance = zero intelligence.

    School administrators who use zero tolerance ought to be prosecuted for child abuse.

  8. The scary thing is that this encourages children with and without advice of their parents to separate themselves from the establishment, ah, the sixties. What is scarier are the lines drawn between those that can think for themselves, such as the student who correctly thought to turn in the beer, and the idiots in power positions, such as the teacher and the principal, who simply cannot think for themselves. So the result in these situations becomes a mindless power and those that are encouraged by this power to game said power. We go to movies and laugh when a cop in a futuristic fantasy shoots a person for jaywalking. The teacher and the principal would be that cop.

  9. You have to read clearly where he handed it over to a teacher. It could VERY well be that the principal and superintendent wanted to see if the teacher would comply. We also don’t know the history of this kid. It may NOT have been an accident. Don’t go off and say “Oh, he was an A-student” whatever! That doesn’t cut it. He could be a malicious idiot who wanted to get his teacher in trouble. We just don’t know, hence the ZERO tolerance. Stop blaming the teacher. MAYBE the parents should not be drinking!

  10. It would seem that judgement and common sense are in short supply in this school district. I wish this story was an anomaly bit we all know that few of our leaders exercise judgment or common sense.

  11. As a retired educator I am appalled and embarassed that some of today’s educators lack common sence and anything masking as intelligence

  12. So the school basically is instigating a process where no student will ever report something wrong because they would have a reasonable fear they would be punished for it. A child then finds something truly dangerous on the school property, they ignore it and it ends up hurting someone.

    This is what happens when extremist policies are blindly followed.

    Citizens call law enforcement agencies occasionally to report finding contraband, weapons or stolen property they stumble accross. I personally have never seen someone punished for doing so.

    In fact, I have had several times where I went to a house or apartment where a medical emegency happened or in one case where a car crashed into a home. I went inside to render aid and found illegal drugs right in plain view and I NEVER arrested anyone for this. I believe strongly that there should not be a hesitation for people to call for help because they fear arrest.

    Haven’t the faculty in this school heard of a thing called discretion?

  13. On the bright side, they did not taser him, shoot him, arrest him, or take him to jail.

    Isn’t such restraint the glory of the Independently Smug District?

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