Cheers to the Jackson County Board of Education for scuttling its “zero tolerance” policy regarding weapons in the school system.
Zero tolerance is seldom good policy. It may make the board sound tough on an important issue, but anything that takes away the school administrators’ authority to consider mitigating circumstances is ripe for abuse. The kid who accidentally brings a small Swiss Army knife to school in his cargo pants should not be treated as harshly as a student who pulls a switchblade during a cafeteria confrontation. If that seems like common sense, it was not allowed under the zero tolerance weapons policy. Essentially, the change allows school administrators to mete out disciplinary action on a case-by-case basis in which the seriousness (or lack of seriousness) of the offense can be taken into consideration.
High-profile weapons cases like the Columbine shooting, forced school systems to adopt policies to prevent similar occurrences, but as other weapons cases made the news and increased the paranoia, school boards across the country adopted one-size-fits-all policies. Thus, we had the famous Tweety Bird chain incident which, while among the most absurd overreactions, was just one of many cases in which young schoolchildren were hammered by policies that could not differentiate between carelessness and malice, between ignorance of the law and a premeditation of mayhem.
Zero tolerance just made the situation worse. Good for the Jackson County Board of Education for returning to common sense.