The parade of bizarre and cruel “no-tolerance” decisions continues unabated, proving that the learning curve for far too many school boards and school officials is far flatter than those of their most academically inept students. Neither national embarrassment nor the prospect of cruel and unjust treatment of normal, unthreatening students will sway these unethical martinets from their chosen, cowardly, self-righteous paths, as they inflict permanent scar on the educational experience of innocent young people to prevent a future disaster unrelated to anything the children did.
The no-tolerance disgrace this week: the Washington Post reported that Virginia’s Spotsylvania High School expelled student Andrew Mikel II for the modern day equivalent of blowing spit-balls at other students. The 14-year-old used a plastic tube—made from a pen casing, an up-grade from a soda straw— to blow small plastic pellets— airsoft BB’s, perhaps?— to annoy a few fellow students without inflicting as much pain or danger as his father or grandfather did with rubber bands and paper clips. In a repeat of other incidents at other schools across the country, school officials expelled Mikel for possession and use of a weapon, and called a deputy sheriff to the scene. Andrew was charged with three counts of misdemeanor assault for blowing plastic pellets at three students.
The federal Gun-Free Schools Act mandates that schools expel students who take weapons, including hand guns, explosive devices and projectile weapons, to school. School officials showed decided that Mikel’s plastic tube met the definition of a projectile weapon because it was “used to intimidate, threaten or harm others.”
Really? “Intimidate”? No! “Threaten”, as in ” Do what I say or I’ll shoot a little plastic pellet at you through a straw”? I guess not. “Harm”? Harm?
To once again recall my favorite line from Neil Simon’s comedy film, “Murder By Death”, spoken by Peter Sellers in the role of the Charlie Chan-like “Sidney Wang”:
“Very interesting theory, Mr. Charleston! Only one thing wrong with it…it’s stupid!”
We all know that, don’t we? So why are so many school administrators unable or unwilling to apply common sense to school discipline?
“No-tolerance,” I fear, is a symptom of increasing callousness and incompetence in the schools. It is impossible to believe that the same people who are willing to mistreat Andrew Mikel despite all logic and standards of proportion are capable of making good decisions in other aspects of our children’s education.