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Zero Tolerance

In the wake of Columbine, the term and practice “Zero Tolerance” was born. It was to describe and define how much schools would tolerate when it comes to violence, threats, and weapons on campus—even make-believe guns. It has a nice ring of stern finality—officialdom saying, “Our foot is down.” It also provides a measure of comfort to parents, with the knowledge that nothing, when it comes to weapons, will be allowed on campus—period.

Well, as with all things absolute, it can be unforgiving of the unintended. It can make victims of the innocent. Such appears to be the case with Josh Jewell. If the Ashley High School senior was telling the truth, and there is no reason to suspect he wasn’t, he had no idea there was a plastic pistol nestled among other toys on the back seat of his mother’s car, which he had borrowed to drive to school to take a test, despite being out sick. That he might have been expelled (though he wasn't), and denied the right to graduate with his class because of an inadvertent toy, and to follow the absolute zero tolerance rule despite the circumstances, is appalling.

He was suspended and sent to an alternative school for the semester. Even in a case of murder, the courts consider whether or not there was intent. Maybe the letter of the rule was adhered to, but justice was trampled. Josh Jewell should be given a reprieve. And “