Pubdate: Sun, 24 Sep 2000
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2000 The Dallas Morning News
Contact:  P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, Texas 75265
Fax: (972) 263-0456
Author: George Townsend


Re: "Student expelled over gun - Father forgot it was in borrowed truck," 
Sept. 15.

A Garland high school senior, in the upper quarter of his class, who had 
attended Garland schools since kindergarten and who had never posed any 
sort of disciplinary problem, borrows a truck to drive to school on Aug. 
28. A drug/gunpowder sniffing dog, presumably employed by the school 
district, indicates a problem with the truck. The student voluntarily 
allows the truck to be searched by school officials. A handgun is found in 
the truck. All concerned - the student, his family and all school officials 
- - appear to agree that the student had no knowledge of the gun's presence 
in the borrowed truck, and had no intent to violate any law or school 
district regulation.

Yet the Garland school district sees fit to impose its draconian "zero 
tolerance" punishment upon the hapless student. He is expelled for one 
year, forbidden to graduate with his class, or to attend any school event 
or activity.

The Garland school board president G. Randall Clark says, "It wasn't an 
easy decision for any of the trustees."

Baloney, Mr. Clark, baloney! It was the easiest and most spineless decision 
you and the board could possibly make. You can piously wash your hands of 
the injury you have done to an innocent person, and point to your "zero 
tolerance" policy as the defining structure. For you and the board to have 
said, "Hey, wait a minute, punishing an innocent kid for someone else's 
mistake doesn't make sense. Maybe our policy should be enlarged to 
incorporate intent and common sense" - that would have been a gutsy decision!

As it is, all you have demonstrated is the moral and intellectual 
bankruptcy of "zero tolerance." Any law or rule that mindlessly punishes 
innocent people along with the guilty is, in and of itself, a bad law, and 
does nothing but breed contempt for all law.

George Townsend
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