The Widdershins

Remain Calm, Etc: Zero Tolerance – It’s Easier Than Thinking

Posted on: May 9, 2013

Good Thursday, Widdershins.

Today, I’d like to discuss another Florida phenom, the “Zero Tolerance Policy”.  No, by that I do not mean shady businessmen that take your money, then close up shop leaving themselves immune from suit. That’s considered “business as usual”.   I do not mean politicians, either.  We tolerate amazing things in the political arena, usually shining on whatever  shenanigans our elected officials have pulled off until the time that they have become a national laughingstock.

So, then for what exactly do Floridians have “zero tolerance”?   Apparently, mostly  for children.  Remember when it was revealed that Trayvon Martin had a “history”?  One of the biggies there was a school suspension for possession of drug paraphernalia.  I recall reading that he had some cigarette papers in his locker.  Interesting, but not exactly a key of  pot interesting.  Recently we had a five-year old child sent home from school.  His offense?   Sporting a Mohawk haircut that his parents had authorized.    His teacher insisted that the other children found it too distracting, and he was suspended until he had a new haircut.

Our latest foray into the Land of Zero Tolerance involves a sixteen-year old named Kiera Wilmot, of Bartow, Florida.  Kiera was expelled from school for bomb-making activities.  It seems as though Kiera was searching for a science fair project, and one of her friends suggested that she try mixing toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil.  Kiera went outside near the school gazebo, tried it out and a small explosion occurred.  An assistant principal heard the explosion and raced outside to ask what had just happened.  Kiera told him what she had done, and he immediately expelled her for “being in possession of an explosive device”, an offense for which the school might reasonably have Zero Tolerance, had that been what she actually did.

Science is messy, and anyone who has ever taken any sort of science class would have to agree.  Biology involves some rather nasty dissections, chemical experiments have gone “boom”, turned funky colors, and cleared rooms full  of folks with noxious gasses.    Every single day, I read something that tells me to be alarmed that our students are way behind in science and math – it is now almost an educational mantra.  Our governor has attempted to defund collegiate programs not tied to science and math.  Everything is science and math – except Zero Tolerance, of course.

Kiera has also been arrested and charged with a felony.  The Miami New Times RipTide blog and Slate have written posts about this matter, and I offer you this from Slate:

Playing with chemistry on a small scale, particularly with reactions that “snap, crackle and pop,” also fosters a sense of respect for the unexpected results that can happen when you mix things. Adults who have such formative experiences as kids might be less likely to contribute to the hundreds of non-drug related domestic chemical incidents each year. Note: Mixing bleach with almost anything is a bad idea. In a test tube it might send you scrambling for fresh air, in bucket quantities, it can kill you.

I don’t envy the school board or the judge who will have to sort out Kiera Wilmot’s motivations and rule on this case. Given her statement to police and her choice of location—not the center of the school but the grassy area in the back—it feels to me more like a case of out of control curiosity. Was it science done in the wrong place at the wrong time or malevolence? If they find it was the former, I hope that in spite of its zero tolerance policy, the Polk County school board will look at this incident in the context of Wilmot’s whole record. Then they might ask themselves if two of the junior varsity baseball players with similar records throwing a ball around outside school in the morning hit a window (and didn’t even break it), would they be expelled? Baseballs can be used as a weapon. Would they be charged with a felony? Perhaps the authorities should apply the same standards to Kiera Wilmot.

There is nothing I can say to top that, other than to leave you with this final thought:  In no way should “Zero Tolerance” mean “Zero Thought Process”.  This is an open thread.


23 Responses to "Remain Calm, Etc: Zero Tolerance – It’s Easier Than Thinking"

Chat, as you say, all these zero tolerance policies equate to zero thinking, but that is exactly what you get when reactionary “common sense” is espoused in single issue interest. It is just amazing to me that the first people who screech, “There ought to be a law,” are the first people who whine, “Gubment is too big and nosy!”

By the way, are they still testing those applying for assistance in FL for drugs? Last time I saw any stats, the instance of drug usage was less than 2% and the cost of testing was outweighing any benefits by thousands to one.

