Outrage of the Nanosecond: Stop That Egg!

Hi Readers — Just because it’s an outrage kind of day, here’s another: A woman was detained at the Canadian border because she was bringing in a Kinder Surprise Egg. You know — the chocolate candy with a prize inside. The problem? That prize presents a choking hazard!

The BIGGER problem? A law equating candy with crystal meth! Of COURSE there is a prize inside. That is why people BUY them.  The adults know it’s there. The KIDS know it’s there. That is why the word “KINDER” as in “KINDERGARTEN” is featured rather prominently in the candy’s name. What next? A ban on Cracker Jacks? After all, kids COULD think the prize was a piece of popcorn!

Anyway, I automatically knew I’d love this story because it uses the word “kerfuffle” in the first graph. So here it is! Have a kerfuffle-free day! L.

The Most Insane Zero Tolerance Story Yet

Hi Readers — Here you go. This is from a 25-year-old webmaster who lived n New Hope, PA., when he was 17 and this happened. He later moved to Canada, in part as a result of what this incident revealed to him about America:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I actually ran up against zero tolerance when I was in high school. I had carried a pocket knife with me my entire life (nothing scary, just a Swiss Army knife that was great for art projects or cutting cheese to put in my sandwich at lunch, but not much use if I ever wanted to hurt someone). Where I grew up, in Switzerland, we had “nature days” where everyone was instructed to bring a notebook, a pen, and a pocket knife so that they could take plant samples back to class for further study.

Then I moved to the U.S. Once again, I came from a culture where you were made fun of if you forgot your pocket knife on a school trip. Then I entered a post-Columbine/Zero Tolerance hell. I hadn’t used or even removed my knife from my bag while in school, but I did use it to cut a twig on my way home from school one day, and was apparently seen by one of my classmates. The next day, I was called into the principal’s office where my mother and a police officer waited. The police officer padded me down and searched my bag, obviously finding my knife (which was confiscated). He then escorted me and my mother off school grounds and I was told not to come back until the school called.

We waited in limbo for two weeks until we finally received word that I would have a hearing. I did. There were police officers present, as well as the principal and several members of the school board. It was decided that I should not be allowed back onto public school grounds for a full calendar year, but that I would be sent to a special private school for kids with behavioral problems. As for any legal consequences, the school decided not to press charges, but I would have an appointment with a probation officer who would decide what would be on my record and what my punishment would be.

When I went to the probation officer, he took one look at me and said, “You don’t belong here.” (I later found out why when I met some of the other people he saw on a regular basis!) He said that he had reviewed my case and that the school/police’s reaction was not appropriate, however a report had been made and he couldn’t reverse it. He gave me the lightest punishment he could – the incident would be wiped from my permanent record on my 18th birthday, I had to do a certain number of hours of community service, and I had to meet with a social worker once a week. I also had to notify his office ahead of time if I were leaving the state.

I volunteered regularly anyway, so the community service was no problem. My social worker said I was her “night off” and we just went to the movies once a week on the state dime. The private school I ended up going to was, apart from a couple rough characters, a really cool environment and, as the “trustworthy” student, I got a lot of privileges and responsibilities, including the opportunity of teaching an art class to three autistic 12-year-olds and acting as a teacher’s assistant in other classes.

All along the way, I was told again and again that the school and police’s reaction was completely un-called for. I had made no threats to anyone with my “weapon,” I had not even taken it out on school grounds, and there was a cultural barrier that should have been considered. I had a legitimate reason to carry a pocket knife (which I never got back, by the way). It was just post-Columbine hysteria run amok.

But the truly hurtful part of the whole story is that, about a month before all this started, a boy in my grade got a poor mark on a test and grabbed the first person he saw as he came out of the class (a 15-year-old about half his size) and threw him against a locker. The kid ended up with a broken arm and a lot of bruises. The culprit got a 2-day suspension. So it’s not even that Zero Tolerance is an awful thing that prevents people from using their heads, it also looks only to certain cues and completely ignores kids with real problems who pose a very real physical threat to others around them. No one ever sent this kid to a social worker or a therapist. It was just shrugged off as a “kids will be kids” matter that deserved no more than a slap on the wrist.

The fact that so many of the people who were trying to help me would say, “I would love to make this all go away, but my hands are tied” really scares me. Once you’re caught, there is no possibility of someone saying, “Wait a second, these laws don’t really apply in this case.” All you can do is try to find some wiggle room from within the system.

I think that’s the truest sign of a broken system. — G., in Canada

The Underwear Police

Hi Readers: This one is so weird, such a PRIME example of bureaucracy gone wild, I don’t have much to say except [sound of eyes crossing, drool dripping from slackened jaw].

Apparently, Canadian Sears stores have just recalled a line of girls’ boxer shorts sold for past four years without any adverse incident. So why recall them now?

Somehow, they have been reclassified as “sleepwear,” and sleepwear must hold to a higher non-flammability standard than undies. So now they are not fire retardant enough.

I’ll tell you what IS retardant enough…  L.

Oh Great – Now They’re INVESTIGATING The Day Care Center

Dear Readers: The blog post below this one says it all –I thought: Our modern era considers it a news story when a child accidentally gets left behind on a small excursion for a small amount of time. Why? Because the underlying idea is, “What if  something BAD happened? Then it really WOULD be a story.” So the fact that this scenario even set the stage for a “What if?” story made it newsy enough. And that was that. For a day.

