Outrage of the Week: Boy Suspended for Lighter He Found on Way to School

Hi Readers — Like the headline says: A Jersey boy, 11,  found a lighter on his way to school. Brought it in, another kid noticed it, by 8:40 a.m. he was suspended for the day. Why? Because the lighter, “has the potential to compromise student safety in this building,” according to the superintendent quoted in this APP.com story. “It’s our responsibility to keep kids safe. I feel very secure about our decision. We have zero tolerance for this type of thing.”

Later she added, “It depends on your whole interpretation of what a weapon is. It’s not a weapon as a knife is a weapon. But a weapon is anything that has the potential to cause harm.”

So — time to get out the hack saws and chloroform. After all, students’ arms and legs have the potential to cause harm, too. Lots of it!  I’d feel super secure knowing none of the kids could kick someone down the stairs, or slam a locker, or even HOLD a lighter, much less use it. Let’s hear it for the logic of Zero Tolerance!  — Lenore

119 Responses

  1. So the pencil lead that is still stuck in my hand 35 years later after a kid stabbed me… we should ban pencils. They are dangerous.

    Stupid people.

  2. Books are heavy and could be lobbed at the heads of childhood enemies.

  3. What I really want to know each time I read one of these stories is WHO are these goody-two-shoes tattletales?!?!

  4. I am still incapable of using a lighter.

    Rocks. Out on the playground. Bad idea.

    When I taught, one kid chucked a computer. Technology… Dangerous.

  5. “What I really want to know each time I read one of these stories is WHO are these goody-two-shoes tattletales?!?!”

    Children who have been raised all their lives to believe that “weapons” are whatever grownups tell them they are, and that anything called a “weapon” is scary, so there’s really something to fear, so they have to tattle for everyone’s safety. At least, it could be.

  6. How about a ban on shoelaces? They could be used for all sorts of dangerous ends. If prison inmates can get along without them, school kids should do just fine.

  7. Potted plants are bad too. My freshman year in high school one of my classmates tossed one of our history teacher’s classroom plants out the window – gadzooks! it could have hit a passerby on the head! or we could have gotten the idea to throw them at each other!

    And on a semi-related note, I noticed that the school nearest my home is slowly but surely removing all the trees from the playground, even those outside the fence but whose limbs overhang. Probably because, you know, a kid might climb up there and then fall. Or throw something down on another kid.

  8. Zero tolerance = zero intelligence.

  9. @ cindy- i have a lead/lead mark in my hand from 22 years ago. definitely pencils need to go! and rulers. also paper, because paper cuts hurt. books, too. they could cause blunt force trauma. also chairs.

    @mommy magpie- trees inside the playground are a climbing hazard/liability issue. trees that overhang the playground are a climbing hazard/liability issue/escape route. they are also a potential way to get IN to the playground. because predators are always snatching kids off of fenced in playgrounds via overhanging tree limb. “here kid, i’ll boost you up. you wait for me on the branch over there. don’t move! i mean it! okay. i’ll climb down, then you jump into my arms so i can stash you in my van. thanks for cooperating, kid. usually you guys kick and scream and these tree climbing abductions just don’t work out.”

  10. What saddens me most is that zero-tolerance policies leave no room to use rules as they are meant to be- as GUIDELINES. And as a way to teach kids to become self-disciplining and independent.

    Schools with zero-tolerance are losing out on so many opportunities for teaching the future generation by arbitrarily (sp?) disciplining children without any thought to the situation. Imagine if the justice system had the same policy- you commit a crime so, despite the circumstances, you go to jail for a pre-determined amount of time. Think of times you may have gotten a speeding ticket- or a parking ticket… now imagine a zero-tolerance policy for that. You get a ticket, you lose your license for a week. It doesn’t make sense does it? So why is it supposed to make sense when used in disciplining children???

  11. And what about baseball bats? They can really do some damage when not used for hitting people instead of baseballs. I can see that if the child with the lighter had a history of destructive behavior, it might be a problem, but just picking one up out of curiosity shouldn’t be cause for suspension. I would have the boy hand over the lighter and give him a warning about bringing such items to school.

  12. Weapons aren’t just physical. Books have already been mentioned a few times, but only physical dangers.

    What about the trauma and anguish of not reading as well as someone else or reading something you don’t like?

  13. Let’s edit that second sentence: Should read “some damage when used for hitting people instead of baseballs”
    (I belong to a railway-enthusiast website that has an “edit” feature so one can correct errors in typing or syntax.)

  14. Not only do predators frequent trees, trees cause fear. Last summer at the camp I worked at, a kid got mad at his Scout master and hid in a tree for five hours while we searched the surrounding wilderness. We lovingly call him Tree Boy. Coolest kid ever. But what if he had been trapped in that tree? Trees are bad news.

  15. Add to the list of dangerous items a belt if one got hit by the buckle while being swung. The alternative of suspenders can be used to make a large slingshot.

    Lets prohibit coffee creamer from the teacher’s lounge. Do you realize how big a fireball you can create setting it on fire?

  16. These “goody two-shoes” are the product of today’s parents – the same parents who insist when kids play the card game “War” it must now be referred to “Bigger/Smaller” because calling a game “War” is just not OK.

    There are so many greater potential weapons at school than a lighter. Zero tolerance does nothing to teach the kids right and wrong and to be honest and forthcming. It teaches the kids to hide the truth for fear of unfair retribution by authority.

  17. The question should not be if the lighter is a weapon, (because of course it could or could not be depending on how it is used) but what is the child’s intent?

    Last year a student sitting in the back of my junior high school class was playing with an old fashioned large, metal lighter. He was flicking it open and closed, waving the flame around. Was this just a child playing with a toy, albeit a dangerous one? Like the story above, there is not information to fully decide.

    In my case, the kid was a bad seed. He already had a police record for assault and vandalism and weapons possession. Trust me, in this case, in his hands, the lighter was a weapon.

  18. Seriously the tattle tale thing is out of control. At day camp (I was the “counselor” for our scout group) One boy came running up to me complaining that my son said “buttocks”. I asked what the problem was as that was the correct term?

    Recently a girl (who shouldn’t have been outside annoying the boys anyway) came to me to complain that she got hit by a stick my son was throwing. Mind you he wasn’t aiming at her. They were tossing sticks in a pile to clean up the backyard. SHE got in the way. I asked her exactly what she wanted me to do about it?

    Yes a lighter can be dangerous. If I recall local news stories (I live in NJ) even the local authorities felt that the school overreacted…

  19. @bmj2k A lighter ist not a weapon. That word is seriously being overused. It is, however a tool for making fire and fire is dangerous in itself. Unlike a sensible pocket knife I see no need for a child to carry one around. The gain of a lighter in school is practically zero, the risk that a kid goofs around and burn down a building or hurt someone is real.

    That’s why it’s okay to take it away for the day, perhaps even have the parents get it from custody.

    Yes, the kid may be the proverbial bad apple and in need of increased supervision. But look at how they proudly display their “Zero tolerance” rule. Even if we had here an arriviste in the making, it could have been just a normal kid who now would have been punished in a totally disproportionate way.

    If probabilty should ever play a role in how we construct our rules, because “something could happen”, it must cover all scenarios according to risk and benefit.

    And thus clearly isn’t the place here.

  20. When I was a kid in elementary school [mid 80s] I brought a paint chipper to school because it was winter in Minnesota and I was making snow sculptures and I wanted something to carve with. All they did was take it away and I don’t think my parents ever even found out. Nowadays I’d have been suspended without thought.

  21. How lucky I am to have been in elementary school nearly twenty years ago when I started a small fire on school grounds with a found lighter. The lighter was confiscated, my parents were informed and had to pay to replace a bench that had been damaged by falling ash; I was grounded at home and had to spend a week of lunchtime detentions writing an essay for the principal about the dangers of playing with fire. What I learned was not that the school or my parents were the enemy, or that I had to be more secretive in future. I learned that fire can be dangerous, and about how it can be used safely, and that I was lucky no one was hurt because of my stupid choice.

  22. I really liked the Dad’s response, which was to call the police to alert them there were additional weapons on campus, since a number of the teachers had lighters as well. Points out the absurdity of the whole thing.

  23. yep. fire safety is more important. some kids are just pyro’s. My husband and some other neighbourhood kids burnt down a shed when they were kids. So fire can be dangerous. But does no one talk to kids these days? Its like that other story with the kid caught with the swiss army knife..

    does noone just ask ‘what are you doing?’ why do you have a lighter? where did you get it? is it yours? and then – put it away, give it to me and you can collect it at the end of school, tell the parents even if they want, starting a dialogue has got to be more successful than suspensions

  24. Zero tolerance means the child is guilty before a crime is committed. It seem today our whole country is going that way. It’s not just the schools, everywhere we have pointless laws.

  25. Do these zero-tolerance laws have nothing said about intent? Kids should be encouraged to hand over dangerous items to school staff, not be punished for even having such items with them when they have no intention of using them…

    By the way: chalk, paper and books have the potential to cause pain and papercuts and bumps on the head and as such have the potential to be dangerous too. I suggest we ban schools entirely. After all, we know what happens if the roof of a school collapses… Dangerous!

  26. *lol* — the other day my son (8) and my daughter (3) spent the day downtown with my husband. When they came home, each one of them had a lighter — this was the week before electionday, and the parties had their people all over the place giving out handouts and presents to people…

    My son, of course, told all his friends about this one party handing out lighters, so I hope these party-people had a blast the next day handing out lighters to all my son’s little friends,😉.

    So I wonder, if I should applaud that particular party for their sense of equality: free lighters for everyone, no matter how young!

    So long,
    Corinna

  27. I have a 2 cm scar on my right eyelid. I got it in Grade 11, when my best friend called my name, just as a desk was being pushed in my direction. I looked up from tying my shoe, and got a bloody gash as a result.

    Clearly, we need to ban desks from our schools.

  28. I was just listening to Pippy Longstocking on CD with my kids. There is a very charming story about how she and Tommy and Annika become finders. They spend the day trying to find “treasures”. Pippy finds an old can and a few other objects. My kids find all sorts of things all day long. (Rocks, Sticks, and other similarly dangerous objects). Isnt’ that all part of being a kid?

  29. “But a weapon is anything that has the potential to cause harm.”

    So I assume that either they do not allow pencils at school, or no one there has seen The Dark Knight.

  30. I just looked at our school policy (I’m in NJ also),. If you bring a weapon to school you’ll get a 10 day suspension. But further on, bringing tobacco, lighter or matches is only a 1 day in-school suspension. Sounds a bit more reasonable, although the best would be for the teacher to ask for it and tell them they’re not allowed.

  31. Really??? Wow, What amazes me most about the “zero tolerance” is how do your schools manage to have any children still attending!
    If we had to suspend our kids for this sort of things, I guess our schools would have to close down right now.
    Cheers from Spain!

  32. I don’t see where a 1 day suspension for this is really such an extreme punishment. If he was suspended for longer (3-10 days) perhaps.

  33. I can see a few situations where suspension would be appropriate for a kid with a lighter. But the rationalization by the school here is more terrifying than the idea of any of those situations.

