Zero-Sum Game

By Amanda Jones — June 19, 2007 1 min read
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Despite continuing concerns about school safety, some state lawmakers are questioning zero-tolerance policies on weapons, alcohol, and drugs in schools, saying they can unfairly punish students who have harmless intentions. “A machete is not the same as a butter knife. A water gun is not the same as a gun loaded with bullets,” says former school board member and Rhode Island Sen. Daniel Issa, who is sponsoring a bill that would allow school districts in his state to decide punishments for student violations on a case-by-case basis. Stories of the no-tolerance laws gone too far are widespread. For example, according to the Associated Press, a Rhode Island kindergartener was suspended after bringing a plastic knife to school to cut cookies. Ditto for a Utah student who gave his cousin some cold medicine. Utah recently changed its drug policy so that asthmatic students were allowed to carry inhalers. The American Bar Association, the American Psychological Association, and some parents have spoken out against zero-tolerance policy. “You’re dealing with individuals,” said Christine Duckworth, a mother of a recently graduated high school student in Rhode Island. “How can you possibly apply one law to every single person and their circumstances?”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.