You Can’t Bring THAT on the School Bus!

Hi Readers — Here you go. Latest overprotection nonsense! Enjoy (if that’s the word).

Dear Free-Range Kids: I thought this little story might be of interest to you. My oldest daughter (12) recently tried out for her school softball team. She made the team, which was a real accomplishment. Not only were the kids selected based on talent, but on attitude and enthusiasm as well. They’re all good students, responsible, and respectable. It takes that type of kid to make it on the team.

Although the softball season does not start until April, open practice has. The first day of practice, my daughter hauled her gear onto the bus (we live in a rural area 5 miles from school, so walking really does not work well). She has lots of equipment, because she is a catcher. However, it all fits into one bag that she places in front of her on the bus. It does not cause a space problem. A day later, we were informed at a parent/player meeting that softball bats are NOT allowed on the school bus, because they MIGHT be used as weapons. Even zipped up in an equipment bag: not allowed. So now, on days that she has practice, I have to make a special trip after school to drop her equipment off.

After doing a little research, I found that this appears to be a common policy at many schools. Riding the bus is a privilege, so I try not to let it upset me too much, but I still can’t help but question how crazy this rule it. Selected to play on the school team, but not allowed to transport her equipment on the school bus?

Welcome to America, 2009! Can’t keep kids too safe! Better to make them believe that anytime anyone is carrying anything that is not a cottonball, they are a menace to society. That goes for girls with bats and boys with Cub Scout eating utensils.  And double for pen knives! — L

61 Responses

  1. I have a feeling that, one day, one of these zero-sense policies is going to give way to a serious incident. Either a policy is going to be outright ignored (although these things are usually so vague that students probably just don’t know what they can and can’t bring), or some student is going to get creative and kill someone with a pencil/pen/protractor/etc.

    Then again, banning something is almost always counterproductive, anyway. Prohibition did anything but stop the consumption of alcohol. DC’s gun ban was severely less-than-effective. People still use various controlled substances even though there are severe consequences for it.

  2. Are kids being forced to leave their hands at home yet when they ride school buses? Those are the most commonly used weapons around my house.

  3. I think pens and pencils should be outlawed on school buses. It only makes sense. And then necklaces. And scarves. And mittens with strings. And shoelaces. And really heave textbooks.

    Check this out! (Don’t know if it was linked before or not).

  4. Uh…I never realized how reactionary we are in this society until reading your blog…

    Having served time on some of the most violent prison units where we strip searched daily and went through extreme security measures, I can honestly say that nothing can protect you entirely. Bad things just happen sometimes. I learned this lesson back in 1996 on the Charles Terrell unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, when I witnessed just how little “absolute security” does to protect a person. I was working on 7-building, which housed the unit’s “medium custody” inmates. These were the guys who could not follow the rules long enough to make minimum custody but have been out of trouble long enough to escape “close custody.” Needless to say, as an inmate, I worked in an environment where fighting and riots were common. Being a minimum custody inmate was no different to these inmates than being a guard or other prison official. All inmates entering and leaving the building back then were strip searched, not as a matter of discretion but as a rule. No exceptions were allowed. Anything coming or going to or from 7-building was searched. Even so, one evening as my supervisor (a female guard in her early 20’s) along with myself and three or four coworkers were preparing to leave the building, we watched as one inmate used a sharpened ball-point pen to stab another inmate in the neck. When I read of softball bats being disallowed from school busses because they may be used as a weapon I think back to the lesson I learned that day long ago on Terrell–ANYTHING can be a potential weapon in the hands of a creative human determined to cause harm.

    This lesson was reinforced over the years with another lesson: know your environment. It is better to know who and what is happening around you than to depend on “security measures.” Knowing the people with whom you interact can go a long way to seeing a person with a baseball bat as a kid interested in baseball versus a kid aiming to cause destruction. In my life, seeing a person with an object was only a first step. Engaging that person to learn their intentions was more probative of any safety issues which might arise. Since I survived 10 years with a relatively good disciplinary record and without being raped, killed or otherwise irreparably harmed, I would say that my strategy works better than that school district’s policy. After all, when one considers those rare incidents of violence like the Columbine massacre, I am sure that school district DID have a no-guns policy. When it comes to human beings intent on doing bad things, the rules will not protect the public.

    [I didn’t think this was appropriate to post to your blog…but maybe you will get some good information out of it…]

  5. Wow… if only the “good, upstanding citizens” who run schools and make their policies would listen to people like this ex-con. There is valuable information in that comment, Sam, thank you for sharing.

  6. Anything can be used as a weapon, and I mean anything – ever try constructing a makeshift slingshot with fingers, a rubberband and paperclip (or short pencil)? It’s really quite easy. Guess that means we should confiscate & ban stationary supplies on the bus as well. And what about textbooks – have these people seen the size of a standard chemistry book? Not only can you brain someone with it, it also has corners *gasp* which are all the better to poke out someone’s eyes. And a bookbag filled with heavy books and such can easily be swung around as a weapon, too, and socks, well, can you say strangulation device?


    The sad part is you just know there are people out there who would say the exact same thing but without the dripping sarcasm.

  7. I guess you do not realize how easy it is to choke on a cottonball.

  8. I had to take my band instrument on the bus in junior high, would that be considered a potential weapon?

    I rode the bus every morning to school and if I hadn’t been allowed to take my athletic equipment with me, I wouldn’t have been able to participate. Both of my parents worked and wouldn’t have had the option to make a special trip (45 minutes from our house to town where the only school was!) to drop something off.