Nope. The state legislature is still trying to figure out how to reimburse all of those people with negative findings, as per the law.
I wholeheartedly agree with you, The FL legislature has now passed a law that municipalities may not create more stringent gun laws. Therefore, your big gubbermint is bad, our big gubbermint is pure and whollly necessary, as we are saving you from big gubbermint,. I think….

Incredible. I remember those chemistry and biology classes. Some of those odors were pretty funky.

Oh, yes they were. But those were the things that encouraged scientific curiosity.

chat@5: Oh yes, that’s true.

@4: I always thought it was the guy across the table from me. “Funky Eddie” we used to call him.

May well have been. I had a few lab partbers that made me wonder how to create deodorant.

I think what she did was stupid, but I think they went waaay overboard with the punishment. What’s wrong with detention. And while I agree that crazy PC-ish type crap is always happening in schools, and that schools are certainly being dumbed down, I don’t think school injustice is new either. You wouldn’t believe the bullshit suspension I got in High School, for doing literally…nothing. Just walked past a group of girls that were talking in front of our office. My Dad started a war with the Principal and Girls VP over it. Then there was the crazed, demented and pervy head of the Girls PE dept that hit me in the back with her cane, so hard that I went flying and slid on the gym floor. My family would have gotten a 6 figure lawsuit settlement out of something like that nowadays, but back then people didn’t sue. And all the pervy men teachers that tried to grope me and did grope all my friends. There’s a reason why things are so overboard now; when something bad happens to a kid now the parents immediately call a lawyer, so the schools have to have ridiculously stringent rules. My husband works for LAUSD and he’s always having to take some kind of class about child abuse or something similar. And he’s never around kids in his work. But they tend to go overboard in their prevention. Bad stuff still happens of course and always will.

Detention would be most reasonable; there just seems to be a lack of malicious intentions here.

socal said: You wouldn’t believe the bullshit suspension I got in High School, for doing literally…nothing. Just walked past a group of girls that were talking in front of our office

That’s because they didn’t like you and neither did the old crone with the cane. 😉

I think Kiera did what the boy Bubbas do: “Hey watch this!” “Oops!”

AAAhhhh, Miami! The crown jewel of weird.

I really don’t understand the hysteria over kids and what they do. It’s almost like we are training our kids to be mindless, obdient automatons by meting out arbitrary and harsh punishments for “oopsies.”

My lab partner was totally hot. Unfortunately, he was also a total jerk. Oh well.

“Hot”=”douche” with amazing frequency in high school.

look down below in the prev. post. Fuzzy is back!!!!

Fredster, LOL! By weird coincidence, I had the same Girls VP in High School that my older sis had had in another city 7 years before. My maiden name is distinctive, so yeah, she remembered my big sis, who ran with the wild crowd and automatically didn’t like me. Although, the administrators at that school were hard on all of us who were bussed in. We lived at that time in an upper middle class area called Westlake Village and there was no High School there then, so we were bussed two towns away (took 45 minuites) to the crappiest High School in the district. So, the admin people assumed we were spoiled brats without even knowing us. The teachers generally did not, and the other students did not. Anyway, because I really hated the evil bitches that ran the Girls PE dept, my parents transferred me out to a high school in another city that had a program for gifted kids. I may sound like a dumb California girl online, but I completed my junior and senior years in 6 months there with very high grades.

Besides what I already outlined, there were a couple of riots at that High School, rapes, drugs everywhere, a shooting, and I was beaten up by two girls (a jealousy thing, over boys they liked that “liked” me better). I hated that school. It was such a relief not to have to deal with any school crap with my own son.

MB, my lab partner in HS was the kid that did the shooting! He shot a coach, didn’t kill him thank god, but injured him! Honestly, my HS years are like a movie. A horror film.

Yay for Fuzzy!

Oh I know of Westlake Village!! The graduating Tulane 1/4 back is from there and he signed with the Saint as an undrafted free agent.

There’s an area of Los Angeles that is called Westlake. Westlake Village is not in L.A., is northwest of L.A. and straddles the L.A./Ventura county line. Lots of movie stars, rock stars, sports stars, etc live there. My family moved there in the late 60s when it was fairly new and had a nice middle class vibe. It was a fun place to grow up, and I still have lots of friends there.

I’m pretty sure when I read the article it said Westlake Village and then I googled it to check it out. Veeerrry nice.

Ah, here you go socal:

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