We have yet another ridiculous example of school officials applying “zero tolerance” policies against a kid for an innocent page of doodling. A 13-year-old boy in the seventh grade drew a stick figure holding a gun and another holding two knives and was promptly suspended from Roseboro-Salemburg Middle School.
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 playing with a stick gun 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.
There is no inherent threat in such pictures. The boy in question is an avid hunter and such pictures are common doodles. I find it amazing that any teacher would see such a drawing and immediate run to school officials with alarm.
In the end, the most obvious danger is not from such doodles but the environment being created by such zero tolerance policies. Teachers are no longer willing to deal with such issues with discretion and understanding. Instead they throw these kids into draconian punishment for what appears a strict liability offense.