scouts-l Mail Archive for June of 2000: Re: Zero Tolerance absurdity
Bruce E. Cobern (bec@PIPELINE.COM
Sat Jun 03 2000 - 09:13:51 CDT
> From: Scouts-L Youth Group List [mailto:Scouts-L@listserv.tcu.edu]On
> Behalf Of Steve Hoar
> Sent: Friday, June 02, 2000 10:18 PM
> Perhaps the most obnoxious aspect of zero tolerance policies
> comes with the application of the maximum penalty regardless
> of the nature of the offense.
I think, in this one sentence, Steve has gotten to the crux of this issue.
I don't think there is anyone on this list who feels that NO punishment is
appropriate. The Scout knew the policy. He allowed the search of his car
(although that might have been coerced if the punishment for refusal to do
so, to him, seemed worse than what he expected based on what was in the
car). He had the contraband on school property.
The problem is that the administrators had ZERO DISCRETION in what the
punishment for this transgression would be (or at least believed they had
no discretion), and the punishment clearly did not fit the crime. That is
the part of the policy that, IMO, bothers most of us. Not that he would be
held responsible for the action which, lacking any criminal intent, was no
more than a stupid move. But that he would receive the same fate as
someone who brought those things with him with the intent to do harm.
Steve later says that in our legal system such discretion is always
present. I guess I still agree with him but, unfortunately, we are moving
towards zero discretion here as well. That is the whole crux of mandatory
sentencing rules which are becoming more common in courts as well. Once
again, it is an indication that we can't find people to hold these
positions whose judgment we trust. But, if we can't trust their judgment
we should find someone else to hold the position whose judgment we CAN
trust. That is where the solution here lies.
I also like the idea of allowing students who realize they have brought
some contraband with them to turn it in without punishment. Otherwise,
what we are teaching that student is that it is better to be dishonest and
HOPE you don't get caught than it is to admit that you forgot you had
something with you and turn it in. I certainly hope that is not the lesson
we wish to teach our children.
Finally, while I can certainly understand rules that prohibit cell phones
IN the schools makes sense, and I can even understand a policy that bans
weapons anywhere on school property (because the student can bring them
into the building at a later time), I cannot see where the possible danger
is from a cell phone locked in the glove compartment of the car.
Bruce E. Cobern