Zero tolerance policies always sound good yet create the potential for making those that administer them seem foolish. Just how foolish? Depends on the policies-but in a latest instance it makes America’s Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts seem like dangerous criminals.
Six year old Zachary Christie, a Delaware Cub Scout, loves his combo camping pocketknife. It comes with a knife blade, a fork, a spoon, can opener, screwdriver…you’ve seen the type. Shoot, you may have owned one while you were in scouts.
He uses it to eat breakfast and dinner at home, and decided to take it to school to use to eat lunch. It fell out of his pocket, a teacher saw it and confiscated the knife-and now Zachary, who by all accounts is a model student, is looking at 45 days in reform school.
Eagle Scout and high school senior Matthew Whalen is an achiever who tries to live the Boy Scout motto. At age 17, he has already completed Army basic training and hopes to go to West Point. He keeps a sleeping bag, bottle of water, and an MRE in his car just in case he breaks down. He also keeps a pocket knife in the glove box.
Apparently someone told someone of his preparations. Last month school officials at Lansingburgh HS (Troy, NY) asked Whalen if he was carrying weapon. He said no. Next question-Do you have one in your car? He said he had a pocket knife in the car, took them to his car, took it out and showed it to the officials. The school officials suspended him for five days pending a hearing. Whalen was told if he could submit a letter from the Army or the Boy Scouts saying he had to carry the knife, all would be OK. He submitted a letter from his Scout Master saying it was typical Boy Scout camping equipment. That was not good enough, and he got another fifteen school day suspension.
So in other words, for being prepared to meet an emergency he gets four weeks out of school.
And two things…one, the knife was a gift from his grandfather-who is the local chief of police….two, Whalen is the godson of blogger Riley at Virginia Virtucon.
It appears that the school district is going to follow this to the limit, and
Before I rant, I should note I am cubmaster of a Cub Scout Pack, my two eldest sons are Bear and Webelos II scouts, and I was a Boy Scout in my youth.
There is a word for the folks who approve rules like this: IDIOTS.
There, I feel better. I understand that rules like this are in place for safety sake, and to ensure uniform enforcement of a safe practice. But these examples also show how stupid these rules can be, and how dangerous the rule is to folks who don’t follow a standard suburban life.
I am reminded of a moment in the Jaycees ’bout fifteen years ago. The Daisy BB rifle company has long sponsored a program run through the Jaycees called Shooters Education. It is a program designed to teach responsible use of firearms. At an annual planning session, I found myself in an argument between members of the Alexandria Jaycees and folks from Winchester and Christiansburg. The Alexandria folks wanted the Virginia Jaycees to get out of the program because it “encouraged” the use of firearms. The non-NOVA folks said it taught responsible use, and was a good thing for the rural areas of the state where many people enjoyed hunting and some needed to be able to hunt to put food on the table. The argument was never resolved.
We try so hard to eliminate the possibility of trouble that we take perfectly legal activities, effectively criminalize them, then lump the people doing something responsibly and/or with no mal intent with those who are planning to do bad things. When I was young it was not unusual for folks to carry pocket knives to school…but woe to you if you got caught carving your name into your desk!
Somewhere along the line we have gotten caught up in wanting to create a utopian society by outlawing practices…and I can imagine the Second Amendment guys nodding their heads. The thing is that these practices seem to only hurt the good and the well intentioned. Do you imagine if a gang banger wanted to bring a gun to school the “zero tolerance” rules would stop him?
Zero tolerance is a marvelous concept that creates too many problems to offer a one size fits all solution.
Now, the idea has its place. Drunk driving situations come to mind. Other areas it might not be such a good fit, like when you want to send a six year old Tiger Scout to reform school or potentially derail the ambitions of a heroic young man who wants to defend his country and whose only sin is that he wanted to be self reliant in case his old car conked out.
Let’s get back to the concept of personal freedom and responsibility-and to punish those who abuse the privilege it, and not those who are doing no harm. Because there is a difference in being Armed and Dangerous and in Being Prepared.