Zero Tolerance for a Good Kid

Hi Readers: This bfinsziiss
will make your blood boil even if it’s freezing outside. It’s about a North Carolina high school senior suspended for a paring knife found in her lunchbox, which, for the record, was actually her dad’s identical lunchbox that she brought to school by mistake. (Dad pares his apples at lunch, his daughter doesn’t.)

Sometimes I worry that by printing these weird Zero Tolerance stories — stories of kids suspended for the most innocent of “crimes” — I am giving as warped a picture of our culture as the nightly news does. (Albeit, with a different slant.) But then I think, the reason for publicizing these incidents is not to say they are epidemic, but to point out why they are happening at all: It is due to the inability of those in power to do any kind of sensible risk assessment.

That is worth blogging about, because sensitivity to ACTUAL danger, versus the trip-wire, brain-frozen fear of any POSSIBLE danger is one of the things Free-Range Kids is all about. When we, as a society, say, “I don’t care if it’s safe in1 billion cases, it’s that billionth case that matters!” then NOTHING seems safe. Not a kid playing in the park, not a kid eating a hot dog, and not a kid who accidentally (or even intentionally!) brought her dad’s fruit-paring knife to school. Unless you’re an apple, this just does not pose a threat in the hands of a normal school kid.

We are getting really good at substituting fear for reality. See the posts below this one about suing the Scouts for allowing boys to play in the semi-darkness, or about the recall of drop-side cribs. The fear that an item or activity might have any negative consequences EVER is enough to make us ignore any upside — even a huge one — and outlaw it.

And so we have this girl forbidden from stepping foot on campus because, in the words of the superintendent, “Bottom line is we want to ensure every child feels safe on our campus.”

If these “children” (actually high school students) don’t feel safe because one girl has a paring knife, it’s a good bet they will never feel safe. Which is why I blogged about this story, and why I run Free-Range Kids. Because in that situation, kids are ENTIRELY safe, and it is a BIG LIE to say they aren’t.

And it is a lie with consequences. — Lenore

Okay, here's one way to eat an apple WITHOUT using a paring knife. (But really I just loved this photo. The game looks so fun! Circa 1960.)

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59 Responses to Zero Tolerance for a Good Kid

  1. Lnda December 30, 2010 at 11:39 pm #

    The common sense in America is dead!

  2. Jen December 30, 2010 at 11:41 pm #

    I just read this article in the paper and figured you’d have it on your blog. I certainly don’t understand the school’s reaction. Better yet, I don’t understand the reaction of some of the commenters at the site of the original article. Many people are accusing the girl and her family of lying! One person even said that there can’t possibly be 2 of the exact same lunchboxes. Sheesh! What is wrong with these people?

  3. David December 30, 2010 at 11:42 pm #

    Just as a small correction – and not that our schools in South Carolina wouldn’t be perfectly capable of a similar gross overreaction – this unfortunate story is actually coming out of North Carolina. South Carolina seems to have a knack for finding its way into the national news in myridad embarrassing ways; we don’t need to take on the bad publicity rightfully belonging to others.

  4. anonymousmagic December 30, 2010 at 11:45 pm #

    I wonder how high school students are expected to eat their school lunch (if they get any) because eating without a knife is not only rude, for most foods, it’s downright impossible. I see no difference between a school-provided knife and one accidentally (or purposely) brought into school.

    There also used to be a thing called intent. For a criminal it can make the difference between a murder charge and one of manslaughter. Apparently, no one has the decency to take intent into account with highschool kids when it could make the difference between innocence and guilt.

    This is one of those cases, where the importance of education should thriumph. This is no reason to suspend someone. I’d pick another school.

