Zero Tolerance = Zero Common Sense = Zero Justice

Challenge rigid and absolute bureaucratic policies enforced mindlessly and inflexibly by educational administrators

This page is devoted to challenging and exposing primary and secondary school administrators' mindlessly inflexible enforcement of so-called "zero-tolerance" policies, which dictate that all infractions -- however minor or inadvertent -- against certain regulations will be punished as major offenses.

Don't get me wrong -- I understand the desire to make a strong statement against drugs, weapons, and harassment in schools. I can even understand it when school administrators reserve for themselves the right to punish infractions according to their own discretion and judgement, after taking into account the individual circumstances of each particular case -- even though the violations may sometimes appear to be minor, or merely technical.

What I can't understand is when school administrators deny themselves such discretion, and refuse to take into account the particular circumstances of each case -- elevating "zero-tolerance" into a rigid and absolute standard that is more important than teaching and learning, and also more important than common sense and justice.

This intentional self-lobotomization on the part of school administrators, this deliberate choice to turn themselves into mindlessly inflexible bureaucrat-droids, has produced results that would be pathetically ludicrous -- except that it's no laughing matter when innocent children, who have no criminal or malicious intent, have their learning disrupted by long expulsions, or are labelled as "drug-smugglers", "weapons-carriers", or "sexual harassers" in semi-permanent academic records that may be shown to law-enforcement officials or potential employers.

Apparently some bureaucrats feel that the highest purpose of educational policy is to produce a maze of rules and regulations in the spirit of "CYA", a code which will prescribe administrators' minutest decisions -- and so allow them to fend off all legal or political second-guessing by pointing out that their actions were dictated by, and were in full conformance with, sub-section §547862(b)(xcvii) sub-paragraph ±37½ clause 97-D. Well, I have news for these so-called "educators": taxpayers pay their salaries in order for them to make wise decisions in the furtherance of learning (remember "learning"?), not to be automatons with well-shielded rear ends. When administrators (or school boards) bind their own hands in this way with rigid and inflexible codes, what they're really saying is that they have no confidence in their own ability to do the job that the public expects them to do (to make good decisions based at least partly on the particular details of each individual matter) -- in which case they should perhaps consider going into some other line of work.

[7/99 note: This page was originally written in 2/98, but nothing that has happened since then has caused me to change my mind. The zero-tolerance policies which have caused so many problems -- and held up so many school authorities to national and international ridicule and derision, not to mention lawsuits -- have never been those which prohibit actual firearms; and in any case, the way to prevent crime in schools is not to expell 10-year-olds whose parents happen to have packed a butter knife in their lunchbox, but rather for adults to be perceptively aware and responsive to the conditions of individual students.]

[``Zero Tolerance = Zero Justice'' small image]

This page is very much under construction; it was pretty much dormant for a year and half, but I have started working on it again, and hope to regularly add brief summaries and/or links to media accounts of some of the more ridiculous and sad cases that have gained public attention, and also links to various commentaries and discussions on "zero tolerance" extremism in primary and secondary education. I will also include on this page any thoughtful comments (they may be vehement, but must be reasoned) that I receive at the e-mail address (Please feel free to copy the small image at left for use on your own web-page.)


(This page contains numerous links that are only checked and updated once every several months or so, so that most of the time there will probably be at least a few bad, outdated links to external sites.)

Sites set up in connection with specific Zero-tolerance incidents

Noteworthy articles:

Media Accounts

Opinion and Analysis Pieces

(Some of the articles in publications that are minor or non-existent in the "real" world of print media are worthy of attention here.)

Internet Discussions

(Apparently dead links -- I'm keeping these up to give an idea of the variety of media coverage that has occurred; I also may try to dig around in some of these sites to find changed URLs:)

unprocessed potential links

(Note that I do not intend to include links to any pieces in which media accounts of these school cases have been used merely as convenient hooks for an author to launch into a tangential tirade promoting their favorite ideology -- without there being any real focus on the children involved, or the principles that these cases raise.)

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