Zero Tolerance Stupidity 1,345,802

Zero tolerance policies sound good on first hearing them. Parents, employees, etc. are reassured that something is being done and that the unthinkable can’t happen. Then you read a story like this.

A 10-year-old Hilton Head Island boy has been suspended from school for having something most students carry in their supply boxes: a pencil sharpener.

The problem was his sharpener had broken, but he decided to use it anyway.

A teacher at Hilton Head Island International Baccalaureate Elementary School noticed the boy had what appeared to be a small razor blade during class on Tuesday, according to a Beaufort County sheriff’s report.

It was obvious that the blade was the metal insert commonly found in a child’s small, plastic pencil sharpener, the deputy noted.

The boy — a fourth-grader described as a well-behaved and good student — cried during the meeting with his mom, the deputy and the school’s assistant principal.

He had no criminal intent in having the blade at school, the sheriff’s report stated, but was suspended for at least two days and could face further disciplinary action.

District spokesman Randy Wall said school administrators are stuck in the precarious position between the district’s zero tolerance policy against having weapons at school and common sense.

This policy is stupid in that a sliver of metal is probably far less lethal a weapon and a pencil or pen. The idea of preventing weapons on a school campus with young children is a laudible goal, but when you end up punishing a sudent for a silly mistake it is counter productive. The school district looks like a bunch of blithering morons and could undermine their authority (I’m sure the child has heard an earful from mom and dad about what a bunch of blithering morons the school officials are right on down to the teacher), undermine their credibility with the public, make them look incompetent and waste time on what amounts to literally a non-issue for the school, the parents and law enforcement.

“We’re always going to do something to make sure the child understands the seriousness of having something that could potentially harm another student, but we’re going to be reasonable,” he said.

I’m sorry but this man is just amazingly stupid. The reasonable thing is to say, “Have your mom buy another pencil sharpener, and throw that one out.” Maybe having a meeting with the parents and the child and pointing out the concern. But for crying out loud a sliver of sharpened metal is nowhere near as deadly as a pencil, pen, a shod foot, a hard bound book, a chair, or a belt with a metal buckle. Hell, I bet a paper cut would be worse.

Being this stupid needs to hurt.

FILED UNDER: Education, Health
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. As the father of children in this age range it is infuriating, and even a bit sickening, to read these stories as I know how upsetting disrupting the situation likely is for the child.

    And, as you rightly note, there are any number of objects a classroom more dangerous that the small bit of metal from a pencil sharpener.

  2. Steve Plunk says:

    Many public sector employees rely on strict policy adherence to avoid any personal responsibility for decisions made. It’s a lazy way to do things but educators have long had the opinion they are overworked and underpaid so why try.

    Schools have long been the hideouts for “blithering morons” so we can expect more of this not less. Attend a few school board meetings and be prepared to not be dazzled.

  3. just me says:

    I work in a school and loath zero tolerance policies because they really are “you can’t use your common sense or your instincts” policies.

    I don’t even understand what loon thought they would be a good idea-what was the motivation behind them?

    I think the rules about medications have to be the dumbest. I mean why should a 15 year old high school student face suspension for carrying a bottle of midol in her purse? I can see disciplining students if they hand out medications, but suspending them for carrying them for personal use when they are OTC is just plain stupid. There is a huge difference between a 15 year old with midol and a 15 year old snorting lines of cocain in the bathroom.

  4. Steve Verdon says:

    But…but midol is obviously a gateway drug. First that for cramps, then onto smack and hooking for your next hit. The progression is so obvious….errr or not.

  5. JKB says:

    Don’t worry, the kid doesn’t need his parents to know the school officials are idiots. They don’t generally rebel at this age but they do remember a few years later when bucking authority is more common.

    Children aren’t as dumb as the “educators” hope.

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Bureaucrats don’t look for the best solutions; sometimes not even for good ones. They look for administrable solutions. Zero-tolerance polices are administrable solutions.

  7. Eneils Bailey says:

    Randy Wall

    Being this stupid needs to hurt.

    Staying “stuck on stupid” might ease your pain, but being numbed by dumb is educational establishment bliss.

  8. Richard Jacobs says:

    Oh, yeah, been there, done that! When he was in middle school my second oldest son took a souvenir key chain of a 2 inch long toy cowboy pistol to school. Two inches! Obviously NOT a weapon, unless he forced someone to swallow it. Still he was nearly kicked out of school for having a weapon.

    But the worst one, was my youngest son who was hauled to the principal’s office for setting off a stink bomb in class. Only he didn’t. He had to go to the bathroom and he had gas. If you laugh, I understand, cause we did, but we were not laughing when we had to go to the Principal’s office to argue against suspending him.

    I have always been amazed at how the American people can take a good thing, like protecting our children and carry it to extremes nearly every time.

  9. thunderbird says:

    I heard about a case where some student was suspended from school for refusing to turn his NRA T-shirt inside out his family sued the school over it Frankly i hope they sue these liberal doofus schools that bar students from showing their conservative beleifs and end up making the idiot pricipal wear a pink tutu to school so to humiliate the idiots

  10. Joe says:

    It’s disappointing that this sort of thing goes on, laws written with zero logic or common sense. Maybe that’s the proper term, zero logic policy?

  11. Eneils Bailey says:

    I understand the pain.

    I put my only child through private school.
    The rules were explained and enforced, but, not without the administration giving up control to blind ignorance.

    Zero logic and the lack of common sense is a chancre on the complexion of the US Constitution.

  12. Maggie Mama says:

    Liberals continue to support the leftists running our schools with their zero logic and common sense…why should there be tenure fore teachers in elementary school?

    Unions are sabotaging the American dream and American core values.

  13. Eneils Bailey says:

    “.why should there be tenure for(e) teachers in elementary school?”

    This is not about educating your children(which I realized years ago). This about realizing that Union organizing in the democrat party politics are all over the the democrat party and the public schools is like fleas on a mutt dog.

    Yeah, the Teachers Union is a group of pesty little insects.

    No intelligent child should be offered up as a sacrifice to public schools.