(Paul Jacob) – In recent years there’s been a spate of so-called “zero tolerance” policies — actually, zero common sense policies — in our schools, especially after Columbine and 9/11.
Last October in Delaware, six-year-old Zachary Christie faced 45 days of reform school for bringing a camping utensil to lunch. The gizmo combined a knife, fork and spoon. There was no evidence of evil intention. But the school thought their zero common sense policy against weapons had been violated. After a public outcry, the draconian punishment was dropped. The local school board modified some of its rules, though only for kindergartners and first-graders.
In Florida, lawmakers recently revised zero common sense policies statewide in hopes that only students who pose a genuine threat get expelled or arrested.
Hurray for any glimmer of a return to common sense. But why all these policies to begin with? Why instruct educators anywhere to respond maniacally to meaningless deviationism?
Maybe common sense and conscience are often the same thing.
Imagine if jay walking, littering and talking too loud in elevators were punished in comparably cruel and unusual fashion. Imagine judges and prosecutors always claiming they can’t distinguish between trivia and real crime — so better respond to both with equal force. Would we not accuse such meters-out of injustice of crimes of their own?
(Mr. Jacob is president of Citizens in Charge Foundation)