Schools Have Rules: No Good Deed Edition

There’s a good reason for the maxim, stercus accidit.  Despite best efforts, careful preparation and thoughtfulness, sometimes something undesired, unanticipated occurs.  And the honorable thing to do is to come clean, acknowledge that it happened and follow the rules.  And for being honorable, for having no improper intent, for doing absolutely, positively nothing wrong, yet honoring he compact, you will be thanked, appreciated and, in a perfect world, get a balloon or some similar reward, right?

Not in Buford, Georgia.  Via  11 Alive (not the dead one, but the living one):

Thirteen-year-old Jack Persyn was at chess club before the start of classes at Lanier Middle School in Gwinnett County when he discovered an inch-and-a-half long knife in a bag he brought to school. The military style bag was given to him as a Christmas gift from his aunt, who bought it at a yard sale.

The disciplinary report written by administrators at Lanier Middle states that the 8th grader “accidentally” brought the knife to school and that he “immediately self-reported” the weapon to his teacher.

Still, Jack was punished with four days of in-school suspension.

It’s always the quiet ones in the chess club.  But it’s not like Jack wasn’t “rewarded” for his honesty, coming forward to tell his teacher that he found a tiny pen knife in the bag he was given for Christmas.

Several years ago, the Gwinnett School System altered its policy to allow consideration of self-reporting. Prior to that, cases such as this one would result in a minimum 10-day out-of-school suspension.

That’s six days saved by self-reporting. Kinda warms your heart to know how much the school appreciates its students doing the right thing. 

So is this yet another example of the mindlessness of schools adopting a “zero tolerance” policy toward weapons, the sort of policy designed to thrill grocery clerks at the expense of anything remotely resembling reason?  Absolutely not, the school proudly proclaims.

The Gwinnett School System insists their policy on weapons in school is not zero tolerance, yet a school spokesperson said any student found to have a weapon at school will face punishment even when a student self-reports accidently having that weapon.

“We can’t ignore the fact that there is a weapon on campus somewhere that someone can use,” said system spokesperson Jorge Quintana. “This is obviously to keep the safety of our students in our schools.”

“Obviously,” a student who accidentally brings a tiny pen knife to school, through no fault of his own, and immediately gives it up, tells his teacher, must be punished for the safety of the students.  Obviously.

Of course, schools are all about teaching children important lessons, and what happened here most assuredly taught Jack some big ones.  Never, but never, trust your teacher or school officials. Never give yourself up.  Never admit to anything, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. Never expect life to be fair or to be rewarded for honesty.

The only surprise here is that the school administrators haven’t applauded their diligence and efficacy for finally teaching a student critical life lessons, that they aren’t to be trusted with the care of students.  If they had given this greater thought, and figured out how to turn this absurdity around and take credit for teaching Jack a thing or two about how to deal with grocery clerks and school administrators, they could throw a party and give themselves balloons for a job well done.

H/T Radley Balko

22 comments on “Schools Have Rules: No Good Deed Edition

  1. Eric L. Mayer Post author

    Remember who runs the schools. Be mindful of their background and education. You can always trace adult behavior back to prior experiences and early indications of cognitive abilities.

    I think this may summarize things nicely:

    “Everybody knows that the dumbest people in any American university are in the education department, and English after that.”–Kurt Vonnegut

  2. SHG Post author

    So school admins are all a bunch of morons, and this is the best we can expect?  Do we make “tsking” sounds, shake our head and walk away?

  3. Thomas Stephenson Post author

    Well, I’d also point out that in-school suspension and out-of-school suspension are two different things, so he didn’t merely shave six days off his punishment.

    It’s like comparing probation to jail time.

  4. Erika Post author

    having experienced “in school suspension,” I could make a reasonable argument its worse

  5. David Post author

    In one of them he gets to go home and the other has him stuck in a single room in a government-run institution all day, so which one’s jail time?

  6. Thomas Stephenson Post author

    In one sense, yes. But, at least at my school, if you had in-school suspension your teachers would send over any assignments or tests you had to do. If you had out-of-school suspension you would just be assigned a grade of zero for any assignments or tests. Otherwise you’d be correct, but for a Chess Club member this is likely an important distinction.

