Saturday, March 22, 2014

A New Zero Tolerance Low: Sixth Grader Threatened With Expulsion For Possibly Saving Classmate's Life

When I've complained about zero tolerance policies in the past, I've thought they could get no worse.
Most people would think 6th grader Adrionna Harris was heroic
for taking a razor blade away from a fellow student who
was harming himself. Her school, however, decided her actions
were criminal and tried to expel her, that is until the
media backlash set in.  

I was wrong.

According to television station WAVY, Adrionna Harris was suspended and threatened with expulsion for taking away a razor blade from a kid who was cutting himself, and immediately throwing the razer blade away.

Since she held the razor for an instant, in the stupid, ignorant dumb, shameful eyes of the Bayside Middle School in Virginia Beach  and their zero tolerance bullshit, she had a weapon in her hand. Time to get rid of her.

They suspended her for 10 days and were going to expel her permanently.

Of course, faced with an ENORMOUS backlash in social media after the WAVY report came out, the school is quickly backing down, and allowed Arionna to return to school Friday. But it's just a PR move. I'm betting Arionna's expulsion would have stuck had the media not gotten its hands on this news.

Almost all of the other zero tolerance overreaches I've complained about in the past involved students who actually didn't do things perfectly and might have actually deserved a minor punishment, like a lecture or even a half hour detention after school.

But here, Adrionna did everything right and was actually heroic.  She found a kid cutting himself with a razor. Really, the classmate was in immediate danger. Since nobody else was around at that moment, Adrionna had to think quickly on her feet.

She did and her parents are justifiably proud of her behavior. As would any parent or school. Except for the stupid people at Bayside Middle School, apparently.

To summarize Adrionna's actions:

1. She recognized a serious problem.
2. She took immediate action by taking the razor away.
3. She got rid of the razor immediately so it would not pose a continued danger
4. She quickly told an (allegedly) responsible adult what was going on, so everyone would be protected.

The only mistake Adrionna made wouldn't have been a mistake in a normal setting. Her "error" (read honesty)  was telling school administrators what happened. They would otherwise have never known she had that razor for a split second unless she'd told them.

Schools are supposed to places of learning. Here are the horrible lessons Bayside Middle School seems to be determined to teach students:

1. If you see somebody who needs help. Do nothing. It only causes trouble.
2. If you think somebody else could help a person in need, again, don't say anything. It's not worth the bother.
3. Rules are to be followed, even if it makes no sense to do so. For instance, if you're driving, we all know we should stay in our travel lane all the time. However, if there is a kid playing in the lane we're in, common sense is to swerve around the child if we can't stop. 
But the rules say we can't get out of our lane while driving so it's better just to run over the kid. But don't stop to help the kid once you've run him over. As I said that would only cause trouble. 
4. Lie to adults or at least withhold information from them to ensure you don't get in trouble. 
5. If people get wind of you following the rules no matter what and that you didn't help somebody in need, and these people criticize you, backtrack and pretend to be sorry or pretend to help, but only because that's good PR.  

I'm glad to report that these hideous, moronic lessons the school is trying to teach Adrionna are lost on her. The girl seems to be a bright, compassionate young woman.

A WAVY reporter asked Adrionna what she'd do if faced with the same situation.  She replied, "Even if I got in trouble, it' didn't matter because I was helping him...I would do it again even if I got suspended, yes."

But imagine the chilling effect this whole thing has on other students who might be faced with a dilemna on how or whether to help.

By the way, what about the boy who was cutting himself?  He needs help. But he was holding on to the razor, too. So instead of getting the kid counseling and medical help, I imagine the school will work really hard to get the boy in jail instead. That'll teach him!

School administrators said their hands were tied. The strict zero tolerance policy came down from the School Board, so the principal and others had no flexibility to consider the reality of Adrionna's situation without holding an expulsion hearing.

Yep, there we go again. Obey the rules even if it this case they cause much more harm than good.

A lot of people commenting on the WAVY article on their Web site want heads to roll at the school. Maybe they should hire people that have at least a hint of common sense.

But I bet that won't happen. They'll just let the bad PR wave wash past them, and go on with being stupid.

I hope most other schools aren't like Bayside. If any other school administrators act this moronically in any other school district, I fear for our nation's future.

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