What brought this on? The case of little Hunter Spanjer, who is deaf. He signs with a standard signing language, in which his name (Hunter) is formed with the index and middle fingers crossed.
Of course, use of that symbol is unacceptable in his Grand Island school, because it looks a bit like the "typical" gun symbol, and under the schools zero tolerance policy, all such symbols are forbidden.
So his parents have been instructed to change his name.
Because we must protect the little kiddies.
Except, of course, that this is not what zero tolerance is about. A couple of stories: One from right here in Orlando, one in Missippi.
The story in Orlando revolves around an incident that happened a few years ago: A fire warden "jumped the track" and had the unmitigated gall to inspect some of the Orange county schools for violations of the fire code. He found some, too, and cited the schools, ordering them to cease using the affected properties until the discovered problems were fixed.
Aside from the fact that the warden was informed bluntly that "city" fire departments were not authorized to inspect "state" schools, what happened? Nothing. You see, it's just fine if your kiddies burn up in a school fire, because [sad head shake] we just don't have the money to fix those problems right now.
Then there's Doe vs. Covington II (here and here), in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit held that, " a school owes no duty to protect the lives and well-being of small children in its care."
Well, that was probably something about a lot of money, too, wasn't it? Well, no. It was about a child that was picked up from school by a child molester, 6 times (!); because the school authorities couldn't be bothered to check the list of people who were authorized to pick the girl up!
See, you have to understand who has the authority here, and who has the duty:
- You have a duty to protect your child; if you fail in that duty, you will be charged with child neglect. As a nice examples, we have:
- An event right here in good old Orlando again, where the school wouldn't let parents take their kids home because of thunderstorms in the area. When some of the parents pressed (one reported) they were threatened with a charge of child endangerment if they took their kids against school policy.
- A student needed to use an inhaler on a regular basis, but his parents had not signed "required paperwork". So the school wouldn't let the kid use the inhaler. The parents found the kid "collapsed", the nurse watching as he struggled to breathe in the throws of a full-fledged asthma attack. The school had not called 911; I guess it's an open question if they would actually have done that before the kid died.
- Your kid has a duty to do nothing to indicate he might attack another kid with a gun or a knife. For this, we've all heard the examples of kids kicked out for drawing pictures of guns or making hand symbols of guns or writing about guns.
- On the other hand, the school has the authority to let your kid burn up in a fire (as I discussed above), but no duty to protect them from that if it costs money.
- The school has the authority to line up other kids and allow them to bully your kid.
- The school has the authority to kick your kid out for drawing an artistic picture that contains a gun. (Too bad, if your kid likes cowboys.)
- The school has authority to withhold a life-saving medicine and to refuse to send them to a hospital.
- The school has the authority to ignore policy and turn your kid over to a child molester, if they choose. They have the authority to cite policy to not turn them over to you if it's raining a bit hard.
State: Authority. You and your kid: Duty.
I think that needs changed. I think we need some zero tolerance for the state, especially for the schools that teach our children. I think that any school employee or board member that tolerates an unsafe condition, or exposes a child to risk of life or limb, should be expelled (terminated) from the school summarily.
Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. How about it?