    I wonder if it’s really the way they’re thinking or if it’s just an excuse so they don’t have to say (and back up) “your kid is an absolute psycho and no one trusts him with an elastic band, much less a lighter.”

  34. I can’t believe the lighter considered a weapon issue made it into news, and subsequently as an “outrage” post here.

    A few weeks ago, I had a phone call with my sister, a New York City school teacher. After having read stuff on Free Range Kids about the zero tolerance policies in schools, I wanted to ask her, as someone “in the biz”, what exactly was going on. Funny enough, the exact subject — lighter as grounds for severe punishment came up. I was flabbergasted.

    I’m happy that the nonsense passing for security measures in schools is coming to light and making news. But tell me, since I’m not in the US, has this story gotten a lot of attention? And is the reaction all that we free-ranger hoped it would be (i.e., outrage)?

  35. The “intelligence” of zero tolerance on display yet again.

    This could have, instead, been an object lesson of discussion that’s all about what fire is, how beneficial it is but only in the right hands, how dangerous it is when misused, and how only “grown-ups” should be the ones who start any fires and handle any tools used to start with.

    In short–don’t play with matches, or cigarette lighters. And “thank you Johnny for being today’s object lesson, and for showing us what you found today & being forthright about it. Just remember–in the future–if you see any cigarette lighters, matches etc–they are not allowed in school.”

    See how easy that was, how informative? I’m not even a teacher & I thought it up. What a blown opportunity this was.

    Just goes to show you what can be accomplished & learned–that’s what school is for, correct?–when teachers are people and not robots following the programming instructions of a rule.

    These zero-tolerance rules & the robotic-like following of them remind me of when I used to do very entry-level programming of computers in class in the 80s, you’d program the computer to display on-screen non-stop “that classmate sitting behind me is a real hottie” over & over, and without thinking, it just did what you told it.

    Little did I know I was getting instructions on how actual *people* would be in the future in situations like this. Just “shaking my head” (SMH).

  36. There was a similar incident in our district in which a boy found a knife in the bathroom, brought it to the office and was suspended for carrying a weapon. However, our district has made a shift from Zero Tolerence to a more Restorative Justice model that enables peer review of non-violent offenses and student recommendations on punishment. It’s new, and I’m not sure how purely it is being implemented but it’s a start.

  37. Wow. This whole “zero tolerance” b.s. is just that b.s. Why don’t people think before they speak anymore. He’s suppose to be an educator, yet he doesn’t know the meaning of a weapon.

    weap·on
       /ˈwɛpən/ Show Spelled[wep-uhn] Show IPA
    –noun
    1.
    any instrument or device for use in attack or defense in combat, fighting, or war, as a sword, rifle, or cannon.
    2.
    anything used against an opponent, adversary, or victim: the deadly weapon of satire.
    3.
    Zoology . any part or organ serving for attack or defense, as claws, horns, teeth, or stings.

    At what point did this kid make any aggressive move towards anyone? He didn’t even light it for pete’s sake. Just like the “weaponized” toy gun. Dumb teachers make for dumb students. And the ass makes over a 100K a year?! I’m in the wrong profession.

    Well Mr. “zero tolerance”, if lighters are a weapon, than ALL teachers who smoke should be suspended for carrying a weapon around with them all day and around children. Pens, pencils, or any pointed object is a potential weapon as well, so anyone using those should be suspended. Let’s add chairs to that list as well. Anyone sitting on one must be suspended. Zero tolerance remember. This guy needs to get his ass canned.

  38. While I hate zero tolerance rules and am digusted that a lighter is being called a weapon, I’m not bothered by a 1 day suspension for a kid bringing something to school that he should know, by 11 years old, doesn’t belong in school. However, if they now try to expel the kid for a year for bringing a “weapon” to school, I’d be outraged.

    I think in our hatred for zero tolerance rules, we overlook the simple fact that what the child did was wrong and he deserves consequences. The other side of parenting today is that parents don’t discipline their children (I do think this is tied to the whole helicopter parenting syndrome). The schools do have a right to say what can come onto the property and what cannot. If they want to forbid red notebooks, they can do so and the kids will need to follow that rule or be subject to some punishment (just like in the adult world that we still have to follow laws that we think are idiotic or suffer the consequences).

    An 11 year old has been around the block enough to know that a lighter is not an appropriate thing to bring to school. Schools were much more lax 30 years ago when I was 11 and I still knew that bringing a lighter to school was not a good idea. It doesn’t matter how responsible he is. The school says no lighters so that’s the end of lighters at school until the rule is changed. He may not have struck it but it wasn’t tucked safely away in his pocket either or it would never have been “noticed.”

    The penalty, while not what I would have done, is not overly punitive. The kid misses a day of school. He’s 11 so it’s not like a one day suspension will keep him out of college and limit him to a lifetime of flipping burgers at McDonald’s. His parents seem more upset at the school than the child so it doesn’t appear that he will face additional punishment at home.

    I think that the school went about the situation wrongly, thus causing an unwarranted stir from the public. The official should have simply said “We don’t allow kids to have lighters. He brought a lighter. He’s suspended for a day.” No mention or calling it a weapon needed.

  39. Forgot to add this…

    Whatever happened to the days when a kid just got detention and a lecture of do’s and don’ts. Our society is just teaching our kids to be untrusting and fearful of the very things and people that they associate with everyday. Now imagine 25-30 years from now, when these same kids are running the world. That’s a scary world. All because some “know it all” adult gets his holier than thou, distrusting, corrupt and fearful attitude. Not to mention, trying to justify his big salary by looking like he’s doing his job. What a moron…I mean maroon. lol

  40. “I don’t see where a 1 day suspension for this is really such an extreme punishment. If he was suspended for longer (3-10 days) perhaps.”

    A one day suspension for not doing anything really wrong isn’t extreme?

    If the school wants to enforce a rule that lighters are disallowed in all circumstances, then by all means take it away. And if you have a policy of something like detention for all infractions just so that the rules are taken seriously, I guess that’s okay. (It would be outrageous, however, if the kid got ANY punishment had he turned it in voluntarily. But that wasn’t the case here, though it has happened many times.) But suspending a kid who showed no intent of doing anyone any harm or being disruptive in any way is always wrong.

  41. Maybe he shouldn’t have been suspended – maybe a warning is more appropriate. We don’t know enough of the particulars to make a judgment. There are several children in my son’s school that should definitely not have a lighter anywhere near them. I would not be comfortable thinking that kids have access to a lighter at school. Yes, there may be some adults that have lighters on them at school but they are adults. Let’s face it – an eleven year old is not an adult. The schools do have a responsibility to provide a safe environment. I don’t understand comparing a pencil to a lighter. Honestly, an eleven year old should know better – either leave the lighter where you find it or give it to a teacher.

  42. The superintendent said:

    “Maybe this student wouldn’t have set fire to anything, but there’s the potential that it could have been passed to someone who would have.”

    Yes. That’s a decent reason to TAKE IT AWAY. That is NOT an excuse to punish someone who didn’t do anything bad or dangerous. “Someone else might have done something wrong, so now you’ve been punished and have a mark on your record.” Just lovely.

  43. Donna, my only objection to what you’ve said is that I considered a suspension an inflated punishment for rule-breaking where no serious harm or disruption occurred. That’s what detention, or losing some kind of privilege is for. I agree that it’s not outrageous to exact some kind of punishment from a kid who is old enough to know the rules (and this was clearly stated as being against the rules as being a lighter as such, though not as being a weapon.) But if you start suspending kids for more or less harmless behavior, that’s what leads to expelling kids for mildly potentially dangerous behavior like forgetting to take mom’s pepper spray off the keychain when borrowing her keys (happened here several years ago.)

  44. “But suspending a kid who showed no intent of doing anyone any harm or being disruptive in any way is always wrong.”

    I disagree completely. The school has rules. Those rules need to be followed. The appropriate response to unliked rules is to fight to change them not to simply disregard them. Every 11 year old knows or should know that they are not allowed to bring matches and lighters to school (my guess is that students are not allowed to smoke in this elementary school). The school selects the penalty for the infractions and as long as it’s not overly punitive, it’s fine.

    The penalty is not overly punitive. He wasn’t suspended for a lenghty period of time. He’s not being expelled. He’s not being forced into home schooling for a year. He doesn’t have to go to an alternative school for behavior problem kids. He just gets a 3 day weekend.

  45. “The schools do have a right to say what can come onto the property and what cannot. If they want to forbid red notebooks, they can do so and the kids will need to follow that rule or be subject to some punishment (just like in the adult world that we still have to follow laws that we think are idiotic or suffer the consequences). ”

    Ugh. This highlights my biggest aggravation: the concept that “if it’s the rule, then you have to follow it. Even if it stinks or is clearly unjust. Oh well.” And then you just roll over and hope you didn’t break any other rules, because you don’t want to get in trouble.

    If you do not understand how this attitude allows more and worse rules to be implemented down the road, then please think about why everyone has a ‘back when I was a kid…” story, and then try to figure out what, exactly, is so much more dangerous today.

    As for the ZT junk, zero-tolerance is simply cowardly and lazy No need for judgment. No need to defend your actions as a principal or teacher. No need to worry if someone will sue you – just point to the rule book “See, zero tolerance – I HAVE to suspend him!”

    (And I will leave aside for now the idea that a public school that I am FORCED to pay taxes to could ever tell me that my kids can’t bring red folders to school would be OK if that’s what they decided)

  46. I don’t think an 11-year-old has any business bringing a lighter to school. I also think the school’s policy needs to be updated to reflect this so that kids know its not allowed. And at least the kid got suspended for only a day. Lots of kids are being expelled for an entire year for offenses similar to this.

  47. Timkenwest and pentamom: Indeed. The kids have been taught to fear, but kids are also just kids. It’s quite likely that the kid who brought in the lighter has tattled on the kid who tattled on him. Kids are quite good at tit for tat. Let’s not blame the tattler for the suspension.

    This is not a kids problem. This is an adult problem.

  48. “That’s what detention, or losing some kind of privilege is for.”

    What privileges? This isn’t home where you can take away the TV or computer. There aren’t any privileges left in schools to take away.

    Many schools, especially at the elementary school level, have done away with detention. Kids don’t get to school on their own 2 feet any more. Many elementary kids are at school until 5pm anyway in afterschool care. Or they go to some other afterschool program – via a bus pickup by that program – while the parents work.. Unless the school provides a late bus service to either home or that program or the kid is already enrolled in the school’s afterschool program, detention is just not feasible at the elementary school level in many areas.

  49. I’ve noticed that a lot of folks seem to be up in arms over the “one day suspension”, saying that the punishment is too harsh. Most schools where we live have done away with after school detention and implemented “in school suspension.” In elementary school, students who exhibit mild misbehavior or failed to complete their work get “recess dentention.” The next step after that is “in school suspension” during which a child is at school but apart from class and allowed to complete the normal coursework. It’s analogous to what we always thought of as “detention” and a lot of normally well-behaved kids (including mine) have had a taste of it.

  50. “This highlights my biggest aggravation: the concept that “if it’s the rule, then you have to follow it. Even if it stinks or is clearly unjust. Oh well.” And then you just roll over and hope you didn’t break any other rules, because you don’t want to get in trouble.”

