Saturday, February 27, 2010

Arrested for doodling

The story sounds unbelievable, but it is a true tale of zero tolerance gone awry. Credit to one of Durham sharp outgoing females for sending this story the Clarion Content's way. Here goes. 12-year-old Alexa Gonzalez was arrested for doodling on her school desk. No curse words. No hate. She wrote, "I love my friends Abby and Faith. Lex was here 2/1/10 :)" with a green marker.

Surely vandalism. Surely the kind of thing that a kid she should get in trouble for and learn is wrong. Meritorious of a trip to the principal office and some detention, maybe even a suspension for a repeat offender, but that is not what happened in Forest Hills, New York.

There the obviously deranged principal called the cops on a kid who had never been in trouble with the school system. He had her hands cuffed behind her back, and tears gushed as she was escorted from school by the police in front of teachers and her classmates. Off the record several teachers from the school told news outlets, "it was a mistake."

Unfortunately, according to the CNN story it is a mistake that is becoming all too common. Zero tolerance policies across the country have school administrators calling in the cops at the drop of a hat. CNN reports that in 1998, New York City placed school security officers under jurisdiction of the New York City Police Department creating the the NY Police Department's School Safety Division. Today, that department has more employees than New York City schools have guidance counselors. Ridiculous.

And this wrong headed approach has consequences. Students shunted into the criminal justice system early are far more likely to remain there. Expulsion leads to life long consequences that all of society pays the price for. The cops are not the answer to discipline problems in America's schools. Parents and communities need to take responsibility and intervene long before it is necessary to involve the cops and the courts.

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