We have yet another insane application of the “zero tolerance” policies that schools continue to apply despite widespread condemnation. Valley Forge Elementary School is the latest educators to traumatize a harmless child in the name of protecting themselves and their school. The victim this time is a six-year-old girl with Down syndrome who pretended to shoot her teacher with her finger. The teacher apparently went into full alert with the school to protect herself from make believe bullets fired by a toddler from a make believe gun. The police were called and the Margot Gaines now has a police report as a victory for zero tolerance policies nationwide.
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. Various criminal and disciplinary cases were opened for 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 been blamed for any failure. Conversely, even when the public outcry results in a reversal, teachers and administrators never seem punished with the same vigor for showing no judgment or logic in punishing a child.
The latest case happened in November when Margot made the common motion with her fingers. The Tredyffrin-Easttown School District immediately went into high alert and called for a “threat assessment” before Margot moved down teachers with her finger gun.
Her mother explained that her daughter sometimes used such mannerism as a way of expressing anger. Yet, the school district insisted on calling in the police.
The matter is under review but, if history is any measure, no teacher or administrator will be fired or even disciplined. In the zero tolerance world, only children are harmed.