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    Zero-tolerance includes toy Army figures

    Date: 06.29.10 | by Judge Tom.

    The second grade class at Tiogue School in Rhode Island was going to meet with their pen pals from another school.  Their teacher told the kids to create a hat to wear for the occasion.

    Eight-year-old David Morales decorated a camouflage hat with an American flag and small plastic Army figures.  He wanted to honor members of the military.  In June, 2010, he was told he couldn’t wear the hat because the plastic soldiers were carrying weapons.  The miniature guns violated the school’s zero-tolerance weapons policy.  David was told to replace them with ones that didn’t carry any weapons.  He only had one figure without a gun, so instead he wore a plain baseball cap.

    David and his banned hat

    Once word got out about this incident, David became a household name in his town.  An official with the Rhode Island National Guard honored David with a medal for his patriotic efforts and gave him a certificate declaring him an honorary brigadier general.

    Due to the prevalence of drugs, alcohol and weapons in the public school system, strict policies were passed many years ago.  They have resulted in a decrease in the number of incidents on campus.  Do you think what David did is an example of a zero-tolerance policy taken too far?  Do you think plastic figures was the intent of zero-tolerance policies when first instituted at public schools?  Could the school have handled this case differently without rendering the policy ineffective?  How?

    Later:  The school superintendent said he would work on changing the rule because the no-weapons policy shouldn’t limit student expression.

    In November, 2009, 7-year-old Samuel Burgos learned about zero-tolerance at his school in Florida. He forgot to remove a plastic toy gun from his backpack. While rummaging through the pack for a pencil, a classmate saw the gun and reported it. The gun discharges small plastic beads at a low velocity. Nevertheless, Samuel was expelled for one year.  In late October, 2010, he was allowed to return to school.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    1 Comment subscribe to these comments.

    • C A Thibeault
      Tue, 29 Jun 2010 at 03:25

      I believe schools need to revsist policy and understand that in our world it isn’t just bacl and white but shades of grey also. Every scenerio should be considered on a case-by-case basic, as our criminal justice system is.

      It also “taboos” our military and puts political agendas in our childs head, whether with or without the childs parents permission. Schools are to educate, not politicize.
      Thanks C.A. for your comments.