scouts-l Mail Archive for June of 2000: Re: Zero Tolerance [off list]
Bruce E. Cobern (bec@PIPELINE.COM
Sat Jun 03 2000 - 15:35:35 CDT
> From: Scouts-L Youth Group List [mailto:Scouts-L@listserv.tcu.edu]On
> Behalf Of Anthony Mako
> Sent: Saturday, June 03, 2000 11:01 AM
> Another fatal flaw in your argument. For a situation like this to "play
> itself out" requires some measure of justice. All too often, however, we
> find that justice is not part of the zero tolerance equation. Yes, he
> the rules. Yes, he broke them. A compassionate society would evaluate the
> circumstances of the situation; determine that the boy 1) made a mistake,
> and 2) did not have harmful intent; and punished him accordingly
> (i.e. short suspension, loss of school driving privileges, or some other
> punishment). In a zero tolerance society, however, the circumstances
> evaluated, his possession of the "weapons" is determined to imply harmful
> intent, and his punishment is harsh and predetermined (i.e. expulsion,
> suspension, etc.).
> When you or I break one of society's rules, we have guaranteed rights
> state: 1) the state must prove we broke the rule (innocent until proven
> guilty); 2) the circumstances of the situation have to be considered
> trial); 3) we can't be ganged up on by the state (right to counsel); 4)
> can't be forced to confess to a crime (self-incrimination); and 5) the
> must have compelling evidence of the crime before they can search our
> property for evidence (illegal search and seizure). Even with mandatory
> sentencing laws, judges (and prosecutors) still have some discretion
> when it comes to determining punishment.
To use an example of this discretion when it comes to adults we need look
no further than the case of our outgoing Chief Scout Executive, who made
the mistake of showing up to board an airplane in Miami with a loaded gun
in his carry-on luggage. He was arrested and, I believe, spent a night in
jail. However, after reviewing his record and the facts surrounding the
incident, both state and federal officials decided NOT to press charges.
Was he guilty of the offense of attempting to carry the gun onto the plane?
Absolutely. However, because of the discretion allowed to officials
outside of school communities, it was decided that there clearly was no
intent, that this was a stupid mistake, and the matter was dropped. Had
this been a situation where the zero tolerance/zero discretion rules were
in place he would now be in jail.
We can argue about whether the officials were right or wrong in the
exercise of their discretion, or whether he was punished sufficiently for
his stupid action, but the point is that the system was allowed to try to
make the punishment fit the crime. That is the discretion that is lacking
in all this hysteria about zero tolerance in our schools.
Bruce E. Cobern