  7. Thomas Stephenson Post author

    I meant in the sense that it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. If somebody got four years probation instead of ten years in prison would you say he merely shaved six years off his sentence?

    See above for the important distinction. Yeah, on out-of-school suspension you get to go home for a couple of weeks, but there’s a good chance you’ll flunk a class or two because of it.

    There are also people who argue that probation is worse than jail time.

  8. Frank Post author

    Those who can, do.
    Those who can’t, teach.
    Those who can’t teach, administrate.

    Peter Principle in action.

    And the great thing about this kid’s experience is that it translates to real- world adult life: Never talk to cops, even when you know you’re innocent.

  9. Eric L. Mayer Post author

    Nope, but to defeat the culture they have created, we must study how they became what they are. There is a reason they often make boneheaded decisions.

    Frankly, I think that a certain percentage of school admins should be taken from other disciplines, as to dilute the influence of America’s education departments.

    Of course, another course of action is to take a cattle prod to the board of education who should be providing neutral and informed oversight over these individuals who can often be terminated at will (most administrators are not hired on tenure tracks).

  10. Kirk Post author

    A pocket knife is not a weapon. When will we learn this? Why has the American education system banned common sense from schools?

    A pocket knife is a useful tool that no man or boy should ever be without. With it he may clean his nails, trim or file his nails, remove a splinter, remove a staple, open a box, tighten a screw, and pick his teeth.

    Ideally, every schoolboy from grade five and up should be required to carry a small pocketknife. With it, he will learn preparedness and responsibility.

  11. SHG Post author

    That’s so old-school of you. Today, everything is a weapon if you’re inclined to view life that way.

  12. Kirk Post author

    And that is the true absurdity of this rule: if I wanted to attack someone, I could use anything at hand. A sharpened pencil could do a nice job, and with it you get the added benefit of the dreaded (tho mythological) lead poisoning.

  13. Thomas Stephenson Post author

    Well, if you want to get down to it, the schools are taking their cues mostly from the parents of the students, who tend to be the same sort of people who want “tuff-on-crime” prosecutors and judges.

    Remember, “tuff-on-crime” policies are great until it’s someone you care about who the state wants to be tough on.

  14. Thomas Stephenson Post author

    If you’re really determined to stab someone, a sharpened No. 2 pencil will do the trick. Maybe we should ban those from schools.

  15. SHG Post author

    No matter. It’s hard to write when you stick kids in bubbles anyway. But then they’ll never be harmed again. Well, at least they’ll never skin their knee.

  16. SHG Post author

    If anybody found out that the policy (but it’s not zero tolerance, you understand) had not been applied, there would have been trouble. An inteiilgent educator knows how to keep his butt out of trouble.

  17. Erika Post author

    Good point – and I really did not think of that consideration since I went to a school which did not have the “zeros” for everything while suspended rule.

    I was mainly focused on the conditions of confinement and the strictness and anger level of parents.

    Of course, I would likely defeat by own argument by pointing out that my mother always promished me that as bad as in school suspension was, if I ever got out of school suspension, it would be a lot worse. As for whether my mother was right, let’s just say I received in school suspension several times, but only got out of school suspension once. But my belief is that I had much stricter parents than average and for the average student, if there are no grade considerations, in school suspension is probably worse.

  18. Rob R Post author

    When I was in the 8th grade, my Spanish teacher was messing around with something when he asked “Does any have a pocketknife?” I let him use mine, and he thanked me. It was neat to be able to help an adult out by being prepared. When I became a lawyer, I was always forgeting to go back to the metal detector at the courthouse door to retrieve my pocket knife, so I stopped carrying one. I ended up buying several: one for the car, one for desk drawer in my office, one in the kitchen, one in the tool box, etc etc etc. I am just waiting for the search, and when my bond motion is in front of the court to hear the prosecutor say: “your honor, the man is a threat. He had 47 knives hidden all over the place!” I know it’s coming, I just know it.

  19. SHG Post author

    I gave my son a pen knife when he was about 10.  At 13, I gave him a Buck knife. A nice Buck 110. A boy needs to know how to handle a knife.

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