Despite national outcry over the blind application of “zero tolerance” rules, school and police officials continue to throw kids into the criminal justice system without any logic or judgment. The latest example is Zach Cassidento, a high school senior at Amity High Regional School who suspended and arrested after simply posted a picture of his birthday gift — an “Airsoft gun,” on Snapchat. He was not charged but was suspended for a day from 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 doodling 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.
Zach is one of millions of kids and adults who enjoy playing with Airsoft guns and posted the picture on his own time and on social media. The punishment of students for expressing their interest or support for such lawful activities is highly troubling and raises seriously constitutional issues.
Amity Regional High School suspended Zach for one day for“disrupting the educational process” but the disruption was caused by the school, not Zach.