We have another absurd enforcement of the zero tolerance rule at our schools. This one occurred in Cincinnati, Ohio where Principal Joe Crachiolo, (left) at Our Lady of Lourdes School (a Catholic Elementary School) suspended a first grader who was caught playing a Power Ranger and used an imaginary bow and arrow in play. Just to repeat. This was a first grader and an imaginary bow and arrow.
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, 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 teeshirts with patriotic or constitutional themes involving guns have been the basis for discipline. Despite the public outcry over the completely irrational and abusive application of zero tolerance rules, administrators and teachers continue to apply them blindly. If you do not have to exercise judgment, you can never been blamed for any failure. Conversely, even when the public outcry results in a reversals, teachers and administrators never seem punished with the same vigor for showing no judgment or logic in punishing a child.
This six-year-old simply pretended to use a bow and arrow and Crachiolo should that it was enough for a suspension. The parents, Matthew and Martha Miele, were understandably shocked but the public outcry did not less the resolve of Crachiolo:
“I have no tolerance for any real, pretend, or imitated violence. The punishment is an out of school suspension.”
How is this for an alternative policy? Let’s declare zero tolerance for educators like Crachiolo who show zero sense or discretion in their positions. Until educators are held responsible for these decisions, we will continue to see children victimized by these decisions. Zero tolerance means zero responsibility or judgment for many teachers. The blind application of these rules will continue so long as the decisions (even when reversed) come with no accountability.
I understand that Crachiolo may be a very good principal and is acting out of a deep-seated belief that this is the right thing, but he is wrong in my view and has punished a child for common play acting. While he believes that he is teaching kids to be non-violent, he is really teaching them to accept arbitrary and senseless authority in my view. This could have been handled with a visit with the parents or a note to home (even if you want to ban such play). In the end, I am doubtful that such actions will change the desire of children to play such games and I also doubt that such games actually contribute to violence. Instead, it contributes to a view that children (and by extension citizens) must yield to such capricious policies of authorities in our society.
What do you think?