  5. deanne December 31, 2010 at 12:00 am #

    There seems to be no room for reason or common sense in officialdom anymore. My heart goes out to this girl and her family.
    This Christmas my husband and I spent a morning looking through his old childhood photos at his parents’ place. Most of the pictures from about age 6-8 have him proudly wearing his pocket knife sheath on his belt, even at school! He says that he wore it pretty much everywhere. And this wasn’t ancient history, it was in the 80’s! By the time our children make it to school they’ll probably be required to eat all foods with their fingers and write with special floppy pencils that can’t stab anyone!

  6. Frau_Mahlzahn December 31, 2010 at 12:00 am #

    Actually, yes, I started to think that all the incidents you write about here have become helicopter reality for the States — and so I should be more cautious about making that assumption. On the other hand, even back in the 80’s, when I was a High School student, and in the 90’s, when I went to College and Grad School in the States, I already had a feeling that childhood in America was much less free range as was that in Europe. You never saw _any_ kids playing outside!


  7. Frau_Mahlzahn December 31, 2010 at 12:03 am #

    P.S.: But I do remember my host mom throwing a temper fit, when the school bus made an extra stop just for me, because I hadn’t managed to walk the ten yards down to the regular bus stop, ;-). She was already worried about kids not learning to be responsible and in (age appropriate) charge of their own affairs back then.

  8. Meagan December 31, 2010 at 12:06 am #

    I’d sort of like to read the “other” news account that several of the commenters were claiming told a different story. No one posted it, and a google search doesn’t bring up anything incriminating. Anyone have a link?

  9. Cheryl W December 31, 2010 at 12:22 am #

    The “other” side of the story. Really though, it doesn’t clear things up. I still don’t know if the school was doing a locker check or a check going in the door. Not sure if the knife was in an actual purse, or something that looked like one. (I always carried mine. Not sure it that has changed or not.)

    Hopefully this girl will get a better education now that she is doing her work at the college.

  10. Brian December 31, 2010 at 12:27 am #

    Amen and especially to your broader point–its not the specific incident or even the punishment that is so harmful, its the justification of the action. “Bottom line is we want to ensure every child feels safe on our campus.”

    The only reason anyone in that school would feel uncomfortable is because WE make them feel that way.

  11. Paula December 31, 2010 at 1:42 am #

    Zero tolerence=zero iq. It doesn’t make anyone safe, if you remember Penn and Tellers show on safety hysteria they mentioned the school in North Carolina which was raided by armed police with sniffer dogs checking for drugs, they had cctv pictures of one particular cop pointing his gun at the head of a pupil who was lying on the ground after all that they found no drugs.

  12. Arthur Greenwald December 31, 2010 at 1:53 am #

    Lenore! I can’t believe you would print a photo that promotes the unsanitary sharing of apples hanging from strings! I can only imagine the germs those children were exposed to! Why someone ought to sue that school system for unleashing heaven-knows-what contagion across the land!

  13. The Truth December 31, 2010 at 1:55 am #

    How many people LIVE IN FEAR because millions of dinner table place settings in private homes and public restaurants contain spoons, dangerous pointed forks, and weapons called knives?

    How many School Administrators sit at their dinner tables cutting their food with a knife and never even think about that knife being a weapon?

  14. Steve Horwitz December 31, 2010 at 2:04 am #

    I don’t know Lenore – that apple eating game looks like a HUGE choking hazard. You “might” be guilty of giving kids a bad idea that they “might” decide to engage in that “might” lead to someone “possibly” choking. Better take that picture down before the zero tolerance cops come get you. 😉

  15. Kristi December 31, 2010 at 2:14 am #

    I grew up in the rural south (graduated in the early 90’s). During hunting season, it was nothing to drive through the student parking lot and see truck after truck with a rifle in the gun rack. The number of gun related incidents at our school: ZERO! Although the principal did come get me out of class one day to shoot the rattle snake that had made his home next to the field house…my marksmanship greatly impressed the boys at school. What did this dangerous and potentially deadly environment lead to…appointmento West Point and an 18 year career in the Army, serving my country and trying to train today’s generation that has been protected to the point of not being able to clean their own barracks rooms!