  9. @ Sam – I second Banshee’s comment. You’re right – there’s a lot to be said for teaching people how to pay attention to their environment and learning how to 1) properly discern a real, honest threat and 2) how to deal appropriately with that threat. All the scenarios I posited in my previous post are possible, but highly improbable, and it takes little more than common sense to figure that out. Sadly, it seems as if more and more people are taking the idea of “better safe than sorry” to irrational extremes, which is resulting in a highly fearful culture. “Better safe than sorry” doesn’t always have to mean instituting sweeping preventative measures – it can also mean learning how to be safe, such as knowing what to look out for and how to take care of yourself. Rare incidents like Columbine tend to happen despite the tightest security measures because when someone truly intends to commit violence, they’ll either find a way to sneak around those rules or break them outright. Dave Cullen’s book on Columbine is an excellent read, by the way – the amount of research he put into the book is very in-depth.

  10. MFA Grad,
    When I was in 7th grade 78 -79 school year, our Texas History book was banned from the hallways because “The only thing it is good for is braining someone”. It was a horribly written book essentially it was a coffee table picture book – and our teachers used other resources including the old textbook to teach.

  11. I think all the softball players should show up to practice without their bats. It would be a great way to highlight the idiocy. What about kids whose parents don’t have the time or means to make a special trip?

  12. Sam, awesome points.

  13. @ Sam- thanks for posting. i’ll admit i find it mildly unnerving that an ex-convict has a steadier and more sane world view than the adults who administrate the majority of american children’s education.

    @summertime- as a former band geek, i could have easily and effectively have used any of the instrument cases i carried at one time or another as a weapon. even a flute case is hard, and an assembled flute or other instrument is just a bat in disguise if one intends to harm another person.

    we also need to ban belts, scarves, bras, and neck ties as potential strangulation devices. also rings. if you backhand someone with a ring on, you can scar or blind them.

    it’s amazing that the kids on the team are the model citizens and high-grade students. they’re the least likely to use their equipment as a weapon, and they’re the ones being punished by the rules. i guess we have to be sure some bat-stealing delinquent doesn’t take the bat away and kill someone with it.

  14. The school should provide the bats.

    Speaking as a bus driver, my middle school kids are all pushed to the front 3 to a seat (punishment) because they were shooting pieces of broken pencil with rubber bands used as sling shots. They hit me in the head while I was driving as well as my 3 year old who was strapped into her car seat and unable to move. They also struck several younger kids as well. You laugh at making pencils unallowable on the bus. How hard would you be laughing if the pencil I was hit with caused me to have an accident with all those kids on the bus? Absolutely, if a bat was ever brought on my bus I can garantee it would be taken and used to vandalize the bus at the very least, or put out someone’s knees more likey.

    That said, while I’m on this bus, my own free range kid (12) gets off the bus by herself and gets her homework and chores done before she goes out to play, by herself.

  15. What somekindofmuffin said. Also, what Sam said; in that vein, I have a friend who served on a jury for a murder trial. The victim (an adult) had been strangled by a baby blanket. No, that’s not right, the victim had been strangled by his wife’s lover, but the weapon was a baby blanket.

  16. Tana,

    This morning I sent a link to this blog and my comment to a programmer friend who lives in India. His response was “Stupid Americans don’t know what danger is.”

    While that ruffles the feathers of my American feelings, it is true. Most Americans have become downright OCD about “safety” to the point that people overseas are now surpassing our newer generation for innovatinve thinking.

    Consider this: As an IT consultant I often work with the generation now emerging from our colleges and high schools with great technical skills. But they lack the confidence to act. Instead, I have had technicians call me to ask me to approve the most basic tasks because they just don’t want to be wrong. This increases the cost of operation and kills economic recovery as many larger firms find it more economical to outsource to overseas workers who will make the decision Americans used to make without needing a babysitter.

    I don’t have kids. But let me tell you that I have read Lenore’s book from a management perspective. There is a considerable amount of guidance for anyone in leadership or management in her work. In fact, what was purchased as a gift for a friend who DOES have kids is now circulating instead among my circle of consultants…most of whom do NOT have kids.

    Aside from the management/leadership lessons one can derive from the book, one fear we have all agreed upon is the fear of the next generation. None of us are confident in their potential to simply THINK.

  17. I shudder to think what they would say of my son’s cross country running cleats. They have the potential to do far more damage than a softball bat if wielded in the right manner.

  18. Y’know oddly, you’d think that private schools would be more ridiculous in this way but I have found the opposite. At the Catholic schools my kids have attended, the principals seem to be able to rely on their common sense more because they don’t have hand-wringing publically elected boards of education to report to.

  19. These rules are born out of a misguided fundamental belief that there are no “bad” kids, only dangerous objects. So instead of holding the kids personally responsible for their actions that cause harm, the first instinct is to react to the object itself. It happens in the adult world too, with everything from restrictive gun laws to 4oz, TSA-approved, liquid containers.

    Individual responsibility has become outmoded. Parental decision-making is also an out-dated concept. We don’t need those things as long as we can make the entire world suitable and safe enough for a 4 year old to run head-long through with no supervision required.

  20. Are we talking about the buses that have no seat belts? You know, the ones we rode when we were all young and managed to not kill, maim, or injure someone, with or without our sports equipment or writing utensils.

