High chool student suspended for accidentally bringing beer in lunch

Here is another recent news story that leaves me wondering.  Zero tolerance policies that are completely strictly enforced always seem to end up in the news.  One of the things that parents and teachers tell kids frequently is “life’s not fair”.   Most children when asked feel that fair means treating every kid the same but that’s not fair.  You have to look beyond, you have to look at more than just the behavior before assigning consequences.

I know that I worked with an assistant principal that did just that.  When two students were in a fight they didn’t necessarily receive the same consequence.  The person that started the fight be it physically or verbally often had a harsher punishment.  He made an effort to make the punishment fit the “crime”.  I really respected this.

My first year teaching I had a student with a sore leg, he had hurt it the previous weekend he told us all about it at the beginning of class.  Towards the end of class as students were packing up to leave another student came up behind him and kicked him in the sore leg.  His response was to curse “Sh*t!” came out of his mouth and my heart sunk, I knew I had to write him up because that language is not allowed and other students had heard him.  I also wrote up the student that kicked him.  I hand delivered the office referrals to the assistant principal and explained to her what had happened trying to emphasize that while the language was inappropriate it was at least in my point of view understandable that it slipped out considering the situation.

Another time I had a female student in class call me a witch except with a B, you know.  No sooner had the word left her mouth than her hands flew up over it and her eyes got huge.  She then immediately apologized.  Again I had to write her up but when I turned in the referral I spoke the principal and shared her reaction and that she had already apologized profusely.

I looked on the school website to find the student handbook to find their policy on alcohol at school.  Under the heading Mandatory Placement: Misconduct that Requires DAEP (Disciplinary Alternative Education Program) Placement is this bullet point

  • Sells, gives, or delivers to another person an alcoholic beverage; commits a serious act or offense while under the influence of alcohol; or possesses, uses, or is under the influence of alcohol, if the conduct is not punishable as a felony offense.

This is I’m sure the basis for the student’s 3 day suspension and 60 day placement at the alternative education center.  From what I can tell 60 days is the maximum the student could be given for this particular offense.  But why when the student realized the mistake and essentially turned himself in would you give the maximum rather than allow some leniency to recognize that he took responsibility for his actions.  What are we teaching the other kids in that school but to lie and keep things like this to themselves.  If their punishment will be the same whether they turn themselves in or get caught what’s the point in telling the truth, being forthcoming?  Not the message I want to send to my students I know.

What do you think?  Did the school do what it should or did they go too far?

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