  16. Larry Harrison December 31, 2010 at 2:22 am #

    It isn’t freezing outside, and it sure isn’t freezing INSIDE where I’m at right now.

    I hail from North Carolina (not Sanford), and this is nuts. This is beyond nuts. This is mental-hospital insanity operating outside the institutional walls.

    An institution of higher learning? My foot. More like an institution of zero tolerance for human error.

    And Lenore, I want to say–I am glad you touched on “I [worry if I] am giving as warped a picture of our culture as the nightly news does.” It did, a couple of times, occur to me in the back of my mind–I’m reading these stories, getting mad, and I’m actually, to a certain extent, allowing this to keep me from enjoying the freedoms I’m actually able to have here a lot of the time. It actually occurred to me–in a way, I’m experiencing the same sort of thing here I do on the nightly news, just with the different angle.

    But I don’t consider it to be that you’re being reckless or doing the same thing the Nightly News is. I don’t think you’re trying to make people lose their brains or be in fear of what may happen to them if they free-range–after all, often-times it doesn’t happen. Heck, for all the “they’re taking out the merry-go-rounds & teeter totters from parks” posts, I’ve seen parks around here with both, with none of the “stay off of that” screams from hysterical parents.

    It’s just that the “thinking like lawyers” nonsense & zero tolerance run amok aspects are much more common than it used to be, and only by being aware of it and opposing it can be prevent it from taking root anymore than it already has.

    Also, I think your posts have us aware so that if & when such does happen to us, it won’t be such a surprise to us, even if it is nonetheless outrageous.

    Responsible reporting, Lenore. Irresponsible school administration. I bet these dimwits don’t even know the name Andrew Kehoe, they ought to read some useful material sometime & learn about some history, rather than having their nose buried in the rulebook so much.


  17. Jenny Islander December 31, 2010 at 2:22 am #

    IIRC the school district finally cracked down on kids keeping rifles in gun racks in the rear windows of their pickup trucks only because the kids kept forgetting to lock their cars, so somebody was going around stealing the rifles. This would have been simply a logical consequence except that the weapons were very often family possessions paid for by Dad and used by him to bring home the family’s supply of venison.

    My homeschooled daughter will be getting a jackknife for her 8th birthday. And I expect her to carry it everywhere. Aaaaieeee! The whole town will be unsafe for high school children! Watch out for the dangerous little girl whittling in a menacing manner!

  18. restless native December 31, 2010 at 2:28 am #

    Zero tolerance is horrible on many levels.

    True story from my neck of the woods several years back, right after our county school system instituted zero tolerance:

    Highschool boy–good student, never been in any trouble–wakes up one morning and dad says, “take my truck to school, I’m going to drop your car off at the car place for maintainence.” Kid drives truck to school, parks in the lot which is off-limits during the school day, goes to class. Mid-morning several school officials haul him out of class and expell him for having alcohol at school.

    Kid first vehemently denies having alcohol at school. When told that school had found a cooler with beer in it in the truck he is surprised, says he had no idea that cooler was there, and that the truck was his dad’s and explains how he happened to drive it that day. He hadn’t even looked in the back, he just hopped in the truck and went to school.

    Turns out that dad had gone hunting several days prior. While dad had removed all guns, ammo, knives, and deer, he’d inadvertantly left a cooler along with some other hunting gear in the bed of the truck. In the dirty cooler were a few empty beer cans, a couple of inches of now-tepid icky water, and one unopened warm Bud Light floating around.

    Dad goes flying up to the school, apologizes profusely and explains what has happened. School officials understand all of this, but No Deal anyway. Kid is still expelled, what part of zero tolerance do you not understand?

    And so all of you know, those wagon-wheel safety apple cutters are weapons, too. Before her braces were off, I packed one in my seventh-grader’s lunchbox so she could eat her apple. I clearly remember having one in my lunchbox many, many times, as did lots of other kids. Plus my older daughter had taken the same thing just a few years before with no trouble. Still, I got a call from the school.

    Don’t even get me started on the girl who got in trouble by helping a classmate who was having a severe asthma attack. She helped him use her rescue inhaler. That’s distributing drugs.

  19. SKL December 31, 2010 at 2:47 am #

    When I saw this story yesterday, I wanted to cry. From the summary I read, she was a high-achieveing HS senior and was suspended for the remainder of her senior year. How on earth can people anywhere allow this to happen? I hope this gets overturned, and quickly.

    The good thing about reporting these outrages is that hopefully, when people realize the risk could extend to their own kids, zero tolerance will be banned just like drop-side cribs were!

  20. Laura V. December 31, 2010 at 3:10 am #

    the game pictured in the photo is even more fun with donuts!

  21. Joe December 31, 2010 at 3:14 am #

    My 8 year old son has had a pocket knife for 2 or 3 years. He got his first .22 cal. rifle for his 8th birthday.

    These kinds of stupid zero tolerance policies is won of the many reasons we home-school our kids.

  22. Joe December 31, 2010 at 3:15 am #

    That should be “one” not “won.” (don’t worry my wife does the grammar lessons).

  23. Marie December 31, 2010 at 3:28 am #

    But I’d be terrified to know my kids could go to school and encounter a paring knife! They might try to cut their food by themselves. The very thought is horrifying!

    Seriously, this is just another case of zero tolerance meaning zero thought used by the administrators. They talk about considering the situation, but it never sounds like it.

  24. Heather December 31, 2010 at 3:34 am #

    Wow. Just wow. If this was like elementary school, maybe teachers/administrators would be worried about a paring knife (and only because a young child might be inexperienced with a sharp knife), but HIGH SCHOOL?! You’re right, if high schoolers don’t feel safe because of that, then they probably never will. It’s just maddening.

    I also just wrote about your book on my blog — just spreading the free-range word! Keep it up!

  25. Karin December 31, 2010 at 4:21 am #

    Oh, sure, the game looks fun NOW…but just wait until one of those kids pulls down the string holding the apples…and then the whole thing gets tanged around someone’s neck…after which panic ensues…and then a couple of kids get practically strangled…and then someone invaribly loses an eye……That’s why we need to continue cutting up apples with a butter knife (so no one loses a finger) in small bite size pieces (so no one chokes).

    Remember, danger lurks around every fun kid game…. ;0)

  26. C. S. P. Schofield December 31, 2010 at 5:14 am #

    What I would like to know is, does the knife in question fit the State’s legal definition of a weapon for the purposes of “carrying a concealed weapon” charges. Some paring knives might in some states. If it doesn’t, then the entire school administration needs to be taken out and buried neck deep in fire-ant nests – preferably on pay-per-view.

  27. enyawface December 31, 2010 at 5:16 am #

    I’m sure all of kids these day feel safe, knowing at any moment they can lose the rest of their childhood for simply being a kid.

  28. SKL December 31, 2010 at 5:25 am #

    enyawface, exactly. I would be far more afraid that my kid would get expelled just for breathing than that she’d get hurt by some other kid.

  29. SKL December 31, 2010 at 5:43 am #

    Lenore, I’d love for you to start a discussion about what “feeling safe” means to schoolkids nowadays. Because every time I hear a “zero tolerance” policy, I feel more insecure for my kids.

  30. Roberta December 31, 2010 at 5:57 am #

    Zero tolerance is another term for “I’m too stupid/chicken to draw some lines, make a real decision and then follow up.” It’s like restaurants that won’t let kids in – instead of having guidelines for acceptable behaviour, warning kids/parents when they cross it, and then removing them – no, it’s easier to kick all kids out. It’s easier to mindlessly point to a rule than weigh the circumstance and stand behind your decision. What a bunch of wimps.

  31. Ann December 31, 2010 at 6:40 am #

    I remember when the zero tolerance wave first began. It had nothing to do with school safety and everything to do with the fear of schools appearing to treat kids of one race differently than kids of another race.