    Here’s a thought: you screw up on the bus, you’re off. Tell your wishy-washy parents to give you a ride. But let’s stop punishing the majority of people for the few jackasses in our midst.

  21. Randy–extremely good point: never blame the kid, just banish the objects.

    And so I’m thinking class rings should be outlawed because I distinctly remember the senior boys on the bus (where 1st – 12th graders all rode together, in my rural school) turning the rings around so the jewel part was down and popping younger kids on the head with them. OW! Yes, let’s ban school rings!

    (That said, can’t the bats be stored at the school? If I were the parent, that’s what I’m be fighting for! Seems ridiculous to lug all that equipment around for a school-sponosred sport! I mean, do the gymnasts have to bring the balance beams home with them?)

  22. I have no idea of my daughter’s school’s policy on baseball bats, but the kids who are learning string instruments have to either bring them on the bus 3X a week for practice or, for large instruments (cello, bass) have two instruments – one kept at home, one kept at school. The “school” instrument is rented for the semester for a small fee. Seems like a good compromise to me – if any school won’t allow something needed for a school activity to come on the bus, they should provide storage at school for that item or a school-owned equivalent which stays at school.

  23. @ Kimberly – Oh, that is too funny, I think I choked on my coffee reading your comment. Just out of curiosity, did anyone ever think to test that assertion? I imagine the results would have been illuminating if not downright amusing.

  24. @ Sam – You said “one fear we have all agreed upon is the fear of the next generation. None of us are confident in their potential to simply THINK.” I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. By taking all these extreme measures in the name of “protecting the children” we’re actually HURTING them by failing to teach them how to protect themselves. People don’t automatically develop those skills when they hit the magical age of 18 – they’re skills that are acquired and honed over years of experience gained during childhood, a time in which injuries/mistakes can be learned from & dealt with under the protection & guidance of parents and other trusted adults. Kids are wired to learn quickly and retain newly acquired knowledge over time – it’s not impossible for an adult to learn new skills, but it’s a hell of a lot harder, no matter how vital they are.

    I lost my parents pretty early on (before I was 14), and although it’s not an experience I would ever wish on anyone else, it taught me pretty damn quickly how to be self-reliant and take responsibility for my own actions; those are both things my parents were trying to teach me so that when I lost them I was already in decent shape, which leads me to believe that it’s not impossible for other parents to instill the same confidence and life skills in their own children. In fact, from what I remember of them, it was extremely important that they teach me how to be capable of rational, independent action because they knew they wouldn’t always be there to look out for me and they would have done me a huge disservice if they’d tried to protect me from everything, despite the best of intentions. Kids need to learn how to be independent because Mom and Dad aren’t always going to be there to pull them back to avoid their being hit by a car or there to correct their homework so that it’s already perfect before they turn it in – how are these kids going to deal with the challenges and inevitable failures in adulthood if they never learned how to do so during childhood? They need to learn how to assess risk & take chances as kids, when typically there’s less at stake, then when they are adults and have things like a job or a marriage on the line and they’ll quite likely have no one but themselves to rely on.

    BTW – that’s an interesting perspective on Lenore’s book that it’s also got great points for adults in learning effective management/leadership skills. I’ll have to look it over again with that POV in mind.

  25. MFA Grad,

    It is an interesting perspective. I don’t have kids myself. I thought I’d buy the book for a friend who does, but WOW….

    Here is what I emailed to Lenore when I first read the book. This explains my perspective on what I hope Lenore might someday call “free range management.”

    ———–EMAIL START————–
    I am still looking at the parallels. Amazing. I had never thought of management from a parenting perspective, but it is in fact. Good managers and business leaders do not hire good talent–that costs too much. Instead they BUILD good talent from potential talent. Thus one could consider management akin to parenting one’s workforce.

    Secondly, and mostly in my case, my projects are as dear to me as your children are to you. A tech once told a new hire something along the lines of “mess with one of Sam’s projects and you get transferred to dispatch.” For a technical professional, working dispatch makes my ten years in prison seem fun. Though I never did actually transfer someone to dispatch for messing with a project, I have expressed my dissatisfaction in clear, loud and somewhat colorful terms.

    In project management you see a project start at inception, such as my current “XSEO” project. Then you nurture that project along from idea to experimental testing. Next you push that project to paper as a formal development plan, where you guide it into shape and correct its mistakes. Only then do you start to actually build this project into its quirky adolescent image, dealing with computer crashes, memory leaks and frequent temper tantrums where it refuses to tell you what is wrong when it suddenly dies. Finally you find yourself sending the project into the world for its ‘beta’ testing as a fledgling mature idea. People may trash the result of your work, and it hurts. People may love your project, giving you the joy of seeing its acceptance. …and in a few cases your project may start breaking other things accidentally because of some unforeseen problem. Either way, as a project manager you find yourself in many of the same places as any parent.

    The project consumes your life. You worry about politics that could affect your project. You dodge the dangers of data loss which could kill your project if the files are not backed up. Most importantly, you always make sure you know who is around your project. You do not want the project abducted by a competitor and raised as their own. Nor do you want your project to be damaged by the improper influences of others who do not respect the project.

    Perhaps this explains my thoughts on your book. I guess it would be different if Gayle and I had kids, maybe then I would not have seen the business implications of your work.

