JENKINS: Little tolerance for 'zero tolerance' absurdities

One of biggest problems with our K-12 education system is that it’s not exactly a haven for original thinkers.

That’s probably by design. At the administrative level, at least, signs of creativity or independent-mindedness are quickly quashed, while strict management hierarchies and autocratic school leaders encourage conformity and group-think.

Among the more egregious examples of this mindless orthodoxy are so-called “zero tolerance policies,” predicated on the ridiculous premise that certain behaviors — as identified by administrators — are always equally bad, irrespective of circumstances and regardless of degree.

That’s the sort of reasoning, or lack of reasoning, that leads to the suspension of a sixth-grader for having a Tweetie Bird keychain, as happened in one local county a few years ago. The school system had included chains on its banned weapons list, causing some logically challenged administrator to conclude that the little girl must be primed for mayhem — even though the “weapon” in question was 10 inches long and sported a plastic cartoon character.

Recently we’ve been treated to a few other examples of outrageous “zero tolerance” abuses, including one that made national headlines when Erin Cox, a Massachusetts high school senior, was asked by a drunken friend to pick her up from a party.

The cops arrived shortly after Erin and arrested several of the inebriated teenagers — but not Erin, who had not been drinking. Still, the school system in its infinite wisdom determined that Erin had violated its zero tolerance policy regarding alcohol simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was suspended from the volleyball team.

Locally, a Cobb County student was charged with a felony when school officers, during a random sweep of parked cars, discovered a fishing knife in his tackle box. Another boy faces similar charges after officers found a knife in his car console — which turned out to be an EMT rescue knife that his parents had given him specifically so he could cut his seat belt if he were ever in an accident.

This is absurd. It’s ludicrous. It’s preposterous. It’s positively ridiculous. Any adult who can’t tell the difference between a keychain and a weapon, or who doesn’t understand that keeping an EMT knife in your glove box is hardly the same thing as carrying a switchblade in your sock, has no business being in charge of anything, much less a school.

But that’s exactly the reason zero tolerance polices exist: So that self-styled “educators” don’t have to make judgment calls, something that would require using their common sense cortex, which for many of them atrophied long ago.

But that doesn’t mean we as parents have to tolerate their zero tolerance tyranny. We don’t. We should stand up against it whenever and wherever we can. Because if there’s one thing school administrators fear more than little girls with cartoon keychains, it’s hordes of angry parents outside their doors.

Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and author of “Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility,” available at Books for Less in Buford and on Amazon. Email Rob at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com or visit familymanthebook.com.