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The Zero-Intelligence Policy
If there is one thing for which I have no tolerance, it is zero tolerance.
My nephew was recently suspended from school under a strict zero-tolerance policy toward fighting. He was standing in line when a boy behind him socked him in the back of the head. The teacher saw the incident, and, well, you know what they say, it takes two to have a fight, even if one of them is just standing there getting punched in the cranium.
Perhaps zero tolerance will soon become official policy at police precincts.
You: I was just beaten and robbed!
Police Officer: That's horrible. You're under arrest.
You: You've got to be kidding me.
Police Officer: Consider yourself lucky. If you'd been murdered, you'd be going to prison for life.
I suppose I'm implying that zero tolerance is just another way of saying zero sense. So I wasn't surprised when the U.S. Supreme Court took up a case on April 21 of a 13-year-old girl who was strip-searched in school because a friend of hers alleged that the girl had an ibuprofen tablet.
Yes, ibuprofen, the over-the-counter painkiller.
Nephew: Hey, I have a headache from getting punched in the head, may I have an ibuprofen tablet?
School Nurse: Yes, but first you'll have to strip naked. Here, let me turn on some music.
As if that weren't crazy enough, some schools have even banned the use of sunscreen — which could turn out to be sort of unfortunate, if the same school requires you to walk around nude so you won't have any place to hide non-prescription medication. (I suppose you could hide it by swallowing it — the zero-tolerance policy encourages you to take drugs to avoid being caught holding drugs.)
Ironically, ibuprofen is sometimes recommended as a treatment for sunburn.
I'm trying to understand the school's zero logic on this. Sunscreen is not a drug, but it can help prevent skin damage, so it is kind of like a drug, just like being attacked is kind of like getting in a fight. We as a society cannot afford to have our children running around avoiding skin damage, right?
Clothing also blocks skin damage, by the way, so that's another good reason to conduct a strip search.
Done correctly, zero-tolerance policies can rid schools of their most pernicious problem: students.
The case went to the Supreme Court because a lower court agreed with the girl and her parents that the school had demonstrated zero tolerance toward common sense. The school, apparently shocked that anyone would find fault with their entirely reasonable policy that anyone accused of having a headache pill should be forced to strip naked in the nurse's office, appealed all the way up to the highest court in the land, which probably took the case because the judges simply had to hear with their own ears how the school could possibly justify its actions.
Chief Justice: You made a young girl strip because it was rumored she might be holding something that resembles an illegal substance, and you feel so strongly that this action makes sense that you have appealed all the way to the Supreme Court?
Lawyer for the school: Your honor, we zero-tolerate that question. Take off your clothes.
I also found a story online about a Manassas, Va., student who was suspended for giving a friend a breath mint — breath mints, you see, resemble aspirins, and aspirin is banned under zero tolerance toward anything resembling a controlled substance. I assume that toothpaste is banned, as well, because it resembles sunscreen.
Apparently, the students in Manassas walk around all day with bad breath.
The Supreme Court will rule on the narrow issue of whether the school overstepped its authority when it forced a 13-year-old girl to strip naked and will not tackle the larger issue of what zero-tolerance policies teach our children, which is that the people who thought up these rules are idiots.
Meanwhile, my nephew was allowed to return to school after three days and a stern admonition not to let his head hit anyone's fist anymore.
I wonder if the experience has taught him tolerance.
To write Bruce Cameron, visit his Website at www.wbrucecameron.com. To find out more about Bruce Cameron and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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