    ———–EMAIL END————–

  26. Sam has to get post-of-the-year or something! That has to be the most logical rebuttal of zero-tollerance rules I’ve ever read. Nice work.

  27. Chris,

    Thanks. Who says ten years in prison won’t do SOME good?

    Seriously, I think if more Americans knew what it was like to not have freedom then they would stop taking their liberties for granted.

  28. Sam, Australians too, mate. I think I’ll try to make my way without the ten years gaol though!

  29. Sam – Very intriguing post. Your description of how you feel about a tech project as you nurture it along is almost exactly how I and a lot of my artist friends feel about crafting our art, whether it’s writing or painting or music or dance. We don’t have children, but these endeavors are just as important to us as children would be, so your parallel most definitely applies. I’m not a tech person by any respect, but your lovely description proves quite clearly to me that any creative endeavor is a form of art – and neither art nor children can flourish under repressive circumstances. Oh, and we artsy-fartsy types are also ferociously protective of our projects as well – just look at all the bruhaha that ensues when someone even gets a whiff of plagiarism! lol

    You’ve obviously taken the most you could from your time in prison for the good and you’re right, sometimes people need to lose (or be threatened with losing) what they really care about before they stop taking it for granted, but somehow I think that even without it, you’d still have a pretty decent head on your shoulders. Thanks for some of the most thought-provoking posting I’ve read in awhile.

  30. MFA Grad,

    Any creative endeavor requires first and foremost the presence of ownership. I always tell technicians to own their clients and their problems. Once you accept the responsibility of “ownership” over a problem, you become more than a voice on a phone or a geek on site fixing an issue. You become a consultant, a trusted advisor.

    I work with a lot of small business owners. Every one of them literally give birth to an idea, nurture that idea with passion and grow their business. As I read Free Range Kids I thought both of the good parents who nurture thier business to outgrow them and succeed and the neurotic parents who stiffle the growth of their children and ensure their endless dependence on a parent for guidance.

    As I write this, I recall one business owner who was frustrated by the fact that he has been running his business since the 1970’s through economic ups and downs. He makes great money. But he can’t retire because the business is still mostly dependent on his daily supervision. He wants to retire, but the business is so entrenched in its ways and dependent on this entrepreneur that upon his death the business will most likely fail.

    How sad is that?!

    it is almost like having a 40-year-old son living in the basement. One would, then, propose that he could use some of the same lessons Lenore gives to parents in her book. After all, “free range management” would require that business owners, team leaders and managers push themselves to GROW and BUILD companies, teams and departments rather than ‘run’ them. Through this perspective the business owner I described earlier would have gradually built an autonomous organization much as parents would like to build autonomous children.

    On a side note: My mother is getting old now. Some day in the next ten or twenty years I will be choosing a nursing home for her. It is an eventuality. Think about the next generation. If they can’t think on their own, do you want them selecting the place where you will live out your last days?

  31. @ workingmom

    where I live they have put seatbelts on the bus as well as mutliple cameras and a switch at the back of the bus that has to be hit before the bus can be shut of so that no kids accidently get left behind.

  32. @ Sam

    It’s sad how true your statements have been.

    They actually gave me a thought. We overprotect so because we have perceived a great threat to the American way of life for something close to 60 years. The Great Depression was almost a literal end of the world for many people in this country. Great Depression ends and… World War II is in full swing. Then you had Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan. Once they are defeated, the tide of public opinion starts to go against Communism and the Soviet Union in a bigger way than ever before. Then, of course, there was the existential threat of the nuclear holocaust due to a Soviet attack during the Cold War. Once the Berlin Wall fell, however, what have we got?

    Right now, we have Al Qaeda, Iran, and North Korea. Despite the potential to become real, actual threats, they are not being hyped as threats at all (quite the contrary, in fact), so here’s where my new thoughts come in.

    The current policymakers grew up with threats that they saw as great and very, very real. Suddenly, they see that the new generation doesn’t have that. The most fear they’ve seen is immediately in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. They’ve never been recreated, so there is no more fear. So either the new fears are being done through psychology, or they’re being done through greed. The psychology angle is the belief that something must be threatening must exist somewhere, and there is no true safety. The greed angle says that the fear in the past of existential threats allowed for vast increases in government power, so policymakers manufacture threat where there is none to increase government power.

    Just a thought.

  33. Blake,

    I almost suspect you have been reading some of my other writing elsewhere on the web… lol… Seriously, you have hit the nail on the head with great force and efficiency.

    I remember the cold war. To borrow from Ronald Reagan, “Mr. Obama, tear down these insane laws!”

    During the Great Depression, people were desperate for hope. Sometimes, when people are desparate, they don’t think before they act. Many started joining radical parties promoting communism and fascism. They felt security in numbers somewhat like I am sure sheep feel more secure when they go off a cliff with their brethren. Others in the country saw these socio-political experiments with the far left and far right as dangerous. They implored their government for protection and the Smith Act (also known as the Alien Registry Act of 1940) was born. Under the Smith Act, percieved enemies of the state were required to register with the federal government. Interestingly enough, around the same time (during the 1930s) America experimented with its first “sex offender registration” laws. They also registered organized crime members, etc. This was considered one of the FBI’s great achievements at the time. After all, J.Edgar Hoover was a clerk originally with a tenacity of indexing and cross-indexing data for fast retrieval.