    Administrators of diverse schools were petrified that if they cracked down on one kid and not another, they would open themselves up to civil rights lawsuits. The easiest way around it was to treat everyone with thoughtless sameness–zero tolerance. If they allowed themselves to use their judgment–such as letting a good student off with a slap on the wrist, then any unevenness in the treatment of different parts of the student body opens them up to litigation.

  32. Sky December 31, 2010 at 7:27 am #

    Children do have something to fear at school. They have to fear being suspended for inadvertantly violating some policy.

  33. gramomster December 31, 2010 at 7:32 am #

    Knives? In school to use on the food? They serve food that needs no knife. It is either hand-held, or cuttable with the side of a plastic spoon.
    Check out the blog by the teacher who, after forgetting her lunch one day, got the cafeteria lunch. She was so appalled, she actually decided to eat school lunch every day for a year, photograph the food, and blog about it. Eewwwwww!!! Braver woman than I…

    Here’s a sample post… and I just noticed she has an entry about the banning of bake sales.

    Zero tolerance is stupid and dangerous. This poor young woman. What a totally ridiculous thing to happen!

  34. Beth December 31, 2010 at 9:31 am #

    I’d like to see some interviews with other high school seniors in that school, and find out if they thought their safety was compromised by one of their classmates grabbing her dad’s lunchbox (containing an item that only her father, apparently, can use safely. But wait. What about the dad’s co-workers? If dad had taken the correct lunchbox to work, wouldn’t their safety have been compromised?)

  35. Cheryl W December 31, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    Ok, back in the mid 80’s I knew a guy who was an alcoholic – came to school every morning drunk. He had a locker that was full of hunting knives – not sure why, to make him self seem manly I think. (He had some gender idenity issues that came out later.) He showed the locker to the daughter of the assistant principal. He didn’t get in serious trouble, maybe none at all. Another friend did get in trouble when he brought a gun to school though. It needed some machine work and the shop teacher told him to bring it in. It ended up being taken away from him.

    More recently, when I lived in Montana, 6 years ago, every fall when you drove past the high school parking lot every truck had a rifle in the back as the boys would go hunting in the morning before classes. I suspect that it is still the same. At the time of Columbine they did have some bomb scares. As a result the school outlawed backpacks, until too many students and parents complained about load of carrying the books around without a pack. (They were allowed to use straps.) Some of the boys started using the straps like wet towels, I think that helped bring back the back packs too.

  36. Marty December 31, 2010 at 11:21 am #

    I read somewhere that bureaucrats are what really destroyed the Roman Empire. I believe it, even if it isn’t really true.

  37. Erika Evans December 31, 2010 at 11:25 am #

    I got into a knock-down drag-out Internet War this morning (when I really ought to have been cleaning ; ) with people INSISTING that it should be illegal to have a baby on your lap on a plane, because “in severe turbulence the baby could become a projectile!!!!!!!!!.

    My argument: According to the FAA, every year there is an average of 4 turbulence-related injuries among US air passengers, presumably including unrestrained infants, among 769 MILLION passengers. That’s 4 out of 769,000,000. In the 30 years that I could find statistics for, there has NEVER been a case of an injured unrestrained lap baby. Not exactly worth hysteria and curtailing of parental choice, is it?

    Their argument, essentially: But what if your baby smashed into the wall and DIED?! How would you feel THEN?!?!?

    It was so disheartening to try to get these people to understand the concept of overreacting to an incredibly remote possibility. I had probably twenty people leaping down my throat with absurd, hysterical arguments and not a single person agreeing with me. Sharing a society with these people is getting increasinly vexing :/

  38. Erika Evans December 31, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    Looking at the comment I just posted–it looks weird and random (Babies? Airplanes? Whaa?)–sorry, LOL!

