Lansingburgh Central School District decision perfect argument against zero tolerance policies

Right wing blogs and Fox News have seized upon the story of Matthew Whalen, a 17-year-old Eagle Scout and honors student from Troy, NY who has accidentally become the poster boy for the idiocy of “zero tolerance” policies in schools and workplaces.

If you’re unfamiliar with a zero tolerance rule (they were just gaining steam when I got out of school, myself) it’s a kind of policy designed to stamp out a particular type of thing, but it really only succeeds in creating situations like these. Young Matthew is a boy scouty, military type, and his chief of police grandfather gave him a survival kit to keep in his car. Containing items like a MRE and a tiny keychain knife, the kit is ostensibly there to be used in case of a remote crash. Like a good Eagle Scout, Matthew kept the kit in his car, locked away, and didn’t waltz around the hallways of his school brandishing it in a black trenchcoat.

No matter. Thanks to zero tolerance policies, this kid- who has never been in trouble and serves in the National Guard– now may see his chances of attending West Point (where he’s wanted to go since first grade) jeopardized. Way to encourage obedience, schools! In an extra measure of douchebaggery, the school tried to get police involved but there are no laws against always being prepared. The smiling man in the picture above, Lansingburgh Central School District Superintendent George J. Goodwin, reviewed Whalen’s original five day suspension, handed down by an assistant principal. Instead of letting the suspension stand as is or quashing it, Goodwin tacked on an additional fifteen days after reviewing a record of a hearing to decide Whalen’s fate.

Now, instead of attending a whole month of his senior year and preparing for college, Whalen gets just 90 minutes of instruction daily by a tutor. True to the policy of zero thought put into decisions, Goodwin commented with a statement seemingly plucked straight from a corporate speak generator:

“The district also has an established policy of zero tolerance with respect to the possession of weapons of any kind on school property or in school buildings,” said Goodwin. “We believe this policy allows us to fulfill our duty of maintaining the safety of our district’s educational environment for our students, faculty, and community members.”