    World War II expanded the Alien Registration Act into the infamous internment camps that detained many American immigrants with minimal due process of law or supporting evidence. Once WWII ended, communism was a great fear, as was nuclear annihilation. Politicians knew they could garner votes readily with saber rattling and arms talks, etc. After all, how many remember Reagan’s Star Wars program (SDI), which we now know was pure fiction for the most part and offered little chance of success given the lack of actual investment. Nonetheless, as post-WWII Americans began to watch the television for their source of cooked information, rather than read and evaluate information on their own, politicians like Joseph McCarthy learned to use sensationalism to create threats and use those as the source of political success.

    History shows us that a people love a war. Any war. The masses always love a good fight. This can be seen in any school yard near the flag pole after the bell rings. But when there is not a “war,” politicians have learned they can create one. America did this with a “war on drugs” that has lead to the waste of billions of US tax dollars with no real showing. As the worlds largest “democracy” our war on drugs has lead the nation down the road of incarcerating more people than any other nation on Earth. But when the “war on drugs” outlasted America’s short attention span, the “war on crime” was launched.

    America’s war on crime during the 1990s touted “country club prisons.” I remember back in 1996 asking a guard if he would sign my release for transfer to one of these country club prisons. He laughed and said he’d do it only when he got to work at one. The facts escaped the sound bites of the media during the 1990s and soon politicians started issuing outlandish sentences for first time offenders and Texas’ prison population, for example, exploded. Texas and California both lead the nation in prison population. Last I remember, the Texas prison system was spending about $5.4 billion every two years. The Texas public thought this was good idea because crime rates were high. Unfortunately, they peaked in 1992 and politicians continued with their war on crime until the end of the last century without hesitation.

    [Interestingly enough, though politicians continued to extend sentences, none of them were willing to give Texas prison guards a pay raise in 1999, though low pay rates contribute almost consistently to various corruption (such as one gang leader I know of who used to pay a guard for his marijuana). The guard was a single mom and the $18,000 per year the prison was paying her was not enough to make ends meet.]

    The other interesting point on America’s war on crime is American politician’s lack of factual accountability. In 2007 I was leaving the Texas capitol building after testifying in front of the Texas Legislature when I encountered a legislator who had authored a bill I opposed. I asked him what recidivism rates were in Texas. He did not know. Recidivism is the rate at which criminals return to prison. Yet this political “leader” had just proposed a bill justified by allegedly “high recidivism rates” and he could not tell me what the numbers were.

    Recidivism in Texas for the past twenty years has been below 40% according to a 2005 Legislative Budget Board report. In fact it is about 36% right now. Compared to 60% in California, that is a significant difference. My next question to the legislator, which he did not answer as he disappeared behind a door, was “When are you going to publicly give criminal justice professionals credit for the good job they are doing if recidivism is actually lower?”

    I have yet to hear any politician stand up and shout “We are doing a good job.” They don’t do that because it does not inspire people to VOTE! There is the unfortunate name of the game. Political ponzi.

    Politicians in America believe their public leadership is a career. John Adams, to the contrary, believed that a citizen should go into public office for a short time before returning to civilian life. This has not been the case.

    Unfortunately, until people start to think for themselves again, this will not change. That is why “free range” thinking is critical. Without critical thinking, our children will grow up to accept what we have as the best we can be. They will look to others for leadership, rather than establishing themselves as he leader.

  34. Suring te past year, my ward was suspended twice for thre days each. The first time was for using his hands as a weapon…to protect his face as a playground bully kicked him while he was down. The second time was for a school bus infraction, but I don’t recall that the half of a PopTart he was eating was identified as a weapon.
    I do remember an incident in which a closed bag of charcoal was identified as a flamable weapon and banned from public transportation. I’ve often wondered if perhap clothing should be banned, after all, they may be converted to use as weapons and most are pretty flamable, making them a terrorist threat.

  35. @ Sam

    I have not read anything else of yours outside of this thread, to my knowledge. It may just be that my educational background is in [primarily military] history. Since you seem to have a fairly strong background in that yourself, that may be where our similar thinking comes from.

    There’s also something else the American people are contributing now that I didn’t notice in your last post, so I think I’ll add it in: casualties are unacceptable, no matter the number. I believe this one is more recent. In WWII, we were able to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians in Japan and Germany with no complaints being raised from the American (or British, or French, or Chinese) populace. At the same time, the KIA we sustained were tragic, but not entirely unacceptable given the nature of our enemies. At the same time, children lost to disease or crime were tragic, but also not unacceptable.

    In the 60’s, that I’ve seen, all that changed. As our casualty count in Vietnam mounted, it was deemed unacceptable, even though they were much lower than during WWII. Likewise, each child lost to disease or crime became a big deal, interestingly coinciding with a lot of manufactured crises.

    Looking at more recently, we pulled out of Somalia because the Battle of Mogadishu (1993 version) got 19 men killed, 84 wounded, and 1 captured. The American public seeing only a few soldiers paraded through the Somalian streets was enough to turn public opinion against killing genocidal militia.

    In Iraq, we’ve lost a little over 4,000 people over the course of six years. Afghanistan has produced around 900 over 8 years (I’m only counting dead in these numbers). I don’t want to seem insensitive, but with our main ground forces fighting a guerrilla war, these numbers are perfectly acceptable, especially in the transition period and with some ridiculous rules of engagement. Still, these numbers are being touted as unacceptable.

