Zero tolerance

Graham’s school has a Zero Tolerance policy for fighting, which will go a long way in explaining his suspension. His referral (at left) describes the incident as:

Student on top of Graham. Witnessed Graham slug student in face.

Evidently, Graham and his friend Garett were playing a game that they had made up. Garett became frustrated with the game and tackled Graham somewhat playfully. Graham asked him to get off but he didn’t so Graham punched him somewhat gently. This is when the teacher pulled them apart and sent them to the principal’s office with a referral.

When Tina received the call from the principal Graham was sobbing uncontrollably. He was afraid of getting in further trouble and ashamed of what had happened. Because of the zero tolerance policy, the principal had no choice but to suspend Graham and Garett from school. She showed a little bit of mercy by suspending them only for the next morning.

The whole incident reminded me of something that happened to me when I was in fifth or sixth grade. My sometime best friend, Gretchen Eastman, had undergone a growth spurt that made her bigger than most of her peers. Kids are cruel and we were no exception as we continually taunted her by calling her “Grape Ape”. Eventually, she grew tired of the name-calling but I was slow to pick up on that fact. One day on the playground she simply decided that she had had enough. When I continued calling her “Grape Ape,” she reared back and decked me right in the face. I don’t recall if I fought back, but I do recall both of us being sent to the principal’s office for the “fight”.

I remember sobbing uncontrollably myself both at the prospect of having been sent to the principal’s office and by the fact that I had my clock cleaned by a girl. It’s hard to say which was more humiliating, but I can tell you that my visits to the principal’s office were rare by that time. I remember that my hands and arms felt very wet from all the tears. I’m not sure what the end result of the fight was, but I’m quite sure that I was not suspended. Our principal (and neighbor), Mr. Harnack, had mercy on us and probably felt that I had undergone punishment enough.

This incident with Graham, much like many other things that happen in my boys’ lives, makes me long for the simplicity of 1970s small-town Iowa.

One Reply to “Zero tolerance”

  1. I’m so glad that I’m done dealing with the “no tolerance” policies in schools these days. I’m surprised they actually softened the suspension — I don’t think that would have happened here (and, this is a small town). I know they never did where my kids were concerned.

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