    That’s not what I said at all. If it’s a rule you follow it until it’s changed. You can fight like hell to change the rule but you don’t get to disregard it until it is changed without expecting a penalty.

    Welcome to the real world folks. In the adult world, you don’t just get to disregard laws that you don’t agree with. I happen to think that prostitution is a stupid law, however, I can’t just become a prostitute and expect to not get prosecuted because I think the law is stupid. Just like you are still guilty of driving on a suspended license even if your license was suspended illegally. Your only recourse is to not drive until the suspension issue is resolved.

  51. Another session from my rural upbringing – I never saw this happen at school even though both boys and girls at my school wore cowboy boots. (Granted, the town kids didn’t wear them until “Urban Cowboy” came out.) But a couple of years later I was at a Saddle Club dance and a point of honor came up between a couple of teenage cowboys. The big kid put up his fists; the smaller guy quickly slipped off a size 9 Tony Lama, slipped his fingers thru the loops at the top, and backhanded the big guy across the chin with the heel. Took him out like a 2×4. One of the best examples of situation-expedient weaponry I’ve ever seen.

  52. In the adult world, you don’t just get to disregard laws that you don’t agree with.

    Well, yes, you do, actually. Look at the Civil Rights movement, which was built by people deliberately breaking laws they found unethical. Look at the drive for women’s suffrage, which involved a lot of women getting arrested for illegally signing up to vote. Look at the abolitionist movement, which involved a lot of illegally freeing slaves.

    Of course, you should probably have a deeper moral standing, as these examples show, than just “Man, that’s a dumb law”, or else you’re not likely to get very far in the end.

  53. Well, Uly, in fairness, all those people DIDN’T just get to disregard the laws. They got arrested, and sometimes worse.

    That’s the difference between civil disobedience and anarchism — civil disobedience is willing to pay the penalty as the cost both of conscience and of effecting change.

    I actually mostly agree with Donna — you don’t just wish away rules, and if they’re bad ones, you work on changing them. I just think that, bearing in mind Donna’s point that the suggestions I offered for alternatives may not be feasible, SOMETHING short of the same punishment that someone would get if they actually intended to do something wrong with the “object” in question could be developed. If the means for such minor punishments don’t currently exist, fix THAT, too.

    As it stands, the kid got the same punishment as the kid who brought in the lighter and showed every intention of misusing it would get. And that’s just wrong.

  54. The problem isn’t the tattletale. Leadership should show good judgement in dealing with these issues. Unfortunately, when all it takes to get leadership credentials is money to pay for them, this is what you get. Sure, there’s talent somewhere out there, but we all joked as teachers that our advanced degrees were “good attendance certificates”. So we shouldn’t be surprised about the enforcement of inflexible rules in education.

  55. I love that the last paragraph of the article is:

    “I think in this day and age, the school made a good judgment call,” said Jamesburg Police Chief Martin Horvath, who was one of the responding officers. “Everyone has a different opinion. Typically, someone says the word ‘weapon,’ and you think of a gun or knife. It would be impossible to put every single thing in a policy — a pencil could be a weapon.”

    THE POLICE CHIEF says that pencils are weapons! Ban those right away!!

  56. “Well, yes, you do, actually. Look at the Civil Rights movement, which was built by people deliberately breaking laws they found unethical. Look at the drive for women’s suffrage, which involved a lot of women getting arrested for illegally signing up to vote. Look at the abolitionist movement, which involved a lot of illegally freeing slaves.”

    As you said, they were arrested and went to jail for doing so. You can certainly choose to break the law in civil protest to change the law. But you can not do so and expect that no penalty be given. If you think it’s dumb that an 11 year old can’t bring a lighter to school, by all means let your 11 year old bring a lighter to school but expect that he’s going to be punished for doing so.

    Some here seem to give the impression that they believe that kids have some civil right to bring whatever the hell they please into school as long as they don’t hurt or threaten someone with the item. I disagree wholeheartedly. Personally, I don’t think that elementary school age children should be bringing a lighter to school at all. Having had very nice, respectable, otherwise responsible young clients this same age who decided to play with a lighter and ended up setting a fire that completely destroyed 10 houses and killed a dog, I have absolutely no problem with a rule prohibiting them at school since I don’t want to pay taxes to build a new school should they accidently burn that one down. The harm in these zero tolerance rules is usually the harsh penalty and not in the fact that the school can prohibit certain items, does prohibit certain items and punishes when those rules are violated. I’m just not seeing a harsh enough penalty in this situation to get outraged over.

  57. Yeah, I think a child should expect to be punished for bringing a lighter to school (assuming he’s old enough to understand the rule). There are only two reasons I could see for sneaking in a lighter and showing friends: 1) smoking or 2) playing with fire. I don’t care where the lighter came from, it should not have been brought into the classroom.

    But if this kid was suspended for a whole day, that’s too much. More and more, I wonder what the schools think they are there for. Between all the suspensions, the time and resources put toward non-academic stuff (the gay prom controversy comes to mind), etc., do they think we just send our tax money their way because we can’t think of anything better to do with it?

    How does keeping a kid out of school teach him why he should follow the school rules? Unless a lot has changed in the past 30 years, a day off from school can be a lot more fun than a day in school. I wouldn’t have wanted to be suspended because of what my parents would do about it, not because I’d miss Mr. Arnholt’s science class, LOL. But if kids are being suspended for stupid reasons, the parents are just going to take their side.

    When I was a kid, they would have confiscated that lighter and informed the parents. And the parents’ discipline (even the anticipation of it) would have been more effective than any school suspension. Are parents now turning a blind eye to their kids’ faults, or are educators being taught to disregard the parents’ appropriate role in discipline?

  58. “As it stands, the kid got the same punishment as the kid who brought in the lighter and showed every intention of misusing it would get. And that’s just wrong.”

    This is very unlikely to be true. First, intent is impossible to show without some overt act in furtherance of a bad purpose. While you may get a few, most kids are not going to confess that they brought the lighter to school to burn down the gym if caught with it. The only thing we really know about thhis kid’s intent is what his father said his intent was and the fact that he had done nothing with the lighter thus far.

    If some student did bring a lighter to school and got far enough into the process that you could tell he intended to misuse it, there would be other crimes committed. He either set a fire (arson), threatened someone with the lighter (terrorist threat), set someone on fire (aggravated assault) or something similar and those crimes would be dealt with in addition to simply bringing the lighter to school. There is no way that a kid who brings a llighter to school and then sets the gym on fire is getting only 1 day suspension.

  59. “Are parents now turning a blind eye to their kids’ faults, or are educators being taught to disregard the parents’ appropriate role in discipline?”

    YES. Read this article. Now maybe those quotes were simply left out, but I see absolutely no acceptance on the part of this father that his kid was in the wrong and deserves some kind punishment. If this had been my child, I would have said “My kid was wrong and deserves to be punished but a one day suspension is too harsh.” Instead, this man calls the police on the school. There is no doubt in my mind that if the lighter had simply been taken away and dad called that this kid would have suffered no penalty at home from bringing the lighter to school.

  60. And so?

    Does “His dad isn’t going to punish him for bringing a lighter to school” automatically mean “He should be punished as though he were too dangerous to have in the building?” I’m willing to bet that the kids who brought lighters, fishhooks, jackknives, etc., to school when I was a kid were mostly not punished at home either. But instead of teaching children to fear being noticed, the authorities at the school I went to as a little kid did things like stand at the front of the class and say, “This is a halibut hook. It is extremely dangerous. It is not a toy. Here is a piece of trashed clothing from the lost and found box. Here is the hook going right through a pair of jeans. Here is the barb that prevents it being pulled back out. Now imagine YOUR LEG inside those jeans. And by the way, this hook is going to the office and I’m calling Billy’s parents because he shouldn’t have brought it to school at all.”

    All zero tolerance teaches is, “We think you are bad, evil children and we are going to treat you like a pack of nasty little criminals, even when you make an honest mistake.” Or, “Don’t be noticed, don’t ever try to do the right thing, because the authorities are like a rhinoceros: see, stomp, devastate.” Did you read the comment about the kid who found a knife in the bathroom, TURNED IT IN TO THE OFFICE, and was punished for being seen touching it?

  61. Yes, Donna, so that would mean if there was no evidence he had a bad intent, he shouldn’t be punished for one.

    Examplse of intent other than proceeding to criminal action would be, for example, showing it off to other kids and talking about doing something inappropriate, carrying cigarettes with him, and things of that nature.

    Otherwise, you’re advocating that a kid should be punished for the extent of what he might do, rather than to the limit of what he did to, regardless of any lack of evidence that he “would” have done what he “might,” or even any evidence that he seriously considered doing so. That’s like charging people with murder for having unregistered weapons.

  62. But I need to clarify — I’m not suggesting that he’s getting the same punishment an arsonist would. But he probably is getting the same punishment a kid would get who brought a lighter to school and waved it around and talked about doing something dumb. And if there’s no distinction between having something on your person, and displaying intent to do further harm, there’s a problem there.

  63. I need to chime in a little again.

    For me, where it regards “rules are rules,” I will admit, this is a tough one. Frankly, the way I was ultimately raised–and how I feel as an adult too–you don’t get to play willy-nilly with the rules, but you aren’t expecting to just close your mind and follow along.

    And as for fighting to change the rules: by all means, but frankly, the work involved in that is tremendous, and on a day-to-day basis it’s a lot easier to simply do what you think is right, even if it means breaking a rule you don’t agree with as opposed to fighting, because–frankly–I’ve got a live to live, if I spent my time doing nothing but fighting all the wrong rules we have in society, I wouldn’t have time to go to the bathroom.

    To me, the deal is this: if one just simply decides “I don’t like that rule, so I won’t do it,” then you invite chaos & disorder to the world. Obviously we need to teach our children that you don’t just go around doing whatever you feel without any regard for what’s right and wrong, and you certainly don’t want to teach your children to be narcissistic. Further, if you tell them to skirt rules they don’t agree with at school, that opens the door for them to do likewise with YOUR rules, which I guarantee you will not be appreciated by you the parent.

    On the other hand, the problem is this–there really are a lot of rules out there that seem just arbitrary and capricious, suppressive of an individual’s right to use their own brain to think and to have some latitude of being human, and–dare I say it–simply in existence for the glorification of the ego of the one creating the rules.

    Just look at the NBA in basketball. They have corrupt NBA officials (look at Tim Donaghy) and, let’s face it, when you’re a highly competitive person playing a game, emotions are a part of it. Yet, every year, the NBA gets stricter & stricter about telling players they can’t react in any way whatsoever to a call they don’t agree with. They expect highly competitive people to go out there and give it there all in a game to win it, but to have no emotion whatsoever even if a referee makes a bad call that hurts the very thing you’re fighting for.

    I understand forbidding theatrics & abuse, and not cursing in a referee’s face over everything, but it’s even to the point you can’t even just swing your arms in frustration on the way to the bench, or even speak your mind on your own blog or Twitter without being dinged for it.