    I think it’s perfectly reasonable to see a relationship with those minimal casualty numbers: the idea that there are no acceptable casualties. Therefore, if even one person dies due to anything other than age, we have to make sure that no one is a casualty of that one thing ever again.

    @ Dino

    You think that’s bad? In the 6th grade (the last year I was in public school), I was terrorized by the school bullies so badly that my grades started to suffer. The school administration did nothing about it (a knife? Unacceptable! Bullying? Go for it!). It got so bad that I eventually grabbed one kid’s neck and did my best to break it (I’m normally quite passive, believe it or not, so this was extreme behavior for me). What happened next? The principal, who knew about the behavior of those little darlings who were bullying me, decided that I deserved to be punished for standing up for myself when no one else would. The punishment was identical for me and that bully.

    Naturally, I told the principal that they needed to stop the bullying on the school grounds or something bad would eventually happen. His reply to that? “Is that a threat? You don’t want to go to jail, young man.” Yeah. A 13-year-old with a good academic record and a fully clean criminal record who was well-liked by all of his teachers was threatening to kill other students instead of telling the administration that bullying was a problem.


  36. Summertime and Tana….

    I AM that flute player. On my way home from school, when I was in about fifth grade, my friend and I (also a girl, and she was a drummer) were assaulted by the neighborhood bully. We turned on him – and he literally didn’t know what hit him. We beat the tar out of him with our music… my flute case and her drumsticks. After that, he kept his distance.

    Sadly, today… we would have been punished, probably suspended from school and had our instruments taken away as “weapons”, and that bully would be crowing on the playground because he was the “victim”.

  37. Gents, war is generally unacceptable because of A) the Holocaust forever removed the idea that mass civilian casualties on the ‘other side’ didn’t matter “as they weren’t really human anyway” and B) television (and now, youtube) means all deaths are upfront & personal.
    Deaths were only acceptable because the public didn’t witness any of it – it was incomprehensible. Footage of a girl shot in Tehran in 2009? We understand that.

    Because we can’t wage ‘all out’ war and just kill everyone who looks at us funny on the battlefield, we simply can’t win wars. That means: we shouldn’t fight them. I’m totally cool with that. (Total war where your countries survival following an invasion is a different thing but we haven’t had a total war perhaps since WW2).

    As for the decent beyond the ‘free range kids’ fightback into underlying causes in society, such as our love of fear – a great future topic for Lenore?

  38. Sorry – should read ‘country’s survival’. Let us have a war on poor grammar! Imagine the fear! Is I’dn’t really a word you can use?

  39. My kid’s teacher asked for green beans and other canned goods for a day of cooking. When I sent them with my kid, she got in trouble because “cans aren’t allowed on the bus.”

  40. The school would not allow my son to have his Epi-Pen on the bus because it could be used as a weapon. After all, a bee could not possibly get on the bus, and there are no bees outside at the stop either, right? Oh, and the bus never gets stuck in traffic too bad for an ambulance to get to it in time.

    They also would not allow it in the classroom or the playground, it had to be in the nurses’ office one floor down and across the building. They wanted me to sign a waiver stating that they would not be held liable for any problems resulting from the use, misuse or failure to use the Epi-Pen. I rewrote the waiver, signed it and gave it back. IF he were allowed to use his EpiPen in a timely fashion, or if it were given by an adult trained in its use, I would not hold them liable if it didn’t help. If he could not get to it in time as a result of their policies, I would.

    I don’t think they realized it was a rewrite, or I am sure I would have heard about it. I also allowed him to carry his Benadryl with him, completely against school policy, because I wasn’t willing to risk his life. Luckily he was never stung at school or on the way.

  41. Before the ’50s, nobody ever thought childhood WAS or could be safe. You couldn’t protect them from so many things we take for granted now. The best you could do was teach them to protect themselves and let them go.

    Thanks to current medical technology, we think of death and injury as outrageous, bizarre tragedies, things that we are going to outlaw as soon as we figure out how to enforce it. Not an inevitable consequence of getting born in the first place. There’s only been a very short window of time, relatively speaking, in which death has NOT been upfront and personal.

    At the same time, in a related story, there used to be SHARED public standards of acceptable behavior, and children (and adults) who did not abide by them were punished painfully enough to take them seriously. Only the occasional mama’s boy had a parent blaming the school for punishing a child. And prisons that are more comfortable than the criminal’s previous living conditions are hardly incentives to behave.

    Who needs weapons? Anything can be used as a weapon. And even if you could ban them all, you will still have kids (and teachers, and bus drivers!) being hurt by other kids as long as adults are afraid to restrain them.

    Which is more cruel: Paddling a bully in public, or allowing him to go on bullying other children because there isn’t any deterrent sufficient to make him want to stop?

  42. @Cat,

    I will take exception to your remark that “…prisons that are more comfortable than the criminal’s previous living conditions are hardly incentives to behave.” Prior to prison I had never seen a dead body, nor had I ever experienced a riot or the stabbing of a human being by gang members. I had not been subject to random strip searches, nor had I ever watched state employees beat someone until the body stopped moving. All of these things I witnessed in prison. Please refrain from discussing things about which you have no knowledge. Your discussion of prison conditions would be the equivalent of my discussing life on Mars. Absent personal experience I would be limited simply to theory, assumption and guesswork.