    The common thread is the increasing inability of our society to evaluate risk rationally and with common sense, and to accept that not all risk can be eradicated. And when you try to do so, you throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  39. Silver Fang December 31, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    I was in high school when the ZT BS started. I’m so glad I missed the worst of it. Now ZT is everywhere, such as the bans on liquids over three ounces, snow globes and nail clippers in carry on baggage. Because tooth paste and nail clippers are going to help someone take over a jet!!!

    I feel sorry for today’s students and no mistake.

  40. Kacey December 31, 2010 at 12:51 pm #

    A friend a few years behind me in high school had this exact thing happen to her (~1994). Luckily, she appealed to the School Board and they turned over the suspension/expulsion. Hopefully, this girl will be just as fortunate.

    @ Erika Evans… I actually asked my husband about the turbulence & baby thing. He is an MIT educated engineer, licensed pilot and a captain in the Air Force. According to him, if there’s enough turbulence to launch a baby as a projectile, then you have worse problems than dinging the baby’s head on the overhead compartment. In Europe, however, they pass out special seat belts to buckle the baby to your belt. Those belts are outlawed in the U.S. I found that odd, so I assume there’s another “what if” scenario behind that. Sorry for extending the tangent…

  41. Susan December 31, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    Lenore, re: worry that by printing these weird Zero Tolerance stories (other many of your other articles)

    I get the need to spread the word and appreciate your work at doing so. However, I respectfully request more blog posts about what to do about these problems. So a kid gets suspended for bringing a knife to school, what should I do about it?

    What should you have done to the mother upset about you talking to her teens? Carry a card? Lol.

    I don’t know the answers, but I am kind of getting bored about reading the same type of ‘can you believe this?’ story on your blog. Still love it and respect you, but that’s my opinion. Can’t help if I’m feeling bored. Now I want some more action type posts. I know the world is going crazy about kids, now what do we do about it.

    Suggestion – if kids in a neighborhood don’t play outside, how do you encourage them or their parents to allow it?

    Thanks for listening!!

  42. Sean December 31, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

    I always point out to my daughters that we have few ‘rules’ because rules replace using your mind. For instance, if you say we have a rule ‘no running’, this is only true up to the point where you need to run from a burning building or run from a robber.

    No tolerance ‘rules’ are the worst and the teach kids a valuable lesson….if they are to be milquetoast serfs.

  43. Cynthia December 31, 2010 at 9:21 pm #

    enyawface and Sky just beat me to what I was going to say, but also wanted to mention that cutting an apple with a butter knife is considerably more dangerous than a paring knife. Probably a moot point, though, because I’ll bet they’re banned, too.

  44. Library Diva December 31, 2010 at 10:12 pm #

    Agree with you, Larry: it is a mental-hospital mentality. What a ridiculous case.

    Side note: the commentors talking (tongue-in-cheek) about how the apple game photo depicts a dangerous, unsanitary activity reminded me of an incident at my newspaper last year, when we got a complaint for glorifying an unsafe activity on our front page. What was it? A photo of a mom sledding with a kid on her lap. Horrors!

  45. Sammi January 1, 2011 at 12:56 am #

    This is ridiculous! At my high school (I graduated in ’07,) my boyfriend pulled out a pocketknife to help my teacher cut some papers. The teacher’s reaction? “It’s okay, I have scissors here.”

  46. Possible Answer January 1, 2011 at 4:47 am #

    Susan said:

    “So a kid gets suspended for bringing a knife to school, what should I do about it?”

    Every time I read over-the-top stories where good students get in trouble because School Administrators refuse to make Adult Risk Assessments, it The Story is in the newspapers, the student — instead of thinking the worst — should use the incident and all the publicity at the top of their application for college. In other words, wear it as a badge of courage and a great example of how they can persist in the face of silliness and overcome great odds.

    I know ivy league universities turn down students who have perfect SAT scores in favor of candidates with interesting and outstanding achievements to their credit. These over the top incidents just “might” be something certain colleges would welcome.

