461 The Question Is... Zero tolerance


Tom Garrett 3 years, 1 month ago

"Zero tolerance is used by schools to describe a policy in which any involvement, of any kind, in a banned act results in punishment."

Three weeks ago in North Andover, Massachusetts, Erin Cox, a high school senior, got a call from a friend at a party who said she was too drunk to drive. Cox went to pick up her friend, but the police arrived just after she did, took down the names of all the students there, and reported them to the school.

The school responded by stripping Erin of her volleyball team captaincy and suspending her for five games because of its "zero tolerance" policy.

The Question Is....

Is what the school did zero tolerance or zero brains?


John Lemon 3 years, 1 month ago

Tom, Zero brains. The term "Zero Tolerance" entails punishing those that break a certain rule or procedure and If applied with Zero Brains, one might see the results detailed in the article. It seems to me that either the policy has been misunderstood or the policy has been incorrectly applied. As example, some sort of "Due Process" should be completed before a conclusion is reached and possible consequence applied. If the Policy is flawed, the investigation is flawed, the conclusion is flawed, it follows that the punishment is flawed. Additionally, decisions made at the school site are appealable to the Board of Education in every state so far as I know, so I wonder if something is missing in the article.


Tom Garrett 3 years, 1 month ago


As with so many AP stories, three things make a problem:

  1. The story is too short.

  2. The story is short of details.

  3. It is often almost impossible to find a followup story.

So, some of your questions — and mine — will have to go unanswered unless I can find a followup. I have had no luck so far.

However, the points you make are directly on target, aren't they? We don't know for sure what the policy says, who applied it, and how, but what it looks like is the typical thing I have seen so many times before: Some lame brain who just doesn't understand that in order to APPLY a policy you have to first make sure its INTENT was violated. Some over-broad wording such as, "...involvement of any kind..." needs to be interpreted. It certainly would not apply to some poor kid who was doing a very good thing by driving someone home who was inebriated and didn't want to drive. The kid doing the driving would not have been "involved" in drinking; she would have been involved in "driving."

Of course, someone would have to be very careful about taking evidence; kids can be very glib liars at times. [I'll get you knew that. :-) ]

I suppose it all started with a police report, and we'd have to know what that said. I am sure that the officers on the scene would certainly have taken evidence and statements. Otherwise there could be no case to pursue.

I know doggone well that, like me, you have seen this kind of thing happen in instances of all kinds. I've never seen it happen with an alcoholic beverage rule, but as far back as 1948 I saw one of our star football players who was not allowed to play for two games because he "violated" a rule against not getting enough rest.

The reason he didn't get "enough" rest? He worked at the beach with me. One Sunday night the crowd stayed late at the beach because of a very good band and singer. We didn't get off until 2 a.m. Then he had to walk home from the nearest place in town where the bus into town from the beach crossed Route 1, which was the route the bus to his home 9 miles out in the country. (The surrounding towns did not have high schools.) The last bus had run. So, after having walked from 3 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. the poor kid had to catch about 30 minutes sleep, get cleaned up, catch the school bus at 6:30 and go to school.

He fell asleep in an afternoon class, the coach found out about it, and banned him from playing in two games. As a result, when he couldn't get the rule changed (the principal said (huffilly), "I support my coaches. They run their show without interference from me and I'm proud of it."

a. The kid quit the team after missing the second game.

b. He quit school before the of his junior year, and I'm sure he could have gotten a sports scholarship from UCONN.

In those days, of course, it would have taken a murder case to go to a state board of education. :-)

I'll keep trying to find some followup on this.

Have a good Thanksgiving!


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