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Education Reporter

More Zero-Tolerance Follies
Four New Jersey five-year-olds play the ancient game of "cops and robbers." A 12-year-old Michigan student voices support for the Second Amendment. Eight 7th and 8th graders in Virginia are caught sniffing Kool-Aid. All are among the many students who are incurring the wrath of America's "zero tolerance" police.

The Sayreville, New Jersey kindergarteners received a three-day suspension from their elementary school for positioning their hands like guns and threatening to shoot each other. School officials claimed other children felt "threatened" by the quartet's behavior. "I understand there is fear and paranoia going on, but there has to be some rationale to it [school policy]," commented the father of one of the boys. Though the school district plans to review the policy, Assistant School Superintended Dennis Fyffe told the Washington Times (April 10-16, 2000) that the boys' behavior "was enough to warrant the punishment."

The Michigan 12-year-old ran afoul of zero tolerance during a discussion about school violence in his social studies class when he commented that he would feel safer if "some of the adults at the school were trained and allowed to carry firearms." School officials "flagged" him as a potential violence risk and contacted his parents about setting up a meeting with the "Hazard and Risk Assessment Team." They were told that their son should be placed in the "Mentor" program, where his "thought processes" could be monitored by a "watchful adult." By doing this, the school said, they could avoid involving social services.

The Holland 6th grader had also refused to sign a "Red Letter" written by the principal in January as a part of Martin Luther King Day. According to WorldNetDaily (3-30-00), the letter asked students "to take an oath to turn in their friends for suspicious activity, to vow to never defend themselves if attacked, and to never use a gun or other weapons." Convinced that their straight-A son has been singled out for his views, the parents have spoken to an attorney. The Rutherford Institute has also reportedly expressed interest.

The 7th and 8th graders in the Kool-Aid caper were suspended for one week for using the soft drink mix "in a way that imitated the use of illegal drugs." Their punishment could have been a one-year suspension for "using a look-alike drug."

An April 12 press release from the national office of the Libertarian Party observed: "When school officials think that cracking down on powdered drink mix abuse is more important than educating students, then there is zero hope for the public education system." Although the release noted that Libertarians don't object to zero-tolerance policies on principle, it added that, "Any government school bureaucrat who thinks the brightly colored, sugary powdered drink mix is a 'look-alike drug' - or even 'contraband' - must have, well, gone to a government school."

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