The teachers and administrators at McLauchlin Elementary School in North Carolina have prevented a major security breach with the apprehension of the notorious Caitlin Miller, 5. Miller shocked her teachers by using a piece of wood like a gun in a fantasy game with her friends. A teacher whisked her off to the principal for summary suspension. It is another towering victory for the moronic use of “zero tolerance” policies.
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). 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 or using menacing Level 2 finger guns. 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 be 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.
In the latest case, Miller was playing make-believe in the playground with her friend who were pretending to be queens and princesses. Miller was their protecter and grabbed a piece of wood resembling a gun. That is when she was carted off for the protection of the children.
I fail to understand why states like North Carolina tolerate this policy and fail to take actions against school officials who punished children for such innocent play. Caitlin’s mother is quoted as saying “The assistant principal told me Caitlin had a stick and she was using it to shoot and kill other students.”
I doubt seriously that there were any true casualties from the piece of wood absent the danger of splinters. What is clear is that children are bearing the cost of these moronic decisions. This will continue until administrators are held accountable for showing zero judgment under the guise of zero tolerance.