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Let’s have zero tolerance for public schools

Today brought news a Tea Party group would picket a school that banned American flag tee-shirts on Cinco de Mayo for fear of offending certain sensibilities.

Good for the Tea Partiers, I say. If there’s one thing worth pitching over the side of the boat in modern America, it’s the absurd control freakery of our nation’s public schools.

In the last few years, schools have suspended or expelled kids for wearing Old Glory; shedding a few tears; using red hair dye; having a possibly gun-shaped Pop Tart; threatening with bubbles; brandishing fingers or pencils in vaguely gun-like ways; and, my personal favorite, seizing a blade from a girl who was cutting herself and throwing it in the trash — that’s right, the school punished the girl who stopped the cutter from injuring herself.

When these stories are reported, people are duly outraged. But schools prove time and again that they do not care what we think. They defend the original appalling actions. Administrators and school boards agree to rethink expulsions, reduce suspensions or expunge records only under the serious threat of costly litigation. Absent that, they tell us commoners to go pound sand.

Administrators at one Michigan school “impounded a boy’s batch of 30 homemade cupcakes because they were adorned with green plastic figurines representing World War II soldiers,” reported the Daily Caller, as being “insensitive” after Sandy Hook. The boy’s father was “disgusted” the school would lump America’s veterans in with school shooters. The principal haughtily replied, “Living in a democratic society entails respect for opposing opinions.”

Such incidents have stirred legislatures. Florida is batting around the so-called “Pop Tart bill” that would make clear zero tolerance policies only apply to actual weapons. That’s all to the good but it’s not enough. Most zero tolerance laws were never broad enough to accommodate bubbles and Pop Tarts. It was teachers and administrators who did that.

So it’s not enough to nip back at this overreach legislatively. Those who demonstrate such awful judgment should lose their jobs, in very public fashion. Given current union rules, that would be difficult, so I have an idea for some enterprising state legislators to pick up and run with. It probably wouldn’t pass, but it is guaranteed to make the news and just might put the fear of democracy in enough people to make a difference.

Here it is: The next time a school suspends a kid for having an American flag tee-shirt, or chewing a Pop Tart into a gun shape or throwing an imaginary grenade at imaginary soldiers on the playground — and yes, all of these things actually happened –, take a zero tolerance approach to the offending school instead.

Introduce a bill to your state house or senate proposing that said school shall be closed forevermore, that all of the students at that school shall be sent elsewhere, that all the administrators shall be fired, that the teachers shall be assigned around the district as space allows.

Further, to really drive the point home, include a provision in the bill saying that the school shall be torn down and the ground beneath it shall be salted. When a reporter brandishes a microphone skeptically, say, “Hell yes, I’m serious. And this thing is getting a vote.”

It would send an unmistakable message. Similar bills, proposed a few times by legislators of several states, could finally curb the current zero tolerance insanity of American public education.

Jeremy Lott About the author:
Jeremy Lott helped found and manage four publications for the Real Clear Politics family of websites. He is the author of three books and an e-book, as well as the recognized ghostwriter of former Maryland governor Marvin Mandel’s memoirs. Follow him on Twitter @jeremylottdiary
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