Another Stupid Application of Zero Tolerance

Fulton Co., GA school officials can now be added to the list of school officials who have their head up their ass when it comes to zero tolerance.

Fourteen year old Rachel Boim is a young writer. This Roswell High School freshman has filled up notebook after notebook with stories she has written and sketches that she has drawn. These notebooks are her private journals, not school assignments.

One of the notebooks was confiscated by a teacher when she was caught passing it to a fellow student. One story in this notebook is about a student who falls asleep in class, dreams about shooting a teacher, is shot by a school resource officer and then wakes up from the dream when the bell rings and walks to her next class. This is clearly a creative writing excercise but it now has Rachel expelled from school for a year.

“Anytime the safety and security of our students and staff are put into question, we investigate the situation and, if warranted, take serious action,” Hale said. “After reviewing the evidence, the hearing officer felt expulsion was an appropriate disciplinary response.”

The evidence was dozens of notebooks filled with various stories, testimony from Rachel’s parents, Georgia’s poet laureate and an editor of Five Points, a literary magazine published by Georgia State University, all stating that this was just a story. I guess creative writing is frowned upon in Fulton County.

I’ve got a son in Gwinnett County schools and I just had a conference with his teachers. His language arts teacher was impressing upon me the importance of him doing well on a state mandated writing tests later this year. He’s a grade behind Rachel so I guess I can assume that after passing this test Fulton County doesn’t care anymore about the student learning to be a good writer. Fulton County should be holding Rachel’s writing habit up as a model for the other students to emulate, not punishing her for one story making them feel uncomfortable.

Update: Unrelated to this incident the Superintendent of Fulton County Schools resigned last night for personal reasons. He had only held this position for four months. To tie this in the interim superintedent has temporarily suspended the punishment until it can be looked into more thoroughly. I suspect that more reasonable minds will prevail.

Since I’m updating this story let me make sure my position is clear on this. I do believe that Ms Boim’s story should have set off some alarm bells. I do believe that Ms Boim’s parents should have been alerted about the story she wrote and a meeting should have been held to discuss what the story may have meant. I have no problem with her being suspended for a few days while all this was being sorted out. I don’t even think that the privacy issue of a teacher reading a personal journal is much of a concern here because the journal was being passed in class to another classmate and at that point it’s no different than a note being passed in class.

Where I have a problem with this is that common sense was not used in considering whether or not this story actually posed a threat. If no real threat is present and no one is harmed there is no reason for this stiff of punishment. It is the lack of common sense being used here that is what has my dander up.