    Death is an unfortunate event. People in modern times judge death without a comparative point of reference because they often have not come any closer to death than their television. What you say is correct. During WWII, American forces lost a greater number and percentage of men and women than in Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq or Afghanistan. While it is true that television did bring Vietnam to the livingroom. It is also true that American resolve has consistently faltered since WWII because we lack principle. The first Iraq War should have been conclusive, but as with WWI, we equivocated and found ourselves in a second world war as a result of a lack of political resolve. Likewise, at the end of WWII, we did not assist Vietnamese nationalists to assert freedom from French colonial rule and we ended up in a nasty war against a people who turned to communism because they wanted support, though Ho Chi Mihn may well have been more nationalist than communist, merely using the communist banner to gain military support first against the French and second against America. Afghanistan as well is the result of American lack of resolve to operate on principle. American forces aided the mujahadeen against Soviet forces from 1979 to 1989 and abandoned them once the Soviets had withdrawn. We allowed an “ally” to fall into anarchy, creating a vacuum wherein the Taliban could evolve. This happened because of a lack of political resolve which tarnishes our nation’s reputation. We, the people, have lost our since of principles much as I lost my principles somewhere in 1987.

    Sadly, life is not about rules or guidelines or what a school bus driver will believes MIGHT be used as a weapon. Life is about principle. During my time in prison I never had anything stolen from me other than one sheet of paper, for which I fought and lost. This was so, because I learned from the older convicts to live by a set of principles. The first rule: know your surroundings. The second rule: trust but verify. The third rule: don’t do to someone else what you would not want done to you randomly by everyone else.

    Are softball bats, epi-pens or class rings potential weapons? Sure. So are eye glass cases, necklaces, and an assortment of other items. I remember inmates in “administrative segregation,” who would use newspaper and toothpaste to make a really hard variant of paper mache. They would fashion darts out of this and use this against guards. One inmate, under the 23-hour-a-day lockdown of Ad-Seg had started dipping these darts in feces and at least once managed to hit a guard. I tell everyone this because humanity is niether good nor bad. Humanity is creative. It is the motive which determines whether we are good or evil.

    The question is posed: “Which is more cruel: Paddling a bully in public, or allowing him to go on bullying other children because there isn’t any deterrent sufficient to make him want to stop?” I will take the third option: none of the above. There is another option: reason. You laugh, scoff or dismiss this and that is fine. But I have seen where listening to the other side is a more potent weapon than violence or deterrence.

    Reason is the most powerful concept in human history. But true reason requires the ability to listen to all sides of the situation at hand and to make an objective evaluation of the facts without emotional bias, willing when necessary to admit one’s own faults and inadequacies. THIS requires strength. Those who practice reason rarely find violence necessary. Only when reason has been disregarded and the situation has escalated out of control is violence ever an option. For example, had President Truman been open to meet with and entertain the request for assistance from Ho Chi Mihn following WWII, and had reason prevailed to convince French colonists to liberate Vietnam as we had liberated the French, then my father would not have gone to Vietnam with other brave men and women to fight. Likewise, had I listened to what another inmate was telling me one night in 1994 and understood his situation better, I would not have a chipped front tooth or one of the scars on the back of my head. When reason fails, people get hurt.

    Which is more cruel: Paddling a bully in public or reasoning with that bully? I submit that by paddling the bully we implicitly become the bully, as only though our superior force are we able to exert this deterrent force. Anyone who has read Steven Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” would definitely understand my thinking. As Mr. Covey suggests: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

  43. […] I understand that there are some violence that happens between children, but these rules should only be enforced if there is knowledge of something to happen. Worth a read, and worth it to bring up to a PTA meeting if your child’s school is run like this. […]

  44. While they are keeping bats off the bus they better ban brooms also.
    I nearly had my broken arm broken on a bus when an older kid picked up a broom that was used by the bus driver for cleaning off the bus, and swung it full force at my head but missed and hit my elbow instead. Saw a girl stab a guy 20 times in the back , at the back of the bus with a hand full of sharpened colored pencils, few girls set the seat on fire with hair spray and matches, the list goes on paper clips make great projectile darts when fired from rubber bands , they will stick right in some ones back or neck (this happened in drafting class not on the bus), englis class paper clips shoved in the wall outlets put on quite a show but i stop here. These all happened at regular schools in both smaller farm towns and med sized city.

    They better ban sports at school then also, why can they have a bat at school but not on the bus?

    Schools also better clean up a 10 block radius around the school making sure there is nothing that can be picked up and used to hurt some one with. We all saw the news where the Chicago kid was hit with a board and was killed outside the school. Disgusting and terribly sad but no school policy could have stopped it from happening.

  45. *just healed broken arm re-broken

  46. Since when is riding a school bus a privilege? To me it sounds reasonable to have a bus if most of the kids in the area would be unable to get to school by bike or on foot because of the distance. That’s a plain service: not a privilege.

  47. Cat Rennolds,
    It probably wasn’t the school that made that rule but the state legislature. I am curious have you tried to get the law changed. A more reasonable law would be that for children under 10 the adult they are in charge with would have the epi on them at all times, and that children over 10 the parents would be given a choice of the adults carrying the epi or the child carrying the epi. (I’m saying 10 because that is the age of reason in Texas. Children below 10 can not be arrested or charged with a crime.)

