Showing posts with label zero tolerance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label zero tolerance. Show all posts

25 August 2014

Zero Tolerance or Zero Intelligence?

by Fran Rizer

I've often laughed at some of the "crimes" in Florida that Leigh writes about, but last week has made me as embarrassed by South Carolina as much as Florida should make Leigh and some others.
The Big Bang Theory characters– all above
average intelligence except Penny
It happened in Summerville, SC, a small town not too far from the coast.  I spent a wonderful summer there years ago as a drama consultant when their Talented and Gifted summer program produced a musical I'd written.  At that time, the people seemed friendly and though they weren't of The Big Bang Theory intelligence, they didn't seem to be idiots either.

Alex Stone
Imagine my surprise when the news plastered pictures of a sixteen-year-old Summerville student locally, regionally, and nationally.  The young man, Alex Stone, was assigned to write a few sentences about himself and a status as though he were posting on Facebook. In the status, Stone wrote a fictional story stating that he'd killed his neighbor's "pet dinosaur" with a gun.

As soon as the teacher saw the word, "gun," she reported it to school officials who called law enforcement to search Stone's locker and book bag.  No guns or weapons of any kind were located, but Stone was handcuffed and arrested for arguing that he meant the whole thing to be funny.  This was interpreted as "being disruptive." He was suspended for the rest of the week during the first few days of the school term.

Could this be the dinosaur Alex wrote about?
Having taught in an inner-city school where I once took a straight-edged razor from a ten-year-old, I'm pretty much in favor of zero tolerance, but I am also in favor of student creativity and a little common sense on the part of authorities.

Alex Stone's mother has hired a lawyer and states that the school didn't call her and tell her what was happening. If they had, she would have gone there and suggested they simply make Alex write a different paper for the assignment. In fact, the school didn't contact her at all.  She first learned about her son's difficulties that day from law enforcement after his arrest.
I'm not saying Pop Tarts are good for your health,
but should this be cause for suspension?

To me, this incident bumps the Pop Tart gun suspension from the throne as most absurd zero tolerance suspension.  If you've forgotten about that event, an eight-year-old was suspended in May, 2013, for chewing his Pop Tart into a gun shape. Thank heaven that one wasn't in South Carolina.

I have a major problem with the fact that the arrest and suspension are going into Alex Stone's permanent records and his photo has been shown all over news media.  In no report did I see the name or photo of the teacher who reacted to this paper as "a threat" because she saw the word 'gun.'  

Personally, if I were his teacher, I would have told Alex how creative and imaginative his assignment was, but cautioned him about the extremes to which some people take zero tolerance.  The only way I would have seen his assignment as "threatening" was if the he'd called me a dinosaur before writing the paper or if students were specifically given a list of "forbidden words" for writing prior to the assignment. (Just think about what could have been on that list.)

My teen-aged grandson and I discussed the numerous news reports about this incident. His response:  "Using a dinosaur as the victim made it obvious his paper was creative fiction." He paused, thought a minute, and then added, "If zero tolerance means the word 'gun' can't be included in anything in schools, they need to throw away the dictionaries and severely censor school computers and I-pads."

Once again, I'm left wondering how and why fiction sells so well when real life is sometimes far more absurd.

Until we meet again, take care of … you.