Friday, February 05, 2010

Common Sense Is An Endangered Species

The NYC Department of Education has apparently put common sense on the endangered species list. Bureaucrats, teachers, and principals have put together quite a list this week of evidence that common sense is in exceedingly short supply.

Let's start at the top.

A Staten Island student was nearly suspended from school by his principal after the student was found to have a toy gun on school property. This wasn't just any toy gun, but a Lego toy gun that measured less than 2 inches long and couldn't be mistaken for anything but a toy.
Patrick Timoney, a fourth-grader at PS 52, South Beach, was nearly suspended after playing with LEGOs during his lunch period because one of the action figures was carrying at toy machine gun.

He and his friends had planned a playdate with their respective toys, and were sitting around the cafeteria table when the principal walked in and saw the action figure carrying the fake gun.

While the action figure was a standard LEGO policeman figure, the brand of the gun could not be determined.

"She took him into her office in the middle of the lunch period and he was crying," said the boy's mother, Laura Timoney. "He was afraid."

The principal called Ms. Timoney and said she considered the toy suspension-worthy, and that she was going to double-check with a security administrator from the city Department of Education.

According to Ms. Timoney, the administrator said the toy should be confiscated and returned to the parents at the end of the day, and that no other action was necessary.

"It's crazy," Ms. Timoney said. "He's missing class time, all for silly toys. The boys are just trying to relax. If there's a real threat, why not call the Police Department?"

She pointed out that another child had an action figure that was holding an ax, but that only Patrick was reprimanded.

"When are we going to take responsibility for common sense and logic?" Ms. Timoney said.

The DOE's discipline code says that all imitation weapons are prohibited, but, before considering suspension, it is up to a principal to decide whether a fake gun looks realistic, by evaluating the color, size, shape, appearance and weight.
Who in their right mind is going to confuse a Lego gun toy with anything approaching what might be a real gun? Simply telling the student that they shouldn't bring it to school again should have been more than sufficient - that school policy has a zero-tolerance policy on all imitation weapons (which should have gotten the other students a similar reprimand).

Then, there's the student who was arrested and handcuffed for doodling on her desk
Alexa Gonzalez was scribbling a few words on her desk Monday while waiting for her Spanish teacher to pass out homework at Junior High School 190 in Forest Hills, she said.

"I love my friends Abby and Faith," the girl wrote, adding the phrases "Lex was here. 2/1/10" and a smiley face.

But instead of simply cleaning off the doodles after class, Alexa landed in some adult-sized trouble for using her lime-green magic marker.

She was led out of school in cuffs and walked to the precinct across the street, where she was detained for several hours, she and her mother said.
Instead of teaching the student to not do so or to provide suitable punishment, Gonzales was led out in handcuffs. She was hardly the first to be trotted out in handcuffs for minor infractions, but that doesn't make any of these cases any less egregious. The appropriate punishment would be to make the students go around with cleaning supplies and clean the desks of any such scribbles, not a ride to the police station in cuffs.

At the other end of the spectrum, you've got the staff of James Madison HS in Brooklyn that can't keep their hands off each other, or students, all while Administrators can't quite rid the school system of bad apples and instead keeps them on the payroll in the rubber rooms.

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