Request for comment : ) [US schools and $everyItem is dangerous]

Continuing the discussion from Virginia school suspends an 11-year-old for one year over a leaf that wasn’t marijuana:

The topic was closed, but this is something mindboggling for me and I simply don’t get it - so here’s my first topic.

The child did something forbidden and (arguable/probably) wrong: Knifes in schools are not necessarily a good idea - and lying about it should result in 2 days without dessert and a serious parent/kid discussion (realistically one-sided monologue :slight_smile: ).

But why the hell should this have the potential to end ugly? In my school(s) knifes were also forbidden (mid-80s to 90s, Germany) and teachers confiscated more than one item (especially slingshots) - but this was never a situation with an ugly prospect (calling the police, school suspension, etc). Sure, my parents were pissed - but I’m the first-born and had to test and expand limits for my younger siblings :wink:

What is wrong with the US (or what is wrong with me and my POV)?


No you’re right, it’s a problem with us, and this broken culture we’ve built.

I think sometimes it’s wrath, or a zeal for duty, or malice toward children, but one way or another we justify making bad things worse for those already less fortunate. A lot.

My heart skipped a beat when the call came because police and suspensions and whatnot could have been involved. Maybe even juvenile courts and the consequences of that.

The young person in question wrote apology letters and the thing cleared up nicely. And that’s how I think it should have gone.

But the dread of rolling the dice on unfeeling punitive school types shouldn’t be a given.


This sounds horrible - many of the US school system stories I see are filled with potentially life destroying occurrences (as in life plans, not life threatening), childhood shouldn’t be like Damocles and his sword for every stupid implemented idea.



It wasn’t that bad. :smile:

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although the wikielite seem to think this doesn’t have the right tone this article covers the ground pretty effectively as to what the hell happened over here in north america.


The first two sentences in the section ‘research’ are incredibly sad.

Thanks, the article filled most of my knowledge gaps.

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Yeah. Schools are supposed to run on science. The science says it doesn’t work. So they should stop.

Except PTAs exist and are the most politically brutal organizations on earth. If it weren’t for the fact that police officer’s children go to public school too, there’d be cage matches and assassinations.


PTA means in this case? Phosphotungstic acid? (stupid joke to mask my ignorance)


parent teacher association


Ah, so the first meaning on was the correct one - I was totally sure this could not the one LDoBe meant, as parents are a pita (source: my younger self) but not everywhere near politically brutal in my experience. The US are different

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I’d say it’s a toss up between them and HOAs.


Everyone’s kid is a super special snowflake, and everyone wants total control of their child’s school experience, and roughly 60% of Americans believe that all animals have existed in their present state since the beginning of time, and roughly 40% believe that the earth is no more than 10,000 years old. So that causes conflict with the curriculum. They always want the best education for their children, but also don’t want kids to be taught anything that conflicts with their “fixed beliefs”.

It’s a wreck.


I’m quite sure this is Home Owners Association but I love one of the other meanings: HoA - Horsemen of the Apocalypse : )


From what I hear, they may be synonymous.


@slybevel’s example, though (through no fault of their own!) is an example of the the worst aspect of this kind of zero-tolerance policy at a local-scale institution like a school. It’s zero tolerance…unless you are friends with the PTA, administration, or have Strong Ties in the Community, or have sufficient ability to bend the ear of the Authority. My mom was a smooth-talking special ed teacher, so could talk me and my sisters out of any amount of trouble, from school principal up to local judge, but kids with less eloquent and connected parents were flushed through the system.

Because this is a bunch of local-yokel wanna-be authorities in denial about their own smallness, it becomes a blend of the worst parts of both the unfeeling bureaucracy and of the relationship-based “village” community. The icy cold of a gulag, with all the corruption of a high school clique.


This is an important point and probably true for every situation with at least 2 human beings involved. But I have the feeling the underlaying framework makes it worse in the US.

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I think we should never underestimate the power of laziness, and mental laziness above all. It is so much easier to use a hard-line, brainless excuse to deal with things rather than consider each child and situation on an individual basis. Otherwise, it would mean that you would have to actually KNOW the student, and the parents, and any other students and/or teachers, etc. involved. That’s why some people are able to get their kids out of trouble…they know how to make it more difficult to deal with them, so that letting things slide is the EASIER solution in that case. The less thinking involved, the better. I mean, really, what do you expect from a school…intelligent thought? Pshaw!

Having said that, the reality is, there is a lot of violent crime in the U.S. And remember, any bad situation can be made a lot worse in an instant because of the amount of guns we have everywhere. So there is a true fear as well. A 10-year-old with a gun isn’t just a kid anymore…they really are dangerous.

And let’s not forget the third leg on this stool: our litigious society. Schools don’t want to have to deal with other parents filing lawsuits because their children were in potential (or actual) danger.


I agree, the American flavor (boot-strappey personal morality) of zero-tolerance absolutely magnifies the damage of this kind of personal corruption, and a structural solution would definitely be in order. A move away from zero-tolerance toward a compassionate, humanistic, holistic, cooperative and treatment-based policy of “discipline” would do much to mitigate the effects of local corruption. When the policy is to help kids who get in trouble, and work with their families, the worst effect of corruption would be that less-well-connected families might get less-good treatment. If you design your system right, though, resources would be directed toward those most in need!

So it’s like this:
In the US, especially in my area (read: Massachusetts), there are three things a student really can’t do.

  1. Weapon at school
  2. Drugs at school
  3. Assaulting a teacher/staff
    Nearly everything else is dealt with via suspension/reprimand/whatever. Those three, however, are the only three things that can void your right to a free public education. I am not condoning this; I am only reporting it.
    Even with this, I’ve not worked in a school system (or interacted with one, to my knowledge) that uses a “Zero Tolerance” policy in dealing with these three things- While the option to expel/exclude exists, in my experience, it’s used very, very infrequently. And in those cases, it’s typically for the best- these few incidents were not accidents or boundary-pushing.
    Also: a student convicted of a felony can also be excluded- but even this isn’t always exercised. If a student gets charged with a felony, they are typically suspended from school pending the trial- but out-of-school tutoring is provided during that time, and if they are found innocent at trial, they can usually come back.
    I’m lucky- I know. I’ve had the privilege to work with some Administrators that have the mental capacity to see that each infraction is a individual situation, and that cookie-cutter policies and expulsion really don’t help anybody. Admin that choose to have “Zero Tolerance” use it as a shield- they want to have the power and responsibility removed from their hands so they don’t have to make difficult decisions they have to be responsible for. It’s a cop-out hiding as school safety.
    I know this (clearly) isn’t the case everywhere (most-where?) but I just wanted to point out that it isn’t all hopeless and wasteland.

I do want to present a counter-argument which has a tendency to get lost in these discussions.

Going to school has always been dangerous for girls and minorities (racial, religious, economic, etc.). And these days, bullying has even more ways (the internet, guns, etc.) to traumatize students. We know more, now, about how dangerous abuse is, even for those who live through the experience. The pendulum may have swung too far in the opposite direction in an attempt to remedy things, but at least it’s being taken seriously now.