    You’re expected to just smile through the whole thing and act like a robot. It’s no wonder many people out there actually refer to the commissioner as a “dictator” and “creating a nanny state.” The powers-that-be there heap the expectation that you are to be a “company man” and have no opinion of your own, whatsoever. It’s way beyond simply not behaving like a horse’s rear-end, cursing in a referee’s face, etc (those are things I would agree with & understand).

    What this has to do with this topic is this: I don’t want to raise my child to be a troublemaker, going out flaunting society’s rules like they’re nothing, being an inconsiderate jerk in the process. However, if he were an NBA player and I were his father, I would so love it if he were to take a public stand about how the commissioner is disrespecting his players and trying to create a “nanny state”–with grown people, mind you–and totally attempting to squash all free thought & freedom of expression, as well as normal human emotion during a game.

    I would be FAR prouder of him for doing that than I would be of him adopting “rules are rules, so if the commissioner tells me to bend over and eat dirt, that’s the rule, so that’s what I’m going to do” type of mindset.

    We’re humans, with brains. We’re not going to just look at a bad rule, say “rules are rules,” and that’s that. And as for fighting it–sometimes that’s fine, but often-times it becomes too much of a burden and it’s just easier to do what you think it right–the rules be damned–and deal with the consequences.

    To me, THAT is life and THAT is the real world, too.

  64. Wow, the spelling errors I created.

    “you aren’t expecting” should be “you aren’t EXPECTED”

    “I’ve got a live to live” should be “I’ve got a LIFE to live”

    “you will not be appreciated by you the parent” should be “you will not appreciate as the parent”

    “give it there all” should be “give it THEIR all”

    “what you think it right” should be “what you think IS right”

  65. I looked at the Grace M. Breckwedel Middle School
    Parent/Student Handbook ( 2010-2011) here:

    http://bit.ly/d9geVi

    I found no rule that was broken by this student.
    Maybe I missed it, but I don’t think so.

    In the original news story, it said:

    “Although the student never sparked the lighter, school officials decided to suspend him for the day, citing a policy in the student discipline code of conduct that states, “Pupils shall not . . . set fire to or cause fire in any way on school premises.”

    Pages 49-50 of the school manual lists some rules. The one being quoted above says only:

    “Set fire to or cause a fire in any way on school premises;”

    which the kid did not do. I can certainly see why the boy and his dad would be disgusted by the Principal – Gail Verona’s lack of compassion.

  66. Steve, we’re thinking the same way! Below is an excerp of the student handbook. One suspension results in a loss of priviledges for TWO months. That IS excessive just for having a stupid lighter.
    **************************************************

    Out of School Suspension
    We will use “out of school suspensions” for instances of inappropriate behavior of a more serious nature.
    The list of reasons a student could receive an “out of school suspension” includes but is not limited to the
    following:
    • Ten or more discipline referrals in a marking period.
    • Vandalism to school property.
    • Fighting, smoking, drinking, use of drugs, use of laser pointers, gambling or stealing.
    • Verbal threats to injure another student or staff member.
    • Harassment, intimidation, and bullying.
    • Injuring another student.
    Suspensions will result in students being placed on the “Loss of Privileges” list and being denied
    participating in field trips, activities, and school events as follows:
    • One suspension will result in losing all privileges, including field trips, activities, and school events
    for two consecutive months.

  67. If a weapon “is anything that has the potential to cause harm” then how come police don’t go around arresting people for carrying concealed weapons? Apparently, the police and justice system have a little more sense than the school administration.

    If something causes harm it’s not necessarily a weapon. A weapon is something that is used to intentionally harm someone. There are troublemakers who hit people with baseball bats, yet they’re not banned in schools because it’s not considered a weapon.

    Like those overprotective parents, the school administrators need to learn to judge potential dangers properly.

  68. @ Donna: “I disagree completely. The school has rules. Those rules need to be followed. The appropriate response to unliked rules is to fight to change them not to simply disregard them. Every 11 year old knows or should know that they are not allowed to bring matches and lighters to school (my guess is that students are not allowed to smoke in this elementary school). The school selects the penalty for the infractions and as long as it’s not overly punitive, it’s fine.”

    So does that mean, teachers should be suspended for the day as well? I’m sure there are teachers there who smoke, therefore carry matches or lighters. Just because they are kids, doesn’t mean they are the only ones the RULES are meant for. As teachers, they should be leading by example. So if it’s the rule of the school, it should apply to EVERYONE IN THE SCHOOL. Zero tolerance, remember? You can’t start making exceptions just because you can’t be lenient and use common sense. And at 11 years old, curiosity WILL ALWAYS get the best of them. I don’t know one kid, past and present that hasn’t gotten into some sort of situation because of their curiosity. It’s part of growing up, and a learning experience. Curiosity isn’t a bad thing, unless what was done was to intentionally do harm. Again, this is wear common sense kicks in. Rules are made to bent, depending on the situation. Unless they make a charter or something, where there a sub-rules within rules, depending on certain criteria. If the rules are going to be general like this one, there has to be some more thought of the situation (ie. history of students behavior, what he was actually doing with the lighter, first offence or second, etc…). Like I said, if it’s a rule, than it should apply to ALL. No exceptions. That’s why I also say, “think before you speak”. Saves one from having to pull his foot out his mouth in public. Yes, if your taking the superintendent’s claim of the lighter being a weapon, YOU CAN compare a pencil and a lighter. In actuality, you can do more damage and far more quickly with pencil than with a lighter. And it doesn’t matter whether a child is holding the pencil or an adult, that stabbing force will puncture. I’ve seen it from a 10 year old girl. With a lighter, you actually have to let whatever catch on fire, given enough time you can easily put out a fire, or blow out the fire from the lighter. Much easier than trying to disarm a kid wanting to stab you with a pencil, or a pen, or a scissor, which I believe are part of school supplies.

    @ Elizabeth: “Let’s face it – an eleven year old is not an adult. The schools do have a responsibility to provide a safe environment. I don’t understand comparing a pencil to a lighter.”

    You’d be surprised at some of the adults I’ve had the “pleasure” of putting in their place. My 4 year old nephew knows better. That’s the problem with this think, being an adult doesn’t mean you know better. All the fears, paranoia, wars, even crimes are done by…adults. At least kids have an excuse of not knowing any better, they haven’t learned yet. Adults, no so much. And it’s these adults that are showing our kids what it’s like being a grown up. So what do you think the kids will keep with them as they get older. Fear, paranoia, deceit, greed, etc… I’ll say again, lead by example. Just because your an adult, doesn’t mean the rules don’t apply to you.

    @ Steve: Thanks for bringing that up. Just like an adult to cover his ass by making some lame excuse, so that he doesn’t look like a complete moron for “standing” by his decision.

    So maybe something did needed to be done, but a full day suspension for an infraction that didn’t break the rule according to the rules of the school is ridiculous. How about this novel idea, instead of punishing the child right off the bat, why don’t we do the age old method of talking to them first (especially if they are first time “offenders’). Get their side of the story, and then explain to them the reason why they are being talked to. Take the lighter, and make sure the child agrees not to do it again. This teaches children that the world they are growing up in isn’t as bad as they see, or as unfair. It teaches them tolerance and patience. It also shows them how to deal with certain things, that over reacting and jumping the gun isn’t the best approach. That thinking and understanding the situation to deal with it is not only more effective in the long run, but civil. Yes, if need be, give him detention, especially if he’s been talked to before. But to suspend a whole day. That’s a day he’ll never get back, that’s a full day our taxes went to waste on, for what? Just like work in the adult world. You don’t get fired for messing up, you get a verbal warning, next infraction, you get written up. Another infraction you get written up again. And so on. You get all these chances before you actual get terminated. So why the intolerance to kids? As adults, we have advantages over children, but it DOESN’T make us better than them. In my opinion, as adults, we’ve lost what it meant to be a kid. The innocence, the simple way of viewing the world without the tainted, jaded views as adults. Reminds me of what my nephew asked me when we walked by a homeless man downtown. He asked me “why that man was sleeping on the floor”. I told him because he had no home to sleep in. He replied back, why doesn’t some one give him a home? I said it wasn’t that simple. Then he said “he can have my bed”. This is a 4 year old boy, who knows very little of the world, and has no idea what a homeless person is (other than sleeping on the floor, dirty and smelly), but was willing to give up his bed so this stranger doesn’t have sleep on the ground. Now if the rest of the world had this mentality, we would ALL be in a far better place. This is what the adult world wants to corrupt by their selfish, greedy self impose rules that they feel is best for kids? Hmmmm…more like what is best for them.

  69. Sorry for the rant. Needed to get that out with some of the mentality of people.

  70. I’m against stupidity and arbitrary rules… but, unless the kid took it to school only for the purpose of turning it in (which the article doesn’t claim he did)… I actually agree with the suspension. I don’t believe 5th graders should have lighters (speaking from the experience of having BEEN a 5th grader with a lighter)

  71. @ Donna: Sorry, my comment about the pencil and lighter comparison was meant for Elizabeth’s comment.🙂

  72. Fair enough, the lighter should be taken away. It’s not appropriate for school – the kid has no need to use it, he or another kid could easily set fire to something or burn themselves accidentally and even if one kid decides it’s fun to burn some paper or something, that could disrupt the whole school through a fire alarm. A day’s suspension would be fair enough I think for something *like* burning paper so that the alarm would go off, but if he just *had* the lighter, it should just be pointed out that lighters shouldn’t be in school.

  73. Eric: I understand that not all adults show the maturity that they should but that doesn’t mean kids and adults should be treated the same. Yes, kids do need freedom but that doesn’t mean we should let them walk around with lighters. I think it is absurd to make the comparison between a lighter and a pencil. No 11 year should have a lighter. The real issue is whether or not the school overreacted. As I said earlier, we don’t know all the facts so we are therefore not in a position to judge the school’s decision.

  74. “but, unless the kid took it to school only for the purpose of turning it in (which the article doesn’t claim he did)… I actually agree with the suspension. I don’t believe 5th graders should have lighters (speaking from the experience of having BEEN a 5th grader with a lighter)”

    What if he took it to school for the purpose of taking it home later, where he was allowed to have it, or thought his parents might like to have it? That’s the problem with treating something like this as though it was as bad as actually misusing the lighter.

    I don’t think 5th graders should have lighters either, especially in school. I mean, I’d let a child that age use one to light something with appropriate permission, but I wouldn’t want him to “have” one in my home, and definitely I think it’s reasonable for the school to simply disallow them. (I also wouldn’t be “concerned” if another parent did allow his child to have a lighter in his own home, assuming it appeared to be an intelligent decision based on the kid’s ability and trustworthiness.) But that’s different from saying it’s completely reasonable to punish a child in a way commensurate with actually having done something wrong, merely for breaking a “good order and sense” kind of rule like that.

    As has been said many times before, take the lighter away, make the parents come get it if they want it or want the kid to have it at home, and give a lighter kind of punishment (i.e. detention) for simple rule-breaking. And if there isn’t that category of lesser punishment, MAKE ONE.

