Virginia’s Augusta County school board is in deep deliberation this week after a request of an 11-year-old girl, Grace Karaffa, that she be allowed to circumvent a zero tolerance rule. What is the little demon trying to bring into Stuarts Draft Elementary School, you ask. Heroin? Crossbow? No, Grace wants to bring in ChapStick to keep her lips from bleeding. That’s right, the little Chaphead was caught red lipped in class by a teacher who confiscated the tube. Personally, I am thankful that one school is fighting chap heads who often use peer pressure to get other children to moisturize. ChapStick is a known gateway product to more dangerous products like hand lotion and Deep Pore Scrubs.
At the time of the confrontation, the teacher said that other children might be allergic. It appears that ChapStickitis is common in Augusta County. It appears that ChapStick exposure is a more serious health concern than exposure to bleeding lips.
I have long criticized zero tolerance policies that have led to suspensions and arrests of children (here, 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. Even a student who prevented another student from continuing to cut himself was suspended for taking possession of the razor and dispensing it.
In this case, Grace was just trying to keep her dry lips from bleeding. The elementary school backed up the teacher, of course, in another mindless application of zero tolerance. Grace however took her chapped lips and went to the school board. A board member questioning Grace on their proposal and expressed concern that ChapStick would be a distraction to other children (apparently more than bloody lips). Notably, Grace’s lips were bleeding at the time but that did not offer a mitigating circumstances. They are still studying the issue.
Notably, Grace’s lips were bleeding at the time but that did not offer a mitigating circumstances.
In the meantime, the Augusta County Schools Superintendent is standing by the fight against ChapStick, saying that it is a health concern:
“Health officials were concerned that the sharing of items like Chapstick, lip gloss and other lip balm products among elementary-aged students might well have been contributing to a serious infectious disease outbreak . . . The school division chose to control the use of these products not because of a concern that they are inherently dangerous, but out of a concern that they may have been a means for the transmission of disease.”
How about a rule that students cannot share ChapStick? The same risk would occur from sharing milk or cookies.
Grace however has attracted one big dog, Pfizer, to her side. The manufacturer of the lip balm insisted “ChapStick has been used safely by millions of consumers for more than one hundred years.” So where are the 100 ChapStick pushing, lawyer-warriors from Pfizer? That would have been one board meeting that I would have attended.
However, one board member is already warning the town of the implications of ChapStick in the knickerbockers of their children: