Sunday, March 16, 2008

Less Than Zero Tolerance For Zero Tolerance

I understand the point of "zero tolerance" policies in schools, but the only reason that it got to the point where schools thought that they needed "zero tolerance" policies was because of the school's administrations inability to distinguish black from white and to realize that sometimes some things might actually be gray.

Treating everyone the same in every situation is ridiculous. But for those soft headed indiviuals out there (Helmets still available! Order now!) who think that not having to make a decision is a good thing, "zero tolerance" policies are superb. "We'll just look in this manual and see what we are supposed to do in this situation!" "We don't care why it happened! The manual says what to do and we're going to do it!" "I'm so glad I don't have to think about anything and can just let all of my actions be determined and dictated by someone else!" "I have a cranium that is softer than warm butter. Please get me a helmet so that I don't injure myself further."

Reason for rant: The Monterey Peninsula Unified School District in Seaside, CA. (What are the odds, eh?)

It seems that last Wednesday, a 15 year old girl took the bus to school, but started to feel sick on the way there. Rather than get off the bus when it reached her school, she just stayed on the bus as it went off to pick up elementary school children and the driver could drop her off when that route was finished. Seems fairly reasonable. This is where the reason ends, however.

When the bus made a sharp turn, the driver fell out of her seat and struck her head. (How sharp of a turn are we talking here? I mean, this isn't NASCAR. It's a school bus.) The bus veered to the side and began hitting parked cars (not much of a surprise considering that the driver wasn't driving anymore).

So now we have the school bus version of "Speed" occuring. The girl, realizing that this might not end well, jumped in the driver's seat, applied the brakes and stopped the bus (and effectively also stopping any further destruction that would occur). Nice job! Right? Eh. That depends who you are. If you're not soft headed, you think that girl did a good thing. If you ARE soft headed (or an administrator at Marina High School, which will prove to essentially be the same thing), you think that a weekend of detention is in order.

See, the school has a "zero tolerance" policy for not following the procedure for leaving school grounds. I guess you're supposed to check out at the office or have your parent's approval and whatever else they decide. (Check the policy. I'm sure it says exactly what qualifies. No more. No less. If it's there, by all means, follow it!) Since the girl didn't follow the procedure, she is in violation of the policy. Since she is in violation of the policy, she gets detention. Make sense? Of course not.

Now I don't really know if you can consider just being on the bus as it pulls into school "on school grounds". I mean, technically she wasn't on school grounds. She was on the bus. She didn't attend school at all that day, so can you "leave" somewhere that you technically were never "at" in the first place? Technically, probably not. Logically, not. Soft-headed-ly? Of course you can and if you did, you've violated the "zero tolerance" policy outlining these procedures. Spare me.

Are they afraid that if they cut this girl some slack (being as how she saved the town from death and destruction and saved the rest of us from a Lifetime Movie of the Week based on the whole ordeal) that suddenly all kids at the school are going to start pulling wacky, runaway bus thwarting schemes in order to cut class? See, this is the gray area that needs to be seen. However, when you expect those with limited amounts of functioning gray matter to actually recognize the gray area, well, then you're apparently asking a bit too much. Just give them detention instead. That's what the manual says to do.

Helmets all the way around!

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