  75. pentamom – the pun was unintentional, right? “and give a lighter kind of punishment…” 🙂

  76. When I was in fifth grade a kid threw a desk at the teacher. Better remove those desks. In the ninth grade a kids three a pencil across the room and hit a kids eye. Better remove the pencils. I got tons of paper cuts in school. Better remove the paper. A teacher of mine once burned herself when coffee from her cup sloshed. Better remove the coffee. Lots of friends of mine got hit in the head with those rubber playground balls, I bonked my head on the playground blacktop while jumping rope, I twisted and ankle jumping from the swings, my daughter broke a foot while climbing a climbing structure on the playground. Better remove the playgrounds. I’ve seen the plastic sporks served at lunch break skin. Better remove those as well. I’ve known a lot of people who injured themselves and others with their lockers so those better go too. I can’t even imagine what a kids could do with the point of a compass or a pair of scissors so those are a must go as well.

    Yes I’m being ridiculous, just as ridiculous as that ladies statement on what makes a weapon was. Sometimes it seems our society has gone over the deep end and lost all ability to think rationally.

  77. No harm was done. That is what HAPPENED (or didn’t). Why is he being punished for what didn’t happen?

    According to the article, the school has “a policy in the student discipline code of conduct that states, “Pupils shall not . . . set fire to or cause fire in any way on school premises.”

    He neither set or caused a fire. He had a lighter. Which he never struck. Punishment should not be preemptive. It needs to be reserved for when something bad is done. Like SET or CAUSE a fire. The object itself, the lighter, is not something bad. It could be used to do bad, but it is not bad. A distinction has to be made or we are getting to a scary place.

    And whhyyy always XXL the situation up? What would have been wrong with handling the situation with the least pain to the most people (And also the simplest )? — take the lighter away and tell him it’s against the rules.

    Zero Tolerance: The histrionics guide to school discipline.

  78. Elizabeth: “I understand that not all adults show the maturity that they should but that doesn’t mean kids and adults should be treated the same. Yes, kids do need freedom but that doesn’t mean we should let them walk around with lighters. I think it is absurd to make the comparison between a lighter and a pencil. No 11 year should have a lighter. The real issue is whether or not the school overreacted. As I said earlier, we don’t know all the facts so we are therefore not in a position to judge the school’s decision.”

    Why not? That’s selfish and ignorant way of thinking. You are pretty much saying that kids don’t have the same rights as adults. No one let him have the lighter to walk around in school. He found the lighter, and like all kids showed it off to another kid. Didn’t light it to demonstrate, didn’t intend to light it period. He SHOWED it. Now if you take the teachers reasoning and yours. Then we are all potentially endangering everyone around us. Cars have a potential to kill people, so do pens, pencils, rope, blanket, plastic bags. Are we to stop using those things in our daily lives? More so, are we all to be punished by using those potentially dangerous things? I do hope your getting the point here. You CAN’T make dub something potentially dangerous without dubbing ANY other thing that’s potentially dangerous. I kind of get what your saying about children and adults. But a lighter in a child’s hand is no more dangerous than in an adults hands. It all depends on the mental state, and intent of an INDIVIDUAL. In this case, the lighter was never lit. Yet the teacher used the excuse that it COULD HAVE. Dang, there’s many things that we all do on a daily basis that COULD HAVE. Are we all to go to jail, punished, locked in our rooms, pay fines?

    Like I said, just because they are kids, doesn’t mean they are any less than us adults. If anything we should be setting an example for them for when they run into situations they aren’t experienced in. Just like us, if we make a mistake, we wouldn’t want to be punished right of the bat. And when we do, we have excuses coming out of our ying yangs (much like this teacher tried to do by contradicting himself as he tries to take the heat off of him…pardon the pun). As adults we all want that second chance. Why can’t we give it to children.

    It’s true, we don’t know all the facts, but if you read the comments in the article. Comments from the teacher/superintendent, parent, and police, it’s easy enough to paint a picture of what happened. It’s a classic case of a holier than thou teacher who doesn’t view children as people (just like you), and when a student broke the “rule”, he quickly laid the hammer down. Instead of making an effort to educate the child by talking to him. I’m sure he realized that he did jump the gun, and therefore started making those ridiculous excuses. Kids learn the blame game from adults, we just perfect it as we get older.

  79. EricS – “But a lighter in a child’s hand is no more dangerous than in an adults hands. It all depends on the mental state, and intent of an INDIVIDUAL.”

    I strongly disagree with this. Children are far more likely to cause unintentional damage with a lighter because so many more of them, no matter how many times they’ve been told, do not realize how dangerous and uncontrollable fire can be. By your reasoning, my kids would be fine with a lighter, because at the moment they’re too young to really be malicious. But it would be absurd to give them one (that they could actually work) and think they’re as safe with it as I am.

    I would also say that – No. Children demonstrably do not have the same rights as adults. Adults, unless incarcerated, can come and go as they please. Kids, at least young ones, cannot. Adults may drink alcohol, and have a direct voice in the political process. Kids are not allowed to drink and do not have a vote. Adults are permitted to do a number of things that kids are barred from. And so on.

    Also, in a school setting, adults are at school because they have a job to do, their role is entirely different from that of the kids at the school and their responsibilities significantly greater. The rules that apply to them are, and should be, different too.

    Not that I support the idea of suspension simply for possession of any item that could be considered a weapon. And I think the school’s statements as reported are absurd. But I really don’t think you’re making much sense on this one EricS.

  80. “But he probably is getting the same punishment a kid would get who brought a lighter to school and waved it around and talked about doing something dumb.”

    Again, possibly but in my experience in the 15 or so schools that I work with, he’s probably not. The penalty would be higher for someone who was caught waving it around and talking about doing something dumb. And let’s not forget that this kid did not have a lighter tucked away in his pocket. Someone saw the lighter and reported it to school officials. He had it in his hand, showed it to someone, was playing with it or in some other way made it visible to other students.

    “So does that mean, teachers should be suspended for the day as well? I’m sure there are teachers there who smoke, therefore carry matches or lighters.”

    Believe it or not ADULTS and CHILDREN are not actually equals nor do they need to be treated as such. To say otherwise is ridiculous. There are many things that I can do that my child cannot, either by law or house rule. While I agree that teachers should not smoke as to set a proper example for kids (actually I believe that smoking should be illegal but that’s another issue completely), I don’t have the slightest problem with a rule aimed solely at what children can bring into school.

    “Just like work in the adult world. You don’t get fired for messing up, you get a verbal warning, next infraction, you get written up. Another infraction you get written up again. And so on. You get all these chances before you actual get terminated.”

    IT WAS A ONE DAY SUSPENSION!!! It was a MINOR punishment. He wasn’t terminated (I guess expelled) for the first offense. What is it that you think happens at school that ONE day is such a horrible penalty at 11? I remember our entire beta club getting suspended my senior year of high school for something ridiculous. The class valedictorian had to start hers after she got back from her interview at Princeton. She still got into Princeton. I’d I actually think that this is a lesser of the penalties suggested here. I’d rather take a 3 day weekend than detention any day – less school as opposed to more wins every time. The only issue I ever had with being suspended was that I would get in trouble at home and this kid’s parents aren’t mad at him so I doubt home punishment is an issue.

    “And as for fighting to change the rules: by all means, but frankly, the work involved in that is tremendous, and on a day-to-day basis it’s a lot easier to simply do what you think is right, even if it means breaking a rule you don’t agree with as opposed to fighting, because–frankly–I’ve got a live to live, if I spent my time doing nothing but fighting all the wrong rules we have in society, I wouldn’t have time to go to the bathroom.”

    And that is a perfectly fine choice to make IF AND ONLY IF you are willing to accept the penalty if you get caught breaking the rules. However, you can’t expect to be able to break rules you don’t agree with and then not suffer the penalty. Going back to the civil rights movement; they all knew that the odds were that they were going to get arrested for their activities but they were willing to go to jail for what they believed was the greater good. They all went to jail willingly (as willing as one can be going to jail) and did their time without whining about it. Unless you’re willing to have that attitude, you might want to simply follow the rules.

  81. Let me also say that I don’t think a one day suspension was necessarily the right punishment nor was it the punishment that I would have doled out if I were the principle. It just doesn’t register very hight on my outrage meter. I heard many things today that outraged me far more than this.

  82. Helenquine – wow, no offence, but I’d hate to be your kid. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I was your kid, I’d grow up to be either insecure, or incarcerated.

    As parents, it’s up to us to educate our children, it’s our responsibility. We just don’t let them do whatever they please. The way I help raise my nephew, and how me and my siblings were raised, we keep an eye on our kids. If we see them doing something wrong or potentially dangerous, we don’t punish them off the bat. We sit them down and talk to them, and explain why they shouldn’t be doing that, or to be more careful – in which case we show them how to be more careful. Guess what, they learn. The only reason why a kid would keep doing something they were told not to do, is because they don’t know why they aren’t suppose to. How many of us rebelled as kids because our parents said no to us, but never really explained why. They just say “because I’m the parent and I said so”. Kids don’t grow and learn on their own. Well they can, but really not a good way of growing up constantly figuring stuff on your own. You get into a lot more trouble that way.

    Take for instance, my nephew again, loves jumping. Loves jumping into my arms, one day he kept jumping on to my arms and I kept catching him. My brother in law asked me a question, I told my nephew to hold on, turned my head to speak to my bro in law, then he jumped as soon as I did. He bounced off of me, luckily I caught him enough that he didn’t hit the floor full force. I’ve learned not to baby children when stuff like this happens, that’s how they start balling. I picked him up, he was still in a bit of shock, I sat him on my lap, made sure he was ok and said sorry I didn’t catch him. Then I proceeded to tell him, I didn’t mean NOT to catch him, but when he’s told to hold on, when the grown ups are talking he should wait, or else someone might not be paying attention to him and he could get hurt like what had just happened. That was 2 weeks ago, he still jumps on me. But when I’m not looking at him, he now calls me to get my attention so I can catch him. Imagine that. I didn’t scold him, I didn’t berate him, I didn’t even ignore him. I talked to him. He listened. And he learned. Are you saying your kids aren’t as intelligent as my nephew? Or that your parenting skills aren’t as good as mine? I should hope not. All kids are smart and have the potential to learn by leaps and bounds, and as parents we are all capable of good parenting. I have found the best parents are those that never put themselves above their children. They are parents as well as friends. They trust their kids as much as they trust anyone else worth trusting. And they treat their kids fairly. With this kind of relationship, the children learn the same kind and have no fear in approaching their parents about anything. And most of the time, never do anything behind their backs. While the parents are less stressed worrying about their kids, know where their kids are at all times even when they aren’t in sight, and know that their kids are doing the right things they’ve been taught.

    A rule is a rule. You can’t make or break them to suit your needs. Again, that’s one of the asinine things adults do. We’ve conditioned ourselves to make excuses for the things that would benefit US. We’ll justify one thing and not another, when in fact they are both related. Why? Because one is more beneficial to us than the other. It’s like the law, if we do something like DUI, regular Joes would be punished more than say a celebrity. Why? Because people of status are SEEN DIFFERENTLY than the regular Joe. Therefore, get a slap on the wrist. They both bleed red, they both get sick by the same cold, their crap stinks just the same, and they both did the same crime. Why does that celeb get 8 hours in jail, while Joe Blow get 6 months? A RULE IS A RULE. How hard is that to make sense. Here is a another example. In prison, if an inmate kills another inmate he gets punished. If a guard kills an inmate in the same regard, he gets punished and becomes an inmate himself. Rule – no homicide. Both inmate and guard fall under the same rule. No exceptions. Why would teachers be any different. Especially when the kids see them lighting up, how do you explain that to children that they can get punished for carrying a lighter, but it’s okay for adults to carry it AND light it on school grounds.

