Sturdley's Magical Mystical Blog

Musings on life, liberty, and the pursuit of derpiness.

Tag Archives: Free Speech

Intolerance for Zero Tolerance

We have a problem, a problem of stupid people using stupid laws to punish children and teenagers for normal, sometimes even desirable behavior.  What follows is but a small sample of the derpitude infecting our schools and communities.

 

North Andover, MA:

High school senior and volleyball team captain Erin Cox stops at a party give her too-drunk-to-drive friend a ride home.  Police, who have also just arrived, briefly question her about her presence at the party but allow her leave after determining she has not been drinking.  North Andover High School administrators (Principal Carla Scuzzarella & Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson) learn of this and punish Erin for violating a zero tolerance drug & alcohol policy by removing her as volleyball team captain and suspending her for five games.

See also: further developments.  Double derp!

 

Lassiter High School, Marietta, GA:

High school senior, avid fisherman, and hopeful Air Force recruit Cody Chitwood leaves his tackle box containing fishing knives in his vehicle and drives to school.  During a police sweep of the school parking lot, drug-sniffing dogs detect black powder from a firecracker left in his trunk, search the vehicle, and find the knives.  Cody is suspended by school administrators (Principal Chris Richie & Superintendent Michael Hinojosa) for 10 days and charged (District Attorney Vic Reynolds) with a felony for bringing weapons into a school zone.  On October 16, it was reported the felony charges were dropped, and Cody will be entering the Cobb County pre-trial diversion program.  This possibly means community service and random drug tests, which makes total sense considering the original “infraction.”

 

Allatoona High School, Acworth, GA:

High school student Andrew Williams leaves a pocket knife in the center console of his car.  Following accusations of drug use in his vehicle an assistant principal searched the car, finding the knife but no drugs.  Andrew was charged with a felony for bringing a weapon into a school zone.

 

Park Elementary School, Brooklyn Park, MD:

7-year old Joshua, while eating a pastry for his snack, nibbled it into a shape he described as a mountain.  His unnamed teacher determined it was in fact in the shape of a gun and sent him to the unnamed Principal’s office where he was given a 2-day suspension.

 

Lake Region High School, Naples, ME:

Ninth-grader Tracy Jannicelli was experiencing a headache and asked some fellow students if they had any Tylenol; one of them did and gave it to her.  Assistant Principal Guy Stickney later questioned her about the “incident” then suspended her for 5 days.  Not to be outdone, school Superintendent Candace Brown extended the suspension to 10 days and requested the school board consider if expulsion was warranted.  On the recommendation of Stickney, the board expelled her for violation of zero tolerance drug policy.

 

Hodges Bend Middle School, Houston, TX:

Eighth-grader and Jonae Devlin was suspended for wearing a rosary bead necklace in violation of the school’s anti-gang dress code.  The unnamed Principal gave her the choice to remove the religiously-themed neckwear or be expelled.  She chose to stand by her principles.

Additional rosary bead incidents:

  • 13-year-old Raymon Hosier of Schenectady, New York
  • A 14-year old boy of Haverstraw, New York

 

Grand Island, NE:

Three-year old Hunter Spanjer, a deaf child, was asked to change how he signs his name using Signing Exact English (the sign language he is learning) because the extended index fingers apparently resemble a gun and was in violation of the school’s weapons policy.  “We are working with the parents to come to the best solution we can for the child.” said Jack Sheard, Grand Island Public Schools spokesperson.  Four days and several hundred angry phone calls and email later, the district decided to waddle back on the request while making a passive-aggressive swipe at the choice of sign language Hunter’s parents chose to use.

 

Harmony Community School, Harmony, FL:

Eight-year old Jordan was suspended for using his index finger and thumb as a play gun.  School officials were conveniently unnamed in the article.

 

Virginia Beach, VA:

13-year old Khalid Caraballo and Aidan Clark as well as two other students were given long-term suspensions (read: until the end of the school year) for playing with an airsoft gun in their front yards.  A neighbor reported the activity to 911, and things naturally snowballed from there.

 

Glendale Unified School District, CA:

The Glendale Unified School District has hired the firm Geo Listening to monitor social media accounts of its middle and high school students in an effort to, well, snoop.

 

The common thread in throughout these stories is the so-called “zero tolerance” policy related to real or imagined weapons, violence, drugs, alcohol, or various other scourges afflicting the children.  The supposed feature is that punishment is inflicted automatically without regard to the circumstances of the “offense” and without the use of simple logic or common sense in determining whether the punishment is truly warranted, the intent being to use fear of draconian punishment to keep the little bastards in line.  Some of these policies have spilled over the boundaries of school property and are being enforced 24/7 wherever the student may be.  Private schools are more insulated, but are not completely immune to this madness.  It is probably only a matter of time before even home-schooled children are affected.