    I also know of a student at an ivy league college who engineered a major prank that got national attention – and – as a result had job offers coming his way.

  47. ebohlman January 1, 2011 at 7:18 am #

    Possible Answer: Your idea might have worked before the Virginia Tech shooting. Nowadays, colleges and universities focus on risk management (which is much more about financial liability than keeping students safe). Kids like that would be considered a “lawsuit waiting to happen”, even if that lawsuit is for some other student’s emotional distress at being exposed to a “dangerous” person.

    However, if the student has enough money, he/she might be able to study overseas, where the insurance industry isn’t as powerful. Who knows, he/she might actually be able to get a job overseas afterwards, with co-workers who were raised free-range.

  48. brenna January 1, 2011 at 7:48 am #

    It’s not surprising. Way back in the mid 70’s my younger brother had a pocket knife confiscated by the school. My dad was furious & argued with the school that a pocket knife in not a weapon, but a tool. To this day my dad always carries on on him. I wouldn’t be surprised if my brothers do too. A pencil or pen could be used as a weapon too & oh my what about your fingers or hands. Sometimes I think the world has gone wacko

  49. kari January 1, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

    I’ve been thinking about this all week and it occurred to me that this is not really surprising or unexpected.
    When we can’t trust adults (and even little old ladies) on airplanes with knitting needles and nail files, how can we trust ‘children’ with anything at all? It is the job of the man to control our every move and that is simply trickling (rather, gushing) down on our kids. It’s a shame.
    I think as long as we are losing our rights and not allowed to use our own judgment we will keep transferring that loss of control onto kids since they are a bit lower on the totem pole. Excuse my language, but shit rolls downhill.

  50. Lafe January 1, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    Susan, I don’t get ‘bored’ reading the many reiterations of injustice, zero-tolerance, failure to apply any realistic risk assessment to situations before acting, etc. I appreciate Lenore bringing them to our attention, and I do not expect her to have all of the answers. Here’s why:
    We all need to work as a society to solve these problems, before we (in the West, anyway) don’t have a society to correct. The voices of fear have consolidated, centralized, widespread channels through which they pump their propaganda, and it makes many parents demand “tough, zero-tolerance rules to keep my child SAFE!” It is very easy for the media to push the ‘fear’ button in people’s minds, in their news reports and their TV dramas, on a nightly basis.
    The voices of reason don’t necessarily have the same base or reach. When a zero-tolerance incident crosses the line into insanity in North Carolina, people aren’t necessarily going to hear about it in California, Arizona, Kentucky, or Wisconsin. Nor in a million other places.
    I love that Lenore’s blog has people commenting: “Here where I live in Germany . . .” “When I grew up in the South . . .” “Here in such-and-such a town, we solved that problem by . . .”
    The comments are where we find a community of geographically widespread people who are tossing their thoughts against the wall to see which ones stick. Some of then won’t apply in your area (burying school administrators in fire ants), and some might. There’s no way Lenore could know what kind of solution is just right for North Carolina if she lives in NYC. Maybe what she would do at her kid’s school is totally different from what might work in Utah.
    I’ve read a lot of ‘parenting’ magazines, and when you ask Lenore to come up with the answers, I think about all that is frustrating and useless about those magazines. “Your child is being bullied? Here’s what to do about it.” You usually end up reading an article like that, and you say, “What a crock. The person who wrote that knows nothing about my school or my community, obviously.”
    I read Lenore’s stuff because she brings issues to a central forum, adds a few thoughts of her own, and then lets people talk about the issue. Maybe someone in NC is inspired to start a letter-writing campaign to the local paper. Maybe more parents in some state start going to school board meetings and asking questions. Maybe someone starts a “quit driving your kid to school” club. We get to come up with our own answers, not look to some faraway figure for them. (That’s how most of this mess got that way to begin with.)