But now the story continues. Of course, any time there is any breach of protocol concerning children — even a single dumb, inconsequential mistake — the authorities are called in. This is because we assume childrearing is something that CAN and MUST be done perfectly or children will not survive. This kind of frenzy drives parents, teachers and caregivers crazy. It assumes zero resilience on the part of kids and insists we demand zero human fallibility on the part of all adults. Which, for the record, is impossible.

To err is human, and yet the human race survives. Why? Because we are built to be pretty sturdy — even kids. This is something our hypervigilant, hyperventilating society routinely overlooks.

Just like you can overlook a 2 year old at a park. — Lenore

Why Is This National News?

Hi Readers: It’s not like I advocate, “Take our 2-year-olds to the park and leave them there.” But why is this story national news? A day care center took its kids to a park that is a 10 minute walk away. On the way back the workers realized they’d left a 2-year-old behind. They went and got him.  Meantime, neighbors heard the boy crying and came and took care of him, which is exactly what you’d hope would happen — and a lot more normal than neighbors coming and killing him for the heck of it.

So why is this non-event news? It’s not presented as a happy story, or even a, “Stuff happens,” story. It’s presented as an, “Oh my God!” story. In other words: It is only newsworthy if we imagine that in just a few minutes, “anything” could have happened to the kid, instead of what DID happen: A dumb but non-fatal mistake was quickly rectified, and community was kind to a kid.

Not to flog a dead horse, but it also plays into the idea that any mistake of any kind when it comes to caring for kids is absolutely unheard of, and that we must expect utter PERFECTION on the part of anyone looking after children, be it day care workers, teachers or parents. One slip and we are shocked.

Yes, it IS pretty shocking to forget a kid at the park. But can we please get back to not obsessing about every little adverse thing that ever happens in the course of childrearing? It’s driving us nuts. — Lenore

WTP? Police Stop Kids from Playing Street Hockey

Hi Readers — Get this: It was in Canada! The Royal Canadian Mounted Police received a couple of calls from someone angry that the boys were playing on the street, and came over to break it up. And I always thought kids up there were REQUIRED to play street hockey! Well times they are a-changing.

It’s also ironic that when you click to read the story, you will find it running under a banner ad for an “Obesity Panacea.” Hey, I’ve got one! How about….street hockey? — Lenore

These Kids Have Balls!

Or at least they want them: Two Ottawa fifth graders have started a petition to be allowed to PLAY WITH BALLS ON THE PLAYGROUND.

The principal banned balls during the winter, because, she told the CBC , “They’ve  got snow stuck to them, they’re frozen, often there’s pebbles on them and they’re flying through the air.”

Balls flying through the air? My, my. Maybe the principal likes balls, but only when they’re sitting quietly in the corner, or rolling to the library to bounce ever so gently near the books.

The kids, meanwhile, have collected more than 250 signatures begging for the ball ban to be bonked on the head. Why? As one of the kids put it, “It’s really fun with the balls.”

Now who said kids were supposed to have fun in the winter? Tsk, tsk. Next thing you know, they’ll want to play outside after school instead of running home to turn on the TV. — Lenore

SUVs Go Home! School Allows Only Bikers and Walkers

Hey Readers: Here’s a nice story from our friends up north! No — not another igloo. A Canadian school that really wants kids to get there on their own. Listen to this:

… P.L. Robertson elementary in Milton, which opened this week, has been designated a “walking-only school,” where students will be strongly encouraged to use their feet – or bikes or any other active way – to get there.

It is part of a broader initiative at the Halton District School Board to stop traffic jams around schools and get students moving.

Gridlock in the parking lot and surrounding streets is an all-too common problem for schools in the Greater Toronto Area, thanks to parents who insist on driving their children, even if they don’t live all that far away.

At other schools, Joyce Jermyn has watched parents who live close by drive their kids, cramming their cars in between buses, then idling as the youngsters make their way inside, even though staff is out there helping kids get to class.

“For me, exercise has always been a part of who I am and what I do,” says Jermyn, vice-principal at P.L. Robertson. “There are too many kids who don’t want to go outside because they never play outside.”

Let’s hope other schools follow in these footsteps. Literally. — Lenore

God, No! Help! Get That Thing Away From Us, You Darn Canadians!

Hey up there! What are you trying to do to us Americans? Spread mayhem and terror with Kinder Surprise candy? Sure looks that way to us. For years you’ve been blithely manufacturing chocolate eggs filled with toys as if you’ve never even HEARD the word, “Litigation.”

Fortunately, according to this news report, this year United States border patrols are keeping a keen eye out for handheld nuclear devices…oh wait. No. For Kinder Surprise Eggs, which underground cells of aunts, uncles and family friends seem determined to smuggle into our country.

Not so fast, Canada! Do we send our toxic pop culture into YOUR country? Don’t answer that. Just tell us: Why are you doing this to US?

Remember, we’re onto you. If so much as one Kinder Surprise Egg shows up under some kid’s tree, the chocolate is on your hands. — Lenore

A Couple in their 70s Wave at A Kid…And In Swoop the Cops

Hi Readers — Acting like decent, warm-hearted human beings again? Please. Won’t you ever learn? Take a lesson from this story:

A Canadian couple in their 70s were out running errands. Saw a boy on his bike. Waved.

Later, they parked the car to run those errands. Cops arrived — a slew of  them — and hauled them in for questioning.  The charge? Attempted abduction.

Husband and wife were separated, questioned, the husband was searched.  In the end,  “We were satisfied no abduction took place,” said the police.

I think that depends if you mean abduction of a child or abduction of two law-abiding senior citizens crazy enough to wave at a kid. — Lenore