Second KABOOM! of the Day: The Worst Example of “No-Tolerance” Ever

Not again!!!!

Not again!!!!

Sometimes it seems as if there is a team of fiction writers concocting absurd school no-tolerance scenarios just to see what idiocy the news media will believe. Unfortunately, the topic defies parody, and now, just as I cleaned my office up after the cranial detonation earlier today, there is this:

At Bayside Middle School, in Virginia Beach,* Virginia, sixth grader Adrionna Harris saw a classmate cutting his arm with a razor blade. She took the blade from the student, threw it away and persuaded him that what he was doing dangerous and wrong. Then she told the school’s administration about the incident. Because saving the boy from serious harm required her handling a dangerous weapon on school grounds, Adrionna received  a 10 day suspension with recommendation for expulsion.


In an example of the news media’s  remarkable facility for misunderstanding just about anything, a local TV station reporting on this story asked, “Was the school’s zero tolerance policy taken too far?” Yes, for all you idiots and teachers out there, was this the right thing to do?  What a stupid, stupid, question. Of course it wasn’t. Of course the school’s zero tolerance policy was taken too far. Any no-tolerance policy is by definition “taken too far” because it eliminates common sense and discretion (assuming that school personnel are capable of either) and leads to fiascos like this. That is not the question raised by the episode. Note to our sad and incompetent journalists: if you can’t do better than that, just report the news and shut up. You aren’t helping.

Among the legitimate and urgent questions that are raised by what happened to Adrionna Harris are these:

  • What would the school administrators have preferred Harris to do? Can they articulate that? I bet they can’t.
  • Did it occur to any of the dim-witted villains responsible that they were sending messages to children that would guarantee more harm to students rather than less, by convincing them that the school would punish them for coming to another student’s aid?
  • How can any cognizant professionals maintain that a disciplinary action that teaches students “don’t help others, don’t remove weapons from classmates, don’t dispose of them, and if you do, never alert administrators that a student has been hurting himself, or you will be punished severely” is part of a rational policy? Teaching children not to do the right thing, not to be proactive when someone is in peril, not to be brave, is a wise and responsible course of action…that’s the considered conclusion of these people?
  • Can any administrators this foolish, unthinking, unfair, irresponsible and cruel be trusted with any child’s education?
  • Do Harris’s parents, if they are responsible and rational themselves, have any alternative other than to remove their abused daughter from the clutches of these power-abusing cretins?
  • Is there any good reason why every other parent with children attending Bayside Middle School shouldn’t do the same?

* The original version of this post mistakenly placed the school in “Hampton Roads.” Thanks to John Robins for the correction, and my apologies to the Virginia coast.


Pointer: Fark

Facts: 10 WAVY

46 thoughts on “Second KABOOM! of the Day: The Worst Example of “No-Tolerance” Ever

  1. The problem with “weapons” in this case is not a zero-tolerance weapon policy*, but that in the hands of the suicidal kid, the razor blade is a weapon. In the hands of the girl taking it away from him, the razor blade is not a weapon.

    Objects with intended designs OTHER than to be weapons cannot be logically considered as weapons unless the INTENT for use as a weapon is present – and that can change just as immediately as the person holding the object changes.

    Does that not make sense to people?

    The problem with actual weapons in zero-tolerance weapon policies, are clear accidents, such as kids accidentally leaving their shotgun under the seat after a weekend hunting, or a box of ammo left in the back seat. Actions worthy of rebuke and censure, but not severe punishment.

    • If a kid threatened another kid with his sharpened pencil, would the pencil be considered a weapon, and if so, would the class be expelled? No tolerance!

      • Did the kid legitimately intend to use or take action using the pencil as a weapon?

        Yes instances like that, when a kid is joking around, being flippant, or being half hearted, then application of the policy would be absurd.

    • The problem with actual weapons in zero-tolerance weapon policies, are clear accidents, such as kids accidentally leaving their shotgun under the seat after a weekend hunting, or a box of ammo left in the back seat. Actions worthy of rebuke and censure, but not severe punishment.

      Do not all rules have a requirement of either willful conduct or negligence?

    • Rebuke and censure? Why? Because his shotgun and ammo might get stolen? Because the thief might happen to be a maniac who wants to shoot up the school but doesn’t have a gun of his own? The proper response is “oops,” not “rebuke and censure.” Better yet, stop searching students’ cars in the first place. We got along just fine for many decades without these police-state invasions of privacy. I seriously doubt that more than a handful of actual, dangerous incidents are avoided each year.

