Ethics Quiz: Have We Achieved The Ultimate No-Tolerance Insanity At Last?

Starch AdStarch Ad

Wow, were kids sick back then, or what!

Wow, were kids sick back then, or what!

Could it be? Is it possible? Has school administrator incompetence, fearfulness, power abuse and cruelty finally reached its apotheosis?

In Loveland, Colorado, 7-year-old Mary Blair Elementary School student Alex Watkins was suspended by the Thompson School District for going through the motions of throwing an imaginary hand grenade at an equally imaginary box that contained “something evil,” with the admirable purpose of saving the world, doing so on what is anachronistically called a “school playground.” The imaginary grenade caused the imaginary box to be vaporized in an imaginary explosion.

The Horror.

The imaginary minds of one or more teachers who witnessed this carnage ignited in fear and anger. Of course, an overly-broad, incompetently drafted, utterly stupid no-tolerance rule was involved: Mary Blair Elementary School bans imaginary fighting and imaginary weaponry. The only bright side of this disgraceful abuse of an innocent child and blatant attempt at thought-control is that it might finally provide the absolute end point on the spectrum of school administration no-tolerance incompetence. Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz question for today is..

Is it?

Last month I asked the Ethics Alarms brain trust to help me develop a scale for measuring school anti-violence no-tolerance derangement, using previous examples highlighted here. We did not reach a consensus on the worst of the worst. “Curmies” authority Rick Jones felt that punishing a student for writing a poem about the Newtown shooting should head the list; there was also support for giving the top spot to my personal favorite,  the pizza gun, or to the school that wouldn’t let a deaf toddler sign his own name, Hunter, because it required making the shape of a gun with his fingers. (Had he been my son, I would have been sorely tempted to re-name him “Upyours.”) These and one or two others fell into what reader Michael R. termed “Level 10: Complete overreaction, no action should have been taken at all.”  Clearly, what Alex did was a Level 10 at least. I think there’s a good argument that it is a Level 11.

Unlike the pizza gun, the Kitty Bob-Boo bubble gun and the kid that made a finger gun at another child and said “bang!”, no individual was exposed to a “threat,”  harmless and absurd or not. Unlike the recent incident where the high school student was suspended for using a photo of an assault weapon as computer wallpaper, the tiny LEGO gun, and the various incidents where students have been punished for drawing guns, no tangible representation image or a representation of a real weapon was involved. And in contrast to the high school author who was punished for writing about the Sandy Hook tragedy in her own journal, there was no link whatsoever to an actual school shooting.

No, Alex was on a playground, playing. He was playing the way that children have played since civilization began, imagining themselves as heroes, vanquishing dragons, Dracula, Jack the Ripper, the Boogie man, Jesse James, Nazis, Communist invaders, Osama Bin Laden, the Terminator or Voldemort. There was nothing wrong, dangerous, threatening or sinister about what he did, and much that was healthy. Between television and videogames, children have little opportunity to exercise their imaginations these days, and when a child does, he or she should be encouraged, his creativity nurtured and praised, not stifled because some gray, dim, fearful, bullying bureaucrats think they have the right to tell him what adventures he can think about, imagine, or conjure in his dreams.

I wish I could say that this is the bottom of the barrel, but I have been disappointed before. The foolish thought police who are scattered through our communities, legislatures and schools are capable of outrages no rational person can imagine, and we underestimate them at our children’s peril. They can do worse, which is why removing them from positions of responsibility is imperative. If it will help, someone should ask Alex to throw an imaginary hand grenade at them, for what they do, if not what they intend, is evil indeed.


Pointer: Tim Levier (Thanks, Tim, and sorry it was late!)

Facts: Denver Post

Graphic: Ebay

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

39 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: Have We Achieved The Ultimate No-Tolerance Insanity At Last?

  1. The only place left is for the school to have a “Minority Report”-style trine of administrators who are adept at anticipating which students are likely to violate their no-intellige…I mean, no tolerance rules.

  2. My sarcasm wonders: Are we sure it was just an imaginary grenade and not an imaginary tactical nuclear warhead? If that were the case, I think the Feds might have jurisdiction.

  3. You’ve gone too far Jack.

    The 2nd Amendment clearly does not protect the right of a minor to bear imaginary hand grenades. I don’t even know how a hand grenade could be sensibly considered “Arms” as per the founder’s intent…let alone an imaginary one.

    • The administrators could always imaginary water-board him to find out if he has any imaginary associates who have assumed this role of vigilante in saving the world.

  4. It’s been my experience that human folly is a bottomless pit. Whenever we think that idiocy and/or depravity have bottomed out, it turns out we’re only standing on the edge of the wading pool. The unexplored depths still lie before us!

  5. What I want to know is: who put the imaginary evil in the imaginary box in the not so imaginary playground? THAT is the person who should be punished.

  6. “or to the school that wouldn’t let a deaf toddler sign his own name, Hunter, because it required making the shape of a gun with his fingers. (Had he been my son, I would have been sorely tempted to re-name him “Upyours.”)”

    For many years I was an interpreter for deaf students attending public school. Oh my goodness, Jack, your comment gave me such a giggle. It made my day. Thank you.

  7. If we install metal detectors in all the schools to prevent weapons from entering the school, perhaps we should also install imagination detectors to make sure none of that creeps in too.

  8. The most frightening thing about this to me is this – there was no crime, no ‘offending’ object. His hand was empy of everything save a thought. This is a literal implentation of Orwell’s “Thought Crime” policy. We use the terms from 1984 – Thought crime, memory hole, big brother – as euphamisms. But this is an example of them being made reality. Too many people are willing to shake their heads at how silly the administrators are being, without considering the very real consequenses of such a policy even existing in potentiality, much less actuality.

  9. I’m fairly certain the evil box was placed on the playground by the girlfriend of Notre Dame’s linebacker Manti Te’o. So perhaps it was Manti Te’o that provided the little boy with the hand grenade.

  10. Here in Australia, this article plus the Hello Kitty Bubble gun are creating quite a lot of mirth. But, on a serious note, I was thinking to myself that if there was indeed an imaginary monster in the imaginary box, then those teachers are going to feel pretty silly about now. If the imaginary monster gets out, the only person who can save them has been suspended. They will have to wait till he comes back with another imaginary grenade to destroy this monster.

  11. What if he was just “exploded” by the imaginary grenade, but he didn’t bring, throw, or even detonate the imaginary grenade…would he still be suspended? What if he walked on an imaginary landmine and he went flying to the ground, who would get suspended for the imaginary landmine? Vietnam vets or the victim of the imaginary landmine?

  12. UPDATE

    A minor update. The district has been getting hit hard as this seems to have gone viral. They reiterate that there is more to this and that this has been inaccurately portrayed, but they can’t discuss because of student privacy guidelines by the Dept of Education.

  13. Jack, you asked “Could it be? Is it possible? Has school administrator incompetence, fearfulness, power abuse and cruelty finally reached its apotheosis?”

    Yes, it could be worse. I read in of a school in North Dakota that say
    “…students and staff are trained not to leave classrooms when fire alarms go off unless they smell smoke, because a real intruder could pull the fire alarm to try to lure people out of classrooms.”
    So instead of exiting the classroom when they hear a fire alarm, if they don’t smell smoke they are to pile up the furniture against the door in case there is an intruder. But by the time that they do smell smoke, how much time do they have to remove the furniture, and how many will be overcome by the smoke or even die in the ensuing panic?

    Maybe the school administrators have seen so many false fire alarms that they now believe all fires are imaginary.

  14. My former minister, anti-war activist, and anti-miltary nut, also told great stories about playing “cops and robbers”with toy guns, and making wooden swords to play war games and Robin Hood. HE didn’t end up a violent man; as he said, “That’s what boys have always done.”

    I suppose if GIRLS did the same thing instead of playing with dolls (and fewer and fewer do), would we have to listen to the moronic cant about “if only women ruled the world?” In more modern times, Indira Ghandi and Margaret Thatcher come to mind: now THERE were two female leaders who let their right brains take over their left brains!!!! (Smile.)

    This is all completely out of control. Morons teaching us to be morons. Just great.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.