Ethics Alarms has not yet completed its annual Best and Worst of Ethics lists for 2010, but I’ll hand out this title right now. The persecution of student Ashley Smithwick, 17, of Sanford, N.C., has all the elements that make no-tolerance enforcement of school rules ethically offensive: a lack of common sense, absence of proportion, dismissal of empathy, rejection of fairness and justice, disregard for the welfare of an innocent child, and most of all, incompetent, cowardly, utterly stupid school administrators.
Yes, I think we have a winner.
Smithwick has been suspended from her school, Southern Lee High School, for the rest of the year because teachers searching student lunch boxes for drugs discovered a small paring knife in the lunch box she was carrying. Despite the fact that the school acknowledges—
- …that Ashley is an outstanding student who has never had any disciplinary problems,
- …that he knife was obviously intended for food preparation and not to be used as a weapon,
- …that Ashley was not aware that the knife was in the lunch box, and
- …that it wasn’t her lunch box, but her father’s, who carries an identical box that she picked up by mistake that day
—she is unable to attend classes and may well have her college prospects harmed by the suspension. Just to make sure that Ashley suffers as much damage to her reputation and future as possible for an offense that she was entirely innocent of, the school also had her charged with misdemeanor possession of a weapon on school grounds.
Must send a clear message to those dangerous students, you know, by destroying the harmless, innocent, unlucky ones! That’s the logic of no-tolerance for you.
A school with administrators so resolutely immune to decency and ethical reasoning should be closed as a public nuisance, and its pathetic excuses for educators condemned to toll booth duty for life, where the damage they can do to children is minimal.
Yes indeed, the choice of “No-Tolerance Idiocy of the Year” is a no-brainer, awarded to a school run by people with no brains.
I’m so sorry, Ashley.