    Kids are people to, with feelings, and a brain that absorbs far more than the adult brain. You probably don’t realize that do you. They hear and see everything you do. Of course they can’t vote, drive a car, go to a bar and drink. THOSE are ADVANTAGES even privileges we have as adults, those aren’t rights. Those things don’t make kids any less a human being as us. Rights are equality, freedom, fair trial. Your saying kids don’t have those same rights? If you can’t understand that, then you aren’t listening, except to your inner-self who refuses to understand. And if you are being ignorant, your child is learning that from you to.

  83. “IT WAS A ONE DAY SUSPENSION!!! It was a MINOR punishment. He wasn’t terminated (I guess expelled) for the first offense. What is it that you think happens at school that ONE day is such a horrible penalty at 11? ”

    The point being is tolerance and assessing a situation before making harsh decisions. Did the punishment fit the crime, in my opinion, NO it did not. One day suspension or detention isn’t really the issue, it’s how it was dealt with. If it was dealt with fairly, with common sense, and with positive intentions, that kid wouldn’t have been sent home for the day. He would have gotten a lecture, but not suspended. That suspension just taught that kid, life isn’t fair and adults can’t be trusted and feared. You think that’s a good thing?

    “Believe it or not ADULTS and CHILDREN are not actually equals nor do they need to be treated as such. ”

    So you are saying, that freedom, being treated with fairness, understanding and compassion are only limited to someone who’s 18 or older? Hmmmm.

    “Let me also say that I don’t think a one day suspension was necessarily the right punishment nor was it the punishment that I would have doled out if I were the principle. It just doesn’t register very hight on my outrage meter. I heard many things today that outraged me far more than this.”

    Yes, some of the things I’ve heard from adults here today are very disturbing in regards to the future of a child in their care. If you don’t think it was necessarily the right punishment, why make the comment at the top? A little contradictory in terms don’t you think?

  84. Much ado about nothing … take the lighter away from the kid and tell him/her that it should have been turned in the minute the child entered the building, inform the parents or the incident, tell the ‘tattletale’ that he/she did the right thing, send the kids back to class and get them back to learnming … which is what they’re in school for! Nuff said …

  85. They let anyone into a school with the most dangerous weapon known to man .. a brain .. with a brain anything can be turned into a weapon. I am so sick of zero tolerence, it is a stamp that every school official hides behind so that they are not required to think or be responsible for anything.

  86. HURRAY FOR ZERO-TOLERANCE!!

    No thinking required and we’re all safe from everything!!!
    In fact no one ever has to think again!!

  87. @ Peter Brulls

    Don’t be naive or twist my words. ANYTHING could be a weapon DEPENDING on how it is used. Do I consider a lighter to be a weapon? In general no, but consider what it is- an object which produces a flame. In certain hands of course it is a weapon!

    By making the blanket statement that it isn’t a weapon you are as misguided as those who make the blanket statement it is.

  88. I’m with Susan@The Spice Garden here. This is not something they should have made that big a deal about, and depending on the kid he may or may not have known the lighter wouldn’t be okay.

    I’m jut glad that this hasn’t been applied to my kids. They bring real forks into school in their lunches.

  89. This paragraph ticks me off

    “I think in this day and age, the school made a good judgment call,” said Jamesburg Police Chief Martin Horvath, who was one of the responding officers. “Everyone has a different opinion. Typically, someone says the word ‘weapon,’ and you think of a gun or knife. It would be impossible to put every single thing in a policy — a pencil could be a weapon.”

    um YEAH?!?!
    In THIS day and age? WTF? Why is now any different than 20 years ago? It’s NOT, only the media makes it different!

    I was bullied horrendously as a child and no one but ME was ever removed from school for it because they had a DADT policy on “teasing”.

    I know just about EVERYTHING that could be used as a weapon in a grade school because so many of them were used ON me.

    This poor kid, a BOY SCOUT, who was a good kid, had the cops called on him and was kicked out of SCHOOL because some other kid was a vandal LAST YEAR?

    Sounds like “Guilty until proven innocent” to me and even this countries court systems don’t do that.

    I think school admins fall into the “absolute power corrupts absolutely” category of bullying when any “zero tolerance” policy in a grade school is “enforced”

  90. My mom taught me something very young…

    and that is

    Most rules and laws are meant to be broken at times. That they are guidelines and an agreed upon way to treat each other and the world around us. That with each group of people, generation and sub-culture the rules change to match what is acceptable at the time.

    The Zero Tolerance rules/laws should be guidelines, but not to be followed blindly and yet it seems we have an entire culture/generation of people who are starting to follow anything they are told. That people are living in fear instead of with there brains and very quickly allowing our Rights and Freedoms to be individuals to disappear.

    Think about all we’ve lost since 9/11. People use that fear to get many things in to place that should not be.

    Anyways I think I’m off topic sorry.

  91. EricS – This is simply more hysteria.

    “The only reason why a kid would keep doing something they were told not to do, is because they don’t know why they aren’t suppose to.”

    Again, more nonsense. Adult or child, there are plenty of reasons people keep doing things they know they are not supposed to. While rebelling can be one of those reasons, I’ve found for myself that the reasons are generally more egocentric. Relative need can be a driver and curiosity sometimes wins out even when there’s a bit of me that’s saying – “this is really dumb”.

    “Are you saying your kids aren’t as intelligent as my nephew? Or that your parenting skills aren’t as good as mine? I should hope not.”

    Well, for a start, despite your hysteria about how my comments apparently mean I will raise insecure or criminal kids I would have treated the actions of your nephew in exactly the same way – does that mean your nephew will become insecure or incarcerated because of his exposure to you? That seems highly unlikely to me.

    I also wasn’t making any claims about the relative intelligence of any particular children or the relative quality of anyone’s parenting. I have no idea what your nephew is like or, really, what your skills in a parenting role are. Though I will confidently say *some* kids will be less intelligent than your nephew (and some more so), and *some* parents will be less skilled than you (and some more so). Were you thinking that I would change my mind for fear that otherwise I might be admitting my kids or I are less able than (to me) random strangers on a couple of very fuzzy scales? Because I’m really not influenced by that kind of argument.

    “A rule is a rule. You can’t make or break them to suit your needs…”
    I didn’t really see how this section fit into your overall argument. You seem from this to be in favor of zero tolerance rules (so that asinine adults can’t make bad decisions). Which is definitely not the impression I got from the rest of your posts. On the “you can’t just break rules to suit you” argument, I’m with Larry Harrison with a little bit of sunkitty thrown in. Good use of discretion is the standard to aim for.

    “Kids are people to, with feelings, and a brain that absorbs far more than the adult brain. You probably don’t realize that do you.”

    Why would you think that? I didn’t say anything about kids’ ability to learn – which is phenomenal. I was talking about people’s ability to discern and judge situations, which grows rather than diminishes as we age.

    “Of course they can’t vote, drive a car, go to a bar and drink. THOSE are ADVANTAGES even privileges we have as adults, those aren’t rights.”
    We may be talking at cross purposes to some extent here. I don’t really see my legal ability to do things as a general citizen to be advantages or privileges. I see actions being restricted as a necessary way of developing a society we can all live with, but I don’t see things I am legally allowed to do as privilege. I’m not sure I even see the granting of advantage or privilege as a legitimate role for a fair government. Some examples might change my mind on that though – your use of privilege in this context is not clear to me. Voting is the closest I could see to being a privilege, as it’s something that is made possible by the Government, but voting in particular is not just a right of citizenship, it’s a social obligation.

  92. Kids in thousands of schools carry pens and pencils, and eat their food with forks time and time again with no impulse to stab people. School administrators assume those tools will be used properly.

    Millions of people drive cars without killing people. And even though there are accidents, we don’t have the government saying, “Okay, people are getting injured and killed. No more driving allowed.”

    But in a sense, that’s what the schools are doing with almost everything.

    I honestly believe that if schools asked all kids to bring pocket knives to class for whittling while out at recess, and even for throwing at a target, it could all be done safely. Further, I picture kids all having candles in candle holders on their desks, and being allowed to light those candles and blow them out over and over again with few problems. The kids could even carry matches and lighters safely, just like they carry pens and pencils without stabbing their classmates.

    This mindset that kids can’t be safe with these things is just like people who don’t seem to understand that the intent behind a gun is what kills or doesn’t.

    Teach a person how to responsibly do something — it becomes a habit, and the novelty wears off. After a couple weeks of knives, lighters, and candles being encouraged by the teachers and administration, you’d have many kids losing interest, and some even complaining, saying things like: “Why do we have to have stupid candles on our desks?” – “I don’t like to whittle. Can I do something else?” – “Do I have to keep bringing a lighter to school everyday? My finger’s getting sore from using it so often.”

    We allowed our boys to build fires from an early age almost anytime they wanted to. Never had any problems. It was no big deal. One sure way to make something into a big deal is forbid it, or don’t teach how to do it safely.

  93. Punishing a kid for the worst he might have done. That’s zero tolerance in a nutshell.

    Punish this kid as if he had in fact lit something on fire with the Bic he never flicked. Punish that kid as if he had threatened somebody with the knife he stumbled across and responsibly turned in to the school office. Punish this other kid who left a kitchen knife (or was it a crowbar?) in a locked car in the parking lot as if he were planning to hurt someone with this object he had forgotten in his vehicle after helping somebody move house. Punish the poor Swiss exchange student as if he were about to go on a rampage with a folding utility knife instead of cutting an interesting plant sample with it while not even on school grounds . . .

    What does this teach? What does this solve? What good does any of this do?

  94. @ EricS. I’m with you in spirit (or was) but personal attacks are weakening your arguments. You realize accusing someone of being a bad parent is just about the shittiest thing you can do, don’t you? It’s so upsetting, in fact, that whole websites have been launched to counter such attacks.

  95. How coincidental – One of my high school aged daughters said they needed a lighter or matches in class to momentarily heat something in a science lab without having to worry about a bunsen burner. When I said to her, surely there’s at least one kid who would have a lighter in their school bag, I was astonished by the look of horror on her face that a school colleague would have such a weapon of mass destruction in their possession. Our kids are soaking this stuff up. And yet, everyone from the Govt down thinks it’s ok for at least 20 of them to ride the bus to school everday in 80km/h(50mph) areas while standing due to overcrowding.
    Ahh the balance of sensibilities.

  96. Zero tollerance doesn’t take into consideration our failable human nature. We all make mistake and learn from them. Suspending a student for bring a lighter to school tha he found on the way teachs him that adults and other people are unreasonable. Only perfection is acceptable. The child soon learns that the people who punished him also make mistakes and he learns that he has been treated unjustly and that the school has a double standard for students ans staff. We need mercy and education not unreasonable harsh punishment. The school was only practicing CYA. Safety was never an issue in this case.

