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has picked up on a Nashville story
about zero tolerance, publicizing the tale of 17-year-old Taylor Cummings, an MLK Magnet School student and athlete who's been kicked out of school -- with a semester left to graduate -- all for writing an "angry message" on his Facebook page:
Taylor Cummings, 17, a senior at Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School, had been butting heads with his coaches. He logged onto Facebook at home on Jan. 3 and wrote, among other things, "I'ma kill em all."
He was suspended the next day and expelled Jan. 14, Cummings and his family say. School officials decline to discuss the case but say they have suspended and expelled students in the past for infractions that involved social networks, text messaging, email and other technologies.
There's a long and storied debate about zero tolerance (or "zero intelligence") policies and whether they work, and most folks agree that kids who bring guns to school with a list of who they're going to off need the kind of attention public school systems aren't equipped to give them. What's at issue now is the facility of modern technology -- Facebook, texting, emailing -- to give disgruntled, frustrated or disconnected students a public forum to express their grievances. Heck, in my day, you could routinely make lists of everyone you hated, or anonymously spray-paint that a certain French teacher sux dix -- now the virtual world forces a certain kind of ownership of such a witty observation. (Note to kids: Use message boards. Stay anonymous!)
Still, supporters of ZT policies say they create the appropriate fear-based environment to scare bad kids out of bringing real threats to the school environment. Critics say innocent kids' academic lives are ruined at a time when their judgment is most formative and tenuous, and that the kids most often targeted in these cases are -- shocker -- minorities.
Taylor Cummings is black, and he apparently has "no history of school violence or suspensions," but that didn't stop a board from upholding the ruling to expel him. Where were the teachers who could speak on his behalf, the parents of fellow athletes, the very coaches he trained under, to rally to his defense? Cummings apologized for the remark and explained it wasn't literal. A college-bound student who plans to go to law school, Cummings told the newspaper: "I have a lot of regrets about the situation, especially the outcome," he says, "but I am not willing to let it define me or what I can accomplish." Sounds like a real bad seed.
In a potentially positive twist, Metro schools recently decided
that principals could review cases to be considered under zero tolerance policy rather than have them automatically go to a disciplinary board. One step forward?