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Eagle Scout May Miss Out On West Point Due To Insane Zero Tolerance Policy

by @ 9:02 am on October 15, 2009. Filed under Dumbasses, In The News

If you thought the six year-old sport wielder was nuts, this is just insane:

As a 17-year-old Eagle Scout continues to wait out a one-month suspension from his upstate New York high school for having a 2-inch pocketknife locked in a survival kit in his car, the U.S. Military Academy says the missed school days could pose a big problem when it reviews his application.

Pressure is mounting on a Troy, N.Y., school board to overrule Matthew Whalen’s suspension from Lansingburgh High School, which was issued because of a zero-tolerance policy that is facing increasing opposition from parents and education advocates.

Whalen, a senior, says he stocks his car with a sleeping bag, water, a ready-to-eat meal and the small knife, which was given to him by his grandfather, a police chief in a nearby town.

But Lansingburgh High has a zero-tolerance policy for weapons, and when school officials discovered that Whalen kept his knife locked in his car, he says, they suspended him for five days — and then tacked on an additional 15 after a hearing.

On Wednesday, West Point’s director of admissions told that Whalen’s suspension alone wouldn’t be a “show-stopper” and “didn’t appear to be a big issue” for the youth, though it will appear on his record as the military academy considers his moral and ethical fiber.

“My concern would be, how does this impact on his academics?” said Col. Deborah McDonald, the academy’s head of admissions. “Because 20 (school) days is a long time to be suspended.”

But the Lansingburgh School District is not budging. A person reached at the home of a school board member referred all calls to the superintendent, who told a local newspaper he thinks the punishment was “appropriate and fair,” and that it was necessary for the district to enforce its zero-tolerance policy evenly.

“Sometimes young people do things they may not see as serious,” Superintendent George Goodwin told the Albany Times-Union. “We look at any possession of any type of knife as serious.”

Except, of course, that he had this knife secured in the trunk of his car, not in his pocket or his locker, or anywhere else that someone would have had access to it on school time.

Bruce McQuain gets it absolutely right when he says this:

This is a text book case about why “zero tolerance” is, on its face, an absurd policy that can and does end up hurting good students. Superintendents have a responsibility to the students in their district and hiding behind inflexible rules that hurt those students instead of doing the hard work of fairly judging the situation and giving an appropriate punishment (if punishment is deemed necessary) is an abrogation of that responsibility.

To put it another way, justice may be blind but it doesn’t need to be stupid.

7 Responses to “Eagle Scout May Miss Out On West Point Due To Insane Zero Tolerance Policy”

  1. Vast says:

    Zero Tolerance polices in and of themselves are not absurd. What is absurd is when the punishments tied to those polices are not flexible enough to be made to fit individual circumstances.

    The question should be, why did the school board add an additional 15 days to the punishment.

  2. tfr says:

    Zero tolerance is obviously an *ss-covering attempt to absolve chicken-sh*t school boards from any responsibilty for incidents like the Colombine killings. You know… instead of actually assessing the real risks and implementing policies to lower them and make the school safer, they make it more bureaucratic.
    Pretty similar to what our governments do all the time.

  3. Vast says:

    How does zero tolerance absolve school boards of taking responsibility for incidents?

  4. Let's Be Free says:

    This is all about school boards (and their attorneys and insurers) covering their rears to show how careful they were in the event that a Columbine type massacre in their school system. Do you really think Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold would have been deterred by a policy that prohibited pocket knives? Pure idiocy. But it’s what the populous deserves based on the small thinkers they vote on to the boards.

  5. In articles like these, a call to action should include email addresses so citizens can send suggestions for proper remedies.,,,,,,,,,

    Copy to:

    In this case, my email to the Board of Education at Troy, New York, will include:

    1. Zero tolerance policies are too rigid and removes any possibility of employing rational judgment by administrators, making the lot of them appear stupid.

    2. Knives, pocket knives, and myriad other pinty sharp things are tools if employed correctly. No punishment should be employed for possessing a tool, if the person is not misusing the tool.

    3. Bats, book bags, and all manner of objects can be employed as effective weapons. It makes no more sense to ban a pocket knife than a Bic pen, since either can be employed as a lethal weapon by someone determined to do harm.

    4. If a high school student cannot be trusted to properly handle a pocket knife, then the education system has failed us.

    5. Reverse the suspension of Mr. Matthew Whalen and act promptly to end the irrational “zero tolerance” policy that is making Troy’s School Board look so foolish.

  6. Rob Miles says:

    Zero Tolerance policies have nothing at all to do with school boards trying to absolve themselves of responsibility when Columbine-type massacres occur. Rules about not having any “dangerous weapons” on school grounds are for that.

    Zero Tolerance is all about school boards, officials, whatever, not getting accused of enforcing these policies unfairly. They’ve too often been accused of racism because they punished a minority student for having a knife in their locker but didn’t punish the White student who had a penknife in their car’s glove compartment.

    We all know that common sense should be applied, and that not every case warrants the full punishment. But every that gets put into practice, some group or another rises up and calls foul, and brings about a discriminatory lawsuit.

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