While cleaning out my email today, I happened upon a story that I just had to share with you. It’s about behavior, schools, and worrying about the wrong stuff. When we will learn to react to what’s important in education and not over-react to the dribble?
You Decide – I’m interested in your thoughts about this tragic incident.
Originally Posted February 5, 2011 at 6:33 p.m. @ http://www.vcstar.com/news/2011/feb/05/no-headline—2-6_thomason/ by Dan K. Thomasson who is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.
Guns, knives and even explosives are everywhere in America today and it seems another atrocity is never far away, demanding the utmost vigilance from us all, especially school officials. But the diligence shown at a Virginia high school in shortstopping a possible disaster is, as they say, above and beyond.
The wise authorities at Spotsylvania High School, located in a place of Civil War prominence where once echoed the sounds of extraordinary battle, have confiscated a “lethal” weapon and apprehended and expelled the 14-year-old freshman student who dared challenge the institution’s zero tolerance policy for such things.
Andrew Mikel II, an ROTC student with aspirations for military service like his father, a Marine, was caught red handed with a tube from a pen from which he blew a few small, round plastic pellets at a couple of buddies in a moment of boredom. It was reported that in one lunch period he scored three hits and his targets — horrors —flinched and looked annoyed.
Just in time, however, he was caught and punished, before scoring any more hits, averting a potential Columbine moment. His admission that what he had done was stupid and his apology failed to mollify the outraged school administrators.
A deputy sheriff was summoned and Andrew was charged with three criminal misdemeanors. Just having the charges on his record, his father says, probably will end his aspirations of an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. Who would believe his actions were that inconsequential, after all? He can clear the charges if he participates in a year of diversion classes.
At the moment, Andrew is being home schooled while he awaits an appeal to the county circuit court. An earlier appeal to the county school board’s disciplinary committee received a unanimous rejection despite the opinion of the school’s hearing officer that he wasn’t comfortable with the decision.
No one can say that the school folks in Spotsylvania County don’t have their priorities straight. They obviously know a thing or two about danger, even the kind that masquerades under what used to be called a very minor childish prank if it was recognized at all.
But that was before the federal Gun-Free Schools Act mandating expulsion for students who take handguns, explosive devices and projectile weapons to school, prompting more and more educators across the country to categorize even the blandest of devices, including those we once used to shoot spit balls at one another, as possessing the potential to wreak havoc on the classroom.
And that was before zero tolerance brought the demise of common sense.
In defending its actions, the board labeled the small plastic tube as metal and the pill like pellets as BBs, making one wonder how long ago it had been since its members owned a Red Ryder special.
It is just fortunate for Andrew that in the zeal to protect the innocent from this criminal fiend the board didn’t demand he be tried as an adult and sent to the slammer for the rest of his teen years.
Andrew joins an elite group of victims of academic builders of mole hills, those who are unable to discern the difference between normal childhood silliness and something far more dark and dangerous so they institute blanket policies that don’t allow for the use of judgment of which they obviously have very little.
A small boy returns from a camping trip and goes off to school on Monday without removing his Boy Scout knife from his backpack. When he remembers it, he immediately turns it in to the principal’s office and is instantly expelled. The list of petty violations of the policy and the distorted results grows daily.
No one should trivialize the seriousness of keeping our schools safe in an age when access to firearms and truly lethal weapons are so available. At the same time, over-reactive school officials who treat “pea shooters” like six guns or something worse are doing just that.
Andrew’s offense was being an immature kid, nothing more. All of us have been in the same position, popped or popping away with a paper wad or a pea or a rubber band. It’s hardly a federal offense. Whatever happened to detention?
What do you think about this story – share your comments with me.