    Currently in Texas, only the nurse can administer the epi because of the fear of heart attacks caused by the medication and because it is an injection. I’ve carried an Epi pen or kit (previous version of the epi pen) since 1983 or so, but if my student carries one either the nurse or a parent has to go on field trips. Instead of just whining on web sites, I’m writing letters and trying to get the law changed.

    BTW I don’t know what happens if there is not a nurse on campus. I’ve never attended or worked in a public school that did not have a full time RN on campus. We have 700 kid and 2 units (3 classrooms) with medically fragile kids + several medically fragile kids in mainstream classrooms (medically fragile but mentally either at grade level or higher). So ideally my current campus would have 2, but that isn’t possible in current budget.

  48. We need to protest these ridiculous rules. When the school (or municipality or state) officials call sporting equipment a “weapon”, they are calling our sporting children “weapon-carrying thugs”. The kids are declared guilty and labelled as such before any misuse! When they carry ordinary medications (or necessary ones, in the case of a poster who sent benedryl with her son to school), they are labelled as carriers of illegal substances, even if their use for them is acceptable. We need mobs of angry parents showing up in person to protest these things. Why do we just sit around and take it? Schedule a town-hall meeting and demand that the rules be changed. Write your local newspaper. Make a noise and show the namby-pamby fearmongers and lawsuit-fearers that their way is NOT the best way. I read so much about “one complaining parent” who got some stupid rule established. Can we hear about a hundred angry parents who showed up and got one undone for once? We outnumber them, for goodness sake! (Don’t we?)

  49. What if the kid is a black belt in Tae Kwan Do or something? Should they be required to leave their hands at home?

  50. Lenore–

    You know I virtually always agree with you, but I don’t know if you’ve seriously considered the dangers inherent in a cottonball, which you suggest would be “safe” on a school bus. These need to be as seriously policed as anything else. If current reality is dictated not by facts, statistics or anything else empirically demonstrable but by what COULD happen, I think you’ll see that advocating cottonballs on a school bus is a very dangerous position.

    I know that kids are not sufficiently active to get anything as life threatening as a nosebleed these days, but a cottonball put in the nostril to staunch bleeding could be aspirated. After all a child’s potential inhalation is more powerful than the strongest vacuum cleaner. (Stating facts with no basis is a hallmark of our age, don’t you know?)

    And what about children who are cotonophobes? The mere presence of a cottonball on a school bus could potentially cause life-altering emotional trauma.

    A child who had the temerity to be proud of his or her cottonball and may want to show it to his or her friends. The distraction caused by this could cause the school bus to plunge into a ravine, even in countryside where ravines are scarce to non-existent. To say nothing of the cottonball-less kids who may feel deprived by not having one.

    I’m sorry, but if we’re really going to protect our kids, even the figure of speech must be highly monitored. As we all know, the keyboard is more powerful than the safely stowed softball bat.

  51. Riding the bus is a privilege not a right meaning we can suspend a kid from riding the bus with less legal steps that expelling them from school.

    Also in Texas districts can refuse to provide bus service not covered by state money. For example the district I live in no longer provides bus service for those living within 2 miles of their school, unless they have to cross a 4 lane or high speed traffic street.

    If bus service was a right they would have to provide it to everyone including the family next door to the school. Otherwise it would be unequal treatment.

  52. The thing that pisses me off about the “bus riding is a privilege” mantra is that school districts are no longer set up for walking to even BE an option for most of the kids attending them.

    It’s just a cop-out for the school system to avoid having to deal with some of the negative unintended consequences of creating giant centralized schools, sometimes over the objections of the parents whose children once attended the smaller local schools.

  53. […] You Can’t Bring THAT on the School Bus! « FreeRangeKids […]

  54. […] you can’t bring on the school bus: softball bats, canned vegetables [Free Range Kids and […]

  55. […] 23rd, 2009 Free Range Kids reports that a twelve year old girl on a school softball team was prohibited from bringing a baseball bat onto a school bus because the bat could be used as a weapon.  I wonder if the school also bans text books because a […]

  56. Please! Do not let your kids (or a school administrator) watch the scene in “The Godfather” where the killer uses his glasses to kill someone. They’ll force all the kids to either leave their glasses home or wear contacts.

  57. Did anybody here read actually read Sam’s post??? He wasn’t an inmate, folks — he was a GUARD! He talks about his female supervisor, leaving the prison with his co-workers, etc.

    I think everyone here who insinuated he was an ex-con owe the man an apology. And next time, please read more carefully.

  58. Actually, Bobby, I was an inmate. My female supervisor was a corrections officer. Most of my time in prison was working as an SSI (Support Service Inmate) Orderly and SSI-Clerk.

  59. My mistake. With respect, though, I think your terminology was confusing and you could have been clearer – most of us don’t know about those kinds of things.

  60. Bobby,

    No problem. I considered it a compliment.

    Though I have been free for several years, I stil forget that most people don’t really know much about the criminal justice system.

    For example, most people do not know that according to the Texas Legislative Budget Board’s 2009 report on recidivism (the rate at which people return to prison) only 27-28% of all criminals in Texas returned to prison. By contrast, 57% of the released prisoners in California went back.

    That said, if anyone is in Texas, they should show their appreciation to law enforcement and criminal justice officials who made these numbers possible. They work hard, yet hear only the negative when things go wrong.

  61. I do think diferrent because my friends and family use another company.It’s relaxing and save power.But next vacuum I’ll consider this vacuum for which you present.Grate!!!

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