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(March 17st, 2002)

A first grader was suspended for pointing a breaded chicken finger at a teacher in Arkansas. Two second graders, in New Jersey, were charged with making "terrorist threats" after playing a game of cops-and-robbers with paper guns. A sixth grade girl, in Georgia, was suspended for carrying a Tweety-bird wallet with a thin 10-inch chain to class. The wallet was judged to be a potential weapon…

What do all the above examples have in common? They are very real circumstances, and only a small sampling, that have occurred recently due to a phrase that is sweeping the nations public schools, and that phrase is "zero tolerance". So, what is zero tolerance and what does it have to do with breaded chicken fingers? Sit back, relax, enjoy and let the Beefboy do what the Beefboy does best…and that's break it right on down for you.

It was only three years ago that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton Colorado and murdered 25 of their classmates in the worst school shooting in U.S. history. A string of copycat shootings followed. Parents and faculty rushed to deal with a seeming epidemic and enacted a series of zero tolerance rules with all the grace and forethought of a lifeguard dealing with a fecal incident at the local community pool. In an effort to protect the children of the nation, they created a set of rules so absolute and so draconian that there would be no way this sort of incident could ever happen again.

There's only one problem. Zero tolerance would have done nothing, in any of the school shooting cases, to prevent the massacre from happening. Zero tolerance is a "feel good" policy that doesn't contribute anything to actually solving the issue of violence in school. It's easy to blame the faculty and administration of our schools for creating this mess, so let's start there.

Zero tolerance absolves school faculty and staff from any responsibility or any debate on the relevance of any offence. Frankly the educators of the nation are running scared from the parents, the media, and perhaps most important, the lawyers, who question their decisions. If there is no debate, if there is zero tolerance, then there are no grounds for fault. Mind you, we've taken away any corporal punishment that could bring order to the class and we've beaten down any attempt by the educators to deal with unruly kids, so naturally, with their backs against the wall, our teachers say, "Fine. If you give us all the responsibility and no power to back it up then we rule with zero tolerance and let the chips fall where they may." This effectively puts the onus back on the parents.

See, it's easy to point to faculty and administration of public schools and tell them to deal with violence in schools but they are dealing with our kids. If those kids are not disciplined by the time they head off to school and we tie the hands of the educators, then how are they supposed to deal with this situation? The fact is, that violence in the schools are the responsibility of the parents who create these little creatures and don't take the time to monitor and discipline their progeny, and meanwhile, work against the schools who try to do something about it.

In the case of Columbine, Harris and Klebold were making bombs, let me repeat that…BOMBS, in one of their basements. They walked straight into Columbine and started shooting. They didn't hide their weapons and carry them around during lunchtime; they assaulted Columbine like an Al-Qaida hideout. No zero tolerance rules would have stopped this assault. It wouldn't even have served as a warning. Let the Beefboy ask you this question; do you think it's the fault of Columbine High School or Harris and Klebold's parents, that they were making bombs in their own basement?

When the litigious happy American Bar Association says of zero tolerance, "Theories of punishment that were once directed to adult criminals are now applied to first-graders, resulting in thousands of unnecessary expulsions and suspensions," then it's high time to scuttle that rule. Furthermore, if you want to truly deal with violence in school then restore capital punishment and give the teachers some bite with their bark. Finally, take some responsibility for your own kids! If a kid is a killer, it's the parent's fault. Deal with that.

Dig it!

-The Beefboy