Some cases receive widespread media attention which serves to shame the bureaucrats into backing down, but this is often the exception.  In any event, it should not require such attention for these people to behave as reasonable and rational adults.  Some families can afford to hire an attorney to fight the charges or sue the school district, but those on the poorer end of the economic spectrum have far more limited options.

There is evidence that these policies are not only ineffective, but may be harmful.

 

A secondary, but equally troubling theme in many of these stories are excuses of the variety, “my hands are tied, this is the policy/law/whatever.”  I don’t doubt some of these individuals would dole out the same punishment regardless, but hiding behind a bureaucracy is no excuse for participation in morally repugnant behavior.  Subjugating your integrity for job security is most assuredly not a quality we should be teaching our kids.

 

You may have noticed I have linked to contact information of the various authority figures involved in the above stories wherever possible.  Interestingly, many of the news stories include the names of the students, but omit the names of the so-called adults doling out the punishment.  I simply do not understand why these public officials should enjoy being shielded from accountability by the press in light of such odious behavior.  I believe they should hear loudly, clearly, and frequently (but with a modicum of civility) that enough is enough.  Your state and federal representatives should also be given an earful about the ridiculous and counterproductive laws supporting and mandating these policies.  This stuff will not go away all by itself.

 

A Final Note:

I believe these zero tolerance policies are merely a symptom of a larger problem in our country, a confluence of tough-on-crime, lock them up and throw away the key attitudes and the belief that the law is always the best vehicle for addressing any undesired behavior.  We are wasting our time, money, and labor on practices that are not only ineffective, but inefficient.  We are damaging and destroying lives by attempting to control rather than addressing the more fundamental problems.  These, however, are topics for another day.

Day Fourteen: Independence!

It has been two weeks with no federal government. We cannot live with this much lawless freedom, so I am declaring independence. I have named my new nation Sturdleysblogistan.
We are a brutal dictatorship run on the tears of oppressed children.
If we think you look suspicious, we’ll tase your ass.
Our religion is Derpianity, and if you blaspheme, you will be punished.
Our police force is the most honest on the planet.

So come visit us. I’m offering a special to the first 100 people that apply for citizenship: my own personal jackboot on your neck for a full five minutes with a commemorative autographed photo free of charge. After the first 100, everyone gets only one minute and the photo isn’t autographed.  You can’t get that kind of individualized service from just any old tyrant.

Freedom of Suppress

Who is a journalist?  The US Senate thinks they can decideSo does the Legislature of the State of Michigan.  While these bills have generated some unfavorable coverage, many established media outlets appear to be satisfied with these definitions.  Yesterday, the US Senate apparently made some revisions, though insufficient in my opinion.

This is not new; the powerful have always tried to control dissemination of information, whatever the methods have been.  In this country, we supposedly have strong protections against this sort of thing.

In the last 30-40 years, there has been an incredible shift in the ability to publicize information.  Prior the internet, unless you could afford an expensive printing operation or television/radio broadcast equipment, you effectively could not self-publish.  Today, I can do so with relatively little cost, even for free with use of public-access computers and free online services.

In the span of about half of one average lifetime, we have shifted from a small, limited percentage of people who could publish to the point where anyone and everyone can.  You are, in fact, reading amateur editorial journalism right now.  Every time you make a Facebook post or Tweet could be considered a journalistic statement. I shall leave the judgment of the quality of said statements as an exercise for the reader, but point out that quality or popularity of the message is not a legitimate reason to limit it.

So what do these attempts to limit who is a journalist for this purpose or that mean to you?  It means that if Senator Feinstein today wants to deem some people unworthy of journalism shield protections, that tomorrow Senator A. Hole might want to codify limits on the protections for satirical facebook posts.  It means that if Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton today wants to deem certain people unable to get immediate access to public accident reports, that tomorrow Representative D. Bag might want to codify into law limits on what statements or information is made available to journalists they don’t agree with regarding the oversight of programs affecting every single American.

It means that if you support these people today, that tomorrow the protection of discussing publicly something you believe in profoundly and deeply may be jeopardized by the powerful and connected.  It means the progress these people make today towards the goal of limiting rights of certain individuals or groups makes it that much easier for people like them to target you tomorrow.  Don’t wait for your turn to come to do something because then it will be far too late.