  97. Steve – I think you’re right that most kids, and certainly 11 year olds, *could* be taught to use lighters and matches safely. I don’t know that I think your example of how is particularly accurate, but kids did use to learn to use fire fairly safely. Still, they generally don’t today. And there isn’t much reason for them to, fire isn’t particularly common in their daily lives the way it was a generation or two ago. So kids in general have much less experience of it and tend to be less responsible with it than they might have been.

    But I think most of the school bans against lighters and matches at school came as schools started to crack down seriously on smoking, instead of turning a blind eye unless it was waved in front of their face. After all, there isn’t that much call to carry around a lighter unless you smoke. I’m really glad that smoking has taken a dive in popularity and acceptability, and though I’m ambivalent on some of the steps taken that have brought the decline about I do think schools were doing a good thing in cracking down.

  98. No one here seems to delve into the root cause of the zero intelligence policies – the elected officials and appointed/elected school board members. You want this stuff changed, and it should be, inquire of these candidates before they get into office. Make the informed choice when you vote.

    Continuing the mindless, knee jerk reactions by school officials to what amounts to a non-event in terms of safety and a “weapon” does nothing to teach kids right from wrong. It only teaches them to be numb and fearful. Which is probably what most schools want them to be.

    The only reason kids are less responsible with fire (as some might say) is that the opportunities to be taught safe handling have been fewer. Parents don’t take the time to camp. Scouting organizations are looked down upon, and of course, one crazy kid somehow drives the entire legislative agenda for a school district, thus making fire forever taboo. Sure, no one’s supporting Zippos for ten year-olds, but really the fools running the public schools are doing more hurt than harm to our children with these policies.

  99. As usual, Donna and Pentamom are the most logical and reasonable. The kid should have turned it in once he got to school, and if he wasn’t waving it around or talking about it, no on would have known it was there. And, he wasn’t suspended for a whole day—-his parents just had to pick him up in the middle of the day—so it was likely half a day. Geez.
    And, his dad sounds like an ass.

  100. Donna said,

    “IT WAS A ONE DAY SUSPENSION!!! It was a MINOR punishment.”

    Interesting point of view.

    You may think a one day suspension is minor today — but I can’t remember “any” kids getting suspended when I was in grade school or junior high. And although I think some were suspended in high school, I don’t remember why. It happened VERY rarely and WAS a BIG DEAL.

    I asked my wife if she remembered anyone getting suspended. Not one incident came to mind.

    Times have changed.

    My wife works in the public schools, and it seems like she’s telling me every week about some kid she knows who got suspended. So I realize that when lots of kids are suspended, it doesn’t seem like a big deal.

    I looked at state statistics and was appalled by the hundreds of suspensions that take place every year in individual schools! Of course not all schools have this problem.

  101. Reminds me of a weird situation we had here not long ago. A kid finds a knife on the way to school, puts it in his backpack, then thinks better of it and puts it back where he found it. One of his friends tattles, and he’s suspended–multiple day, out of school suspension–for his “intent” to bring the knife to school. Kid’s dad had to cause all kinds of fuss before the school reconsidered the suspension and let him back in school. So now I guess we’re punishing kids for doing the RIGHT thing!

  102. The only save thing to do for a kid to quickly walk by the object lying around to make sure nobody associates one with the critical object. Do not touch, do not report, ignore.

    What are we teaching those kids?

    How is suspension a good thing? To me it is a strange form of punishment. Why is depriving from education helpful at all? Who are we really helping and hurting with these odd rules?

  103. Helenique, it’s not hysteria, it’s unbiased common sense. Perhaps you see it as hysteria because you can’t make sense of what I’m saying. Either because you just can’t, or adamant that what your saying is right and what I’m saying is wrong. I have no problem admitting when I’m wrong, so long as you prove me wrong. And how wrong is it to think a child should be equally treated as an adult? If an adult does something wrong to me, I correct them. If a child does something wrong, I correct them. If an adult doesn’t understand a situation, I explain to them. Just the same way I would explain to a child. I’m not an advocate of children per say. I’m an advocate of people. Adults and children, to me are people. So if someone here starts putting down children however they are, I’m going to speak up.

    “The only reason why a kid would keep doing something they were told not to do, is because they don’t know why they aren’t suppose to.”
    Again, more nonsense. Adult or child, there are plenty of reasons people keep doing things they know they are not supposed to. While rebelling can be one of those reasons, I’ve found for myself that the reasons are generally more egocentric. Relative need can be a driver and curiosity sometimes wins out even when there’s a bit of me that’s saying – “this is really dumb”.

    – By this, your implying that kids generally just can’t learn and refuse to listen. THAT’S even more dumb and ignorant. Why would you assume this about children without talking to them? In MY experience, egocentric was never part of “not listening”. I didn’t listen, my friend’s didn’t listen, and now kids that I know that don’t listen all the time are the ones that don’t talked to. Granted there are those that do get talked to but still insist on doing what they were asked not to. But that isn’t isn’t a common thing in my dealings with friend’s kids. They are pretty much well behaved. Again, kids only do what they do because that’s what they’ve learned. And who do you think they learn it from? Hmmm.

    “Are you saying your kids aren’t as intelligent as my nephew? Or that your parenting skills aren’t as good as mine? I should hope not.”
    Well, for a start, despite your hysteria about how my comments apparently mean I will raise insecure or criminal kids I would have treated the actions of your nephew in exactly the same way – does that mean your nephew will become insecure or incarcerated because of his exposure to you? That seems highly unlikely to me.

    – Lol. I’m not insecure or unfair. I treat my nephew like I would treat any human being. Adult or child. Other than their size, I don’t see kids differently. Which you keep pointing out that you do. Which is the basis of this argument. Other than the physical part, THEY ARE NOT DIFFERENT FROM ADULTS emotionally and mentally. Doesn’t matter if they can’t vote or drive or drink. Those things don’t make up a person. How hard is that for you to understand?

    I also wasn’t making any claims about the relative intelligence of any particular children or the relative quality of anyone’s parenting. I have no idea what your nephew is like or, really, what your skills in a parenting role are. Though I will confidently say *some* kids will be less intelligent than your nephew (and some more so), and *some* parents will be less skilled than you (and some more so). Were you thinking that I would change my mind for fear that otherwise I might be admitting my kids or I are less able than (to me) random strangers on a couple of very fuzzy scales? Because I’m really not influenced by that kind of argument.

    – Hey, your the one looking at children as a lesser person than adults. How would you view someone who thinks someone else is less of a person than another? That’s the difference between our way of thinking. I don’t think because I’m the adult, that I have power over my kids, that they don’t know anything therefore needs to be treated like invalids.

    “A rule is a rule. You can’t make or break them to suit your needs…”
    
I didn’t really see how this section fit into your overall argument. You seem from this to be in favor of zero tolerance rules (so that asinine adults can’t make bad decisions). Which is definitely not the impression I got from the rest of your posts. On the “you can’t just break rules to suit you” argument, I’m with Larry Harrison with a little bit of sunkitty thrown in. Good use of discretion is the standard to aim for.

    – This is a reply to your comment about how because teachers are there to work, that having a lighter in school doesn’t apply to them. That they can light one up if they wanted to. So I say again, if the rule of the school is that no lighter/weapon is allowed on school property, should it not be a rule as a WHOLE? After all, the adults are the ones suppose to be setting an example. How do you set an example if your doing what you just told children not to do? Hence, a rule is a rule. Again, how complicated is that to comprehend.

    “Kids are people to, with feelings, and a brain that absorbs far more than the adult brain. You probably don’t realize that do you.”

    Why would you think that? I didn’t say anything about kids’ ability to learn – which is phenomenal. I was talking about people’s ability to discern and judge situations, which grows rather than diminishes as we age.

    – Again, kids learn and absorb things quickly. You don’t think they can learn the ability to discern and judge situations? My nephew and his friends (family friends’ kids) do a pretty good job of that at 4-5 years of age. We often catch them correcting each other, and at times correcting us. As long as they are taught what to look out for and how to deal with it, they are more than capable. At the very least, enough to know how to stay out of trouble. Yeah, so I would have to disagree with you on that they don’t have the ability to discern and judge situations.

    “Of course they can’t vote, drive a car, go to a bar and drink. THOSE are ADVANTAGES even privileges we have as adults, those aren’t rights.”

    – We may be talking at cross purposes to some extent here. I don’t really see my legal ability to do things as a general citizen to be advantages or privileges. I see actions being restricted as a necessary way of developing a society we can all live with, but I don’t see things I am legally allowed to do as privilege. I’m not sure I even see the granting of advantage or privilege as a legitimate role for a fair government. Some examples might change my mind on that though – your use of privilege in this context is not clear to me. Voting is the closest I could see to being a privilege, as it’s something that is made possible by the Government, but voting in particular is not just a right of citizenship, it’s a social obligation.

    – Again, this is in response to your comment that kids don’t have the same rights as adults. I was merely pointing out that “the rights” you speak of aren’t rights. They are privileges. Driving, although anyone over the age of 16 is allowed to drive, it can easily be taken away from them should they mess up. ie. DUI. Voting, yes a right/obligation, but once you change citizenship or get incarcerated you lose that “right”. But that’s not even what I was trying to get at. I was making a point that kids have the same rights as adults. Especially in regards to fairness and equality. Like I said, I treat kids just like I would adults. I talk to them like they are adults, and they understand me just fine. I don’t do the high pitch, goo-goo gaga talk. I don’t see them as less than me as a person. They are smaller, less strong, a little more naive. But those have no bearing on them as person. I deal with them based on their understanding of what I tell them, their feelings, and their curiosity. I like to encourage them to grow beyond what they are doing. It’s called evolving. That’s why you find kids learning earlier and a faster pace than we did. Why would someone want to stifle that by treating them as lesser human beings.

    Re-read your comments from helenquine, on September 29, 2010 at 04:44. Then read my replies. It’s all there. You just have to be open minded to understand.

    But I would like to take this opportunity to apologize in “attacking” you. Wasn’t my intention. I get worked up when I see and hear unfairness in people. And that includes towards children. Reading what you and others say about children not having the same rights as adults, and therefore subject to different treatment didn’t sit well with me. I was brought up to respect people…period. Be it other kids or adults. My parents taught me to cook, clean, and do laundry by the age of 6. We were smart enough and self-sufficient enough to watch each other till our parents got home from work. Why, because that’s how we were taught. We weren’t treated differently as kids. Yes, we got babied at times, yes they “embarrassed” us in front of our friends by giving us hugs and kisses, yes they took care of us when we were sick. But not once did they ever make us feel we were less of a person than they were. For the most part they treated us like ANYONE else. That’s what they taught me.

  104. Tuppence: You are right, and I do apologize for my opinion of how some parents are viewing this. I’m not saying they are bad parents. But some of their rebuttals towards my posts where pretty upsetting. And my comment about not wanting to be the parent’s kid was based on what they were saying. Which was pretty much “kids have no rights”. That they were coming across that the suspension although harsh was justified. Ridiculous. Even their replies, keep putting words into my mouth.