  51. Lafe January 1, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

    Regarding “weapons” in schools or anywhere else:
    We need to stop allowing little dictators in each little school district or school decide the definition of words like “weapon”.
    State by state there are different rules for what constitutes a weapon, and all adults are expected to live by those rules. In my state, a knife being carried around outside of your home is not a “weapon” unless it has a blade that is four inches long or longer. (This might be different than the rule in your state or country.) If I’m carrying a pocket knife with a 3.5 inch blade, I know I’m not breaking any rules, and my “useful tool” cannot be called a “weapon” by anyone, even if they have a big, scary sign on the front of their school or store or whatever that says, “No Weapons Allowed”.
    It would be unreasonable (and unconstitutional) for me to be randomly searched and various definitions applied to my little knife at different times – being called a weapon one day and a useful tool the next. We adults would not stand for that. Why, then, do we allow our children to be subjected to that insanity?
    Childhood and school is their training-ground for real, adult life. We need to loudly insist that clear, sensible rules are put in place that look similar to regular, adult rules. This grows responsible kids into responsible adults, and we would probably have fewer ninnies running things in such variable, uncertain, shifting, nonsensical ways.

  52. Omri January 3, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    I only vaguely recall this incident, but when I was about 9, I washed an apple and ate it at a school picnic, and another kid’s mother was horrified that I was not using a paring knife.

    The lady was French, and after World War Two the French were left without a drop of safe, clean water in their country. So they peeled fruits and vegetables. For the most part, they still do.

  53. escaped to Mexico aka staceyjw January 3, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    My Dad grew up in a little mountain town in PA, Blandberg, outside of Altoona. He use to take his SHOTGUN to school, along with his cousins and classmates, during hunting season so they could go directly to the woods after school.
    he is 70 years old now, and taught me how to shoot as soon as I could hold a gun. needless to say, I NEVER played with guns, and would have run from any kid dumb enough to do so.
    How times have changed……

  54. Pre Schools vadapalani January 3, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

    i feel happy reading the post… its nice i go to my golden days

  55. escaped to Mexico aka staceyjw January 3, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    – I forgot to add: I am not sure how old they were, but by the sound of it, this was not limited to 12th graders only. I think it was for all high schoolers (9-12 grade) minimum age was probably whatever the legal limit was for solo hunting at the time (if there even was one). I will have to ask him;)

  56. L2L January 5, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    I think we should just dissolve the compulsory school age and let parents teach their own children, it has worked great for us not having the government invade so much of our lives with their useless rules!!! And think of how much money the government would save if it didn’t have to babysit our children all day!!!!

  57. JP Merzetti January 31, 2011 at 2:56 am #

    I remember being a typical kid. matches string, pin and pocketknife in my pocket. I could fish, skin a tree, make a lean-to, build a fire, keep warm…survive – anywhere. What a concept.
    Never occurred to me that I was packing a lethal weapon, but then again, why would it? I had LOVE in my heart, baby.

    But seriously, the recent evolution of criminalizing kids (that kindergarden boy who kissed a girl….awwww……) for example – really does point toward a freaked out society that somehow hates its kids.
    Doesn’t matter that legions of retired stockholders are livin’ easy on funds siphoned off closed down companies that boosted profits by chopping jobs, or that someday legions of youthful disenfranchised will hunt those sucking seniors down for fun and enjoyment, if not for opportunity and profit….
    A healthy society mandates certain perspectives which re-new it in meaningful and healthy ways.
    Whose interests are really served by all this crap?
    Who is it who actually needs to have that kind of control over people, and especially kids?
    What society is so dumb that it doesn’t realize it needs young fresh hearts and minds to challenge the BS once in awhile and weed out the overgrown lies, open windows and let out the bad air?

    But then, we’ve indebted our great, great grandchildren so sublimely…if we can do that so handily, what’s a little draconian abuse?

  58. Ashlee Jess June 14, 2011 at 9:57 pm #

    its really containing the descent knowledge and I really like the blog.


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