      • Uh, leaving a firearm out and exposed IS irresponsible behavior. The mark of juvenility is irresponsible behavior. Adults, all of them, are charged by nature to train adulthood into juveniles. Not using a moment like the one you object to is de facto failing in the duty of teaching responsibility to the young. Where zero tolerance policies go wrong would be to crush that student into oblivion as opposed to making it a strict teaching moment. And no, leaving a firearm out and easily steal-able is NOT an “oopsie” moment that a responsible community lets slide. It is however not a moment justifying the full destruction of a juvenile’s record as a zero tolerance policy would compel.

        Who said anything about invasion of privacy and vehicle searches? If a teacher or administrator or conscientious student walks by another’s car and notices an unsecured firearm, that damn well means any miscreant who may wish to do harm can also notice it.

        • texagg04 is right, of course, about leaving a firearm exposed and unsecured. I didn’t pay attention to the specific facts of the hypothetical case posed here – ammunition in the open and unsecured gun under the seat. That kid shouldn’t be allowed to handle a firearm at all until he is mature enough and has been properly instructed to do so safely. But proper firearm safety and storage are not issues particular to schools, and the kid would have been punished identically if the gun and ammo had been secured in a safe in the trunk.

  2. Bayside Middle School is in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Hampton Roads
    is a large body of water, unless you are referring to all of southeastern Virginia, which the various p.r. depts for the local cities are now trying to call “Coastal Virginia.” [It used to be “Tidewater.”]

        • Hey–I come from a long line of Virginians. Half my family hasn’t forgiven the Yankees and the other half hasn’t forgiven the British.

          • It was jest. My mother is Virginian and her family I don’t think left that area of Virginia since they arrived from Pennsylvania in the early 1700s…

            Her dad (my granddad) portrayed George Washington at Colonial Williamsburg from the late 60’s to the mid 80’s: its amusing, the picture we have of him in uniform during a period reenactment is hanging with family pictures.

            Kiddo (when much younger) asked why we have a picture of George Washington, I told her thats my grandfather. We let her think George Washington was her great granddad for a while before breaking the news…

  3. You know, I’m starting to be convinced that cases like this (or the student suspended for “being involved in a gun incident” when he helped defuse a confrontation involving a gun) are actually GOOD things. Bear with me here.

    It would be great if good deeds were always recognized as such, and at least tolerable if they were simply allowed to go unpunished. However, that’s not the case. There will always be a bureaucracy or a petty tyrant waiting to slap you down for doing the right thing.

    As hard as it is to see these kids punished for exemplary conduct, there’s the glimmer that they’re learning now that even when someone with immediate power over you (the school, in this case) is willing to burn you for kindness, there’s an entire world waiting to hoist you on their shoulders. Will the school change its decision? Probably not, petty tyrants rarely are willing to back off and lose face. But it’s the perfect chance for her to learn that the petty tyrants don’t fucking matter.

  4. You’d probably get the typical bs about “they should have notified the playground supervisor and they could have handled the situation.” Or if it happened in a classroom, “they should have notified the teacher. . . bla,bla,bla. . . after all, your girl might have gotten hurt herself!” (never mind that the girl took prompt action and might have saved the other kids life) Administrators as a rule of thumb are deathly afraid of liability and make up this bs to protect their asses.

    • Exactly right. They want her to call a petty official to handle the situation. That’s the answer to JM’s question, “What would the school administrators have preferred Harris to do?” Our society is steadily becoming more and more opposed to individuals taking action on their own, and more and more insistent that action be left to people in authority, who as often as not will do nothing, or do the wrong thing, or do the right thing far too late — not necessarily because they are lazy or stupid, but because they are far-away, pressed by other business, and not as knowledgable about the facts of the situation as the person reporting it.

      A small example from here in New York City: In the subway stations, the public address systems runs an announcement over and over again, saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, if you see someone in danger of falling on the tracks, please notify an MTA official or call the transit police.” The subway cars display posters explaining that 50+ people per year fall onto the tracks and die, and 100 or so more are seriously injured, most of them because they were drunk or stoned. Like the PA, the posters also advise that if you see a drunken or otherwise impaired person about to fall onto the tracks and die, you should notify an official. Not the slightest chance that the official, if he or she took any action at all, would arrive in time to save the drunk’s life; and not the slightest suggestion that you might yourself help the other person. In fact, by implication, the announcement says that you should definitely not offer any help.

  5. We must also remember that these are the same people who claim to teach children critical thinking skills. Perhaps Common Core curriculum means just learning to follow orders.

  6. Razor blades are probably on the list of items which are banned at school and the girl did have the razor blade in her possession…so this is where the administrator who is afraid to make a decision gets to pass the buck and use his/her favorite weasel line…”I’m sorry but my hands are tied on this”.

    • The girl only SAID she had a razor in her possession, for the brief time it was necessary to get it out of the hands of someone preparing to do harm with it. If a student had tackled the Newtown shooter and wrestled the gun out of his hands, would policy have required that student to be expelled for “possessing a loaded gun on school grounds”?

      Our children should not be taught by morons.

    • Whoops, should have noticed that you already posted this, but it bears repeating. Meanwhile the Boy Scouts gave a heroism medal a few years back to a varsity wrestler who subdued a wannabe gunman by tackling him and stabbing him with a pencil. I bet he got suspended too.

  7. So let me get straight.

    The student here is being punished by getting more free time and not having to go somewhere where she does not get paid to go anyway or any form of compensation.

    • Doubtless, a bully who doesn’t care about his future prospects would consider a suspension/explusion as a reward. That doesn’t mean every student would. Being suspended or expelled from school can affect a student’s grades, G.P.A, ability to participate in extracurricular activities and college admission, to say nothing of a possible juvenile record under some circumstances.

      For this reason, there are plenty of students who tolerate abuse at school because they know that the reprisals from the people who are supposed to be protecting them have long-term consequences.

        • Sure, but there’s way too many scholarships and other opportunities that are getting so competitive that they rely on a spotless record. It’s one thing for us as adults to say “High school isn’t that important,” another thing to be a high schooler getting told “you did the righ tthing, but we don’t like the way you did it, here’s a black mark that every scholarship and college is going to ask you about- ‘suspended for breaking school weapons policy'”

  8. I haven’t cracked this one out in a while, even though no-tolerance nonsense has spawned from some dark corner practically weekly.

    The evidence must be overwhelming by now. No-tolerance should be thrown into the heap of obsolete ideas right next to telegony, the N Ray and Weiss magneton.

      • I’m starting to think we should just outsource our entire education system to like the Finns or something like that.

        • Yep the Finns may be on the right track. The True Finns party’s platform includes tougher punishments for violent crime, more resources for police and prosecutors and opposition to any incorporation of Sharia law into judicial practices. The Finns also have a history of making things very tough for the Russians who tried and unfortunately succeeded ultimately in gobbling up much of their territory during WW2. Somehow I don’t think they would suspend a middle school student for taking a weapon away from another student trying to hurt themselves.

  9. Gotta love having gone to a small school with teachers that dared to buck the official post-Columbine zero-tolerance rules. Exhibit A: the walking exemplar of the “dumb jock” went hunting in the morning but had to be at school by a certain time to be eligible to play football that evening. He got a deer, but by the time he finished dressing it he had no time to go home- so he came to school with a dead deer, gutting knife, and shotgun in his truck. A teacher caught him, noted his presence on the record, and sent him home to change and hurry back. No harm, no foul.

    In the short time since my days there, even my tiny high school has been locked down and filled with terrified “just in case” minded administration. Today he’d have been out the door, if not receiving a visit from the cops.

    • And here’s where our age difference comes into play. At my MI high school, kids were allowed to leave their hunting guns in their locked vehicles. That rule was changed during my senior year.

      • I suspect that Beth and I may be of a similar age. The same was true at my PA high school, and during deer season, you could probably have assumed that a majority of the boys’ vehicles had a gun inside. Maybe I’m a little older than Beth, though, because that was still the rule for many years after I graduated.

        In the imaginations of the people who enforce these anti-gun policies, kids back then were different. Today’s kids would slaughter each other if they were allowed to carry hunting rifles. I very seriously doubt that’s true. The kids aren’t more dangerous as much as the adults are more faint-hearted.

  10. This particular case is ridiculous. With the gun examples, I could understand some concern, but taking a razor blade simply does not count as possessing a “weapon” by any reasonable reading. This is in the same absurd territory as the girl who was strip searched for possible possession… of ibuprofen!

    For these kind of scenarios, I could imagine giving a student a few days off for recuperation (in a non-disciplinary manner), because taking a gun or even just a razor blade could be a disruptively stressful event. Such periods should be voluntary, and treated as excused absences. Counseling, should be offered, both to the student(s) directly involved, and all other students, as is generally done following these incidents.

    With gun incidents, I could accept a preliminary suspension, **if warranted**, purely to gather facts, with the explicit promise that the suspension will be erased should the facts pan out. The need for such a suspension should of course be left to the discretion of the administrators, rather than automatic.

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