    Helenique points out I’m hysteric. When she is the one saying that kids don’t have the same rights as adults. That is pretty ignorant. Much like we disagree with helicopters parents way of thinking, her way of thinking is no different. Free-range parenting is based on letting kids grow and learn, and to know stifle them with fears of what MIGHT happen. But rather empower them with knowledge to deal with things that DO happen. Treating kids like they don’t know any better and saying they are lesser than adults is contradictory to Free-Range parenting. It’s more of the helicopter parent way of thinking.

  105. Eric- I don’t think helenquine is saying that kids are less intelligent or less deserving than adults rather that they have less life experience on which to make judgements than adults. Basic science tells us that their frontal lobe is not fully developed until well into their 20’s. So, no children should not be given the same freedom as an adult. They should be given an appropriate level of freedom for their age and maturity. That will vary by child, but for the sake of the safety of a school full of children there has to be rules.

  106. EricS – When I said hysteria I was referring to your “attack” which was a pretty absurd conclusion on the basis of a comment on a blog in which I had said nothing about how I treat my kids.

    You have taken nuanced sentences and assumed they say something they don’t then reacted against that.

    i.e. “By this, your implying that kids generally just can’t learn and refuse to listen.” No. I’m not. I’m implying that even though kids can and do listen and learn, not *all* of them avoid trying *some* things out for themselves anyway.

    and: “You don’t think they can learn the ability to discern and judge situations? ” Again, I didn’t say that. I said their ability to discern and judge grows. Adults discern and judge faster than children do and come to correct conclusions more often. Its one of the things we do actually get better at cognitively as we age. Also the mind develops well into our 20s – children aren’t entirely adults in miniature.

    And : “I was making a point that kids have the same rights as adults. Especially in regards to fairness and equality. ” Well the conversation seemed to go:
    Elizabeth: “I understand that not all adults show the maturity that they should but that doesn’t mean kids and adults should be treated the same.”
    You:”Why not? That’s selfish and ignorant way of thinking. You are pretty much saying that kids don’t have the same rights as adults.”
    And then I listed ways in which kids are not treated the same as adults in law. You seemed to start the equivalence of kids and adults being treated the same with a right and later seemed to say that laws that distinguish are not breaching that right because they’re just about privileges. So I still don’t see how you come to the conclusion that while a law that distinguishes is about privilege, a school rule that distinguishes is about rights?

    “So I say again, if the rule of the school is that no lighter/weapon is allowed on school property, should it not be a rule as a WHOLE? After all, the adults are the ones suppose to be setting an example. ”
    And I say again – No. They have different goals, different responsibilities, different obligations, different abilities, different pressures to cooperate.

    Also: ” I like to encourage them to grow beyond what they are doing. It’s called evolving. That’s why you find kids learning earlier and a faster pace than we did.” This is a digression, but that shows a poor understanding of evolution. We don’t get cleverer simply because we evolve. We evolve to be more intelligent *if and only if* being more intelligent leads to greater survival. Animals can evolve to be less intelligent than they had been. It isn’t a constant gain. Much of the gain in intelligence over the last few hundred years is likely to be down to superior nutrition. And I have no interest in stifling that intelligence – I hope to encourage it, your assumption, both that I should want to and the implication that “your way” to raise kids won’t but “my way” (which you don’t even know) will is somewhat arrogant and laughable.

  107. It seems to me that several things are driving this whole zero-tolerance, zero-trust mindset found in the government schools: First, we have an ever growing bureaucracy associated with the schools, which necessarily leads to ever more detailed and convoluted policies; the failure of those bureaucracies to require actual judgment from their employees (substituting yet more detailed policies for that judgment); and the incredible prolonging of the time to maturity in today’s society.

    None of these are good things. But, then I grew up in a time when most boys carried a pocket knife routinely, starting at age 9 to 10. Funny, I don’t remember any carnage in the schools.

  108. Does anyone remember trying to light a fire using a magnifying glass and a piece of paper? Kids used to try that all the time in the playground of the elementary school I attended (when Sesame Street was in its glory days — that’s how old I am).

    I don’t think anyone actually lit a fire, but the kids liked to try to do it. I don’t think the teachers even noticed. Now the kids would all be suspended and the magnifying glass considered a weapon.

  109. I think there are several factors at work here:
    – Did the child use the lighter as a weapon?
    – Were lighters officially classified as weapons?
    – Assuming lighters were not officially classified as weapons, was there a rule against children simply possessing lighters at school?
    – Assuming lighters were officially classified as weapons, did the child know that lighters were classified as weapons, and so he should not have them at school?
    – What does the administration think the student did with the lighter?
    – What did the administration punish the student for doing with the lighter?

    According to the article:

    – Did the child use the lighter as a weapon?
    Here is what the student did with the lighter:
    the student held “the lighter in his hand”
    “the student never sparked the lighter.”
    According to the superintentent, the child did not set fire to anything, though that potential existed.
    According to the superintentent, the child did not pass the lighter to someone else who might have set a fire, though that potential existed.
    Answer: No, the child did not use the lighter as a weapon.

    – Were lighters officially classified as weapons?
    “They kept saying a lighter is a weapon.”
    “A weapon is anything that has the potential to cause harm.”
    “It depends on your whole interpretation of what a weapon is.”
    “Everyone has a different opinion.”
    “It would be impossible to put every single thing in a policy.”
    “the school made a…judgment call.”
    Answer: this is unclear. A lighter has the potential to cause harm, but as the police chief so astutely noted, “a pencil could be a weapon.”

    – What rule was the child punished under?
    “Pupils shall not . . . set fire to or cause fire in any way on school premises.” The child was punished for causing or setting a fire, which he did not do. He was *not* punished for possession of a lighter. He was not even punished for possession of a weapon, even though everyone is saying that the lighter is a weapon. Isn’t that interesting? If there was a rule against *possession* of a lighter, or a rule that a lighter was a weapon and it was forbidden to possess weapons, why wouldn’t they have charged him with that, instead?

    – Assuming lighters were not officially classified as weapons, was there a rule against children simply possessing lighters at school?
    We see that there is a rule allowing staff members to possess lighters and matches on school grounds, as long as those items are secure. But it is never explicitly stated that there was a rule prohibiting children from possessing similar items on school grounds, securely or insecurely.
    Answer: this is inconclusive. It would have made sense for the child to be punished under such a rule, should it have existed, but he was punished under another rule.

    – Assuming lighters were officially classified as weapons, did the child know that lighters were classified as weapons, and so he should not have them at school?
    It is clear that the students’ parents did not know about any anti-lighter possession policy in place, or that a lighter was classified as a weapon (“‘Since when is a lighter a weapon?”). Moreover, it is clear that the administration feels there is no need to tell parents of any lighters-as-weapons policy: “The district superintendent said she had “no plans to notify parents about the policy, unless further incidents occur.””
    Answer: Inconclusive. The child may or may not have known about any such lighters-as-weapons policy, but it is clear that the parents did not know, and will not know. If the parents do not know, I don’t know why the students should know; but it’s hard to tell from the article.

    – What does the administration think the student did with the lighter?
    Brought “a weapon to the school,” where weapons were defined as something that “had the potential to cause harm.”
    Answer: Brought a weapon to school, without using it.

    – What did the administration punish the student for doing with the lighter?
    “citing a policy in the student discipline code of conduct that states, “Pupils shall not . . . set fire to or cause fire in any way on school premises.””
    “bringing “a weapon to the school.””
    Answer: Bringing a weapon to the school. Using it.

    Did the student bring a weapon to the school? Going by the school’s admittedly vague definition of “weapon,” yes.
    Did the student use the weapon? No.
    What was the student punished for? Bringing a weapon to the school and using it.

    Draw your own conclusions. I for one think we ought to ban pencils, since both the superintendent and the chief of police have already stated that anything that could cause harm could be used as a weapon, and the police chief specifically cited pencils as a risk possibility.

    I am sure that would make that kid pretty happy.

  110. Just got a chance to read thru ALL the comments. One thing that was left out of the conversation – did anyone check to see if the lighter even worked? If I saw a disposable lighter laying on the sidewalk, I would assume that someone had tried to get one last lit cigarette out of a 79-cent Bic, and, realizing it wasn’t going to happen, littered with the dead lighter in disgust.

  111. The problem isn’t so much that he was punished for bringing a lighter to school (IF there really is a school rule against mere possession of a lighter, then he should be mildly punished for violating that rule; schools may enact rules determining what children are and are not allowed to bring or wear to school). The problem is that he was punished for bringing a “weapon” to school. The zero tolerance approach to the mere possession of “weapons” is itself the problem, because ANYTHING can be used as a weapon. We simply should not have a zero tolerance approach to the possession of weapons in the first place. Instead, we should have a zero tolerance approach to assault, vandalism, and other crimes causing damage to person or property.
    But in our society, over the past generation, we have for some bizarre reason begun to assign a moral character not to human actions and intentions, but to inanimate objects. Having a weapon is bad, because weapons themselves are bad. But weapons aren’t inherently “bad.” People can do bad things with them, or good things with them, or nothing with them. But weapons are just inanimate objects. They do not have a moral quality. We need to stop treating them as if they did, and stop treating people as if they were immoral simply for having them or having a normal boyhood interest in them.

  112. […] “It depends on your whole interpretation of what a weapon is,” said the superintendent of the Jamesburg, New Jersey district. “It’s not a weapon as a knife is a weapon. But a weapon is anything that has the potential to cause harm.” Better watch out for kids who bring knuckles and fists to school, especially if they try to smuggle them in in the form of innocent-looking hands. [Free-Range Kids] […]

  113. The whole “Zero Tolerance” Bull is just that. It equates to zero brains amonf the administration. How can we teach children to respect authority, when that authority is so patently undeserving of the slightest respect. This is why I teach my grandkids that the schools and teachers are the enemy, and should be treated like an adversary who wants to harm yoy.

    Back in the 60s, another kid and I had a knife fight in Geometry class. I stabbed him. In the hand with a pencil. (Waving to Cindy Karnitz. ) We got yelled at and told to sit down. Today, there would be SWAT cops rappelling in through the windows.

    The whole anti-weapon mania, perpetrated by the government wasters who call themselves educators, does more harm than good, but it keeps Union Thugs safe in their leech-jobs.

  114. So, the potential to cause harm is what makes something a weapon? They’d better make sure the kids keep their mouths shut at all times, then. Words can do as much damage in their own way as a “real” weapon…you just can’t see the wounds.

  115. When I was in school I did have a couple of detentions (which were shameful enough), but I would have been devastated if I had been suspended. A suspension is a big deal, or at least it was in our school (and my social circle) in the 90s, the kid equivalent of a night in jail.

    Students are in school to learn; suspension disrupts their education, and so is best given to students who are themselves disrupting the education of others.

  116. […] Read it. A Jersey boy, 11,  found a lighter on his way to school. Brought it in, another kid noticed it, by 8:40 a.m. he was suspended for the day. Why? Because the lighter, “has the potential to compromise student safety in this building,” according to the superintendent quoted in this APP.com story. “It’s our responsibility to keep kids safe. I feel very secure about our decision. We have zero tolerance for this type of thing.” […]

  117. haha..what can he possibly do with a lighter? burn someone’s ass off?

  118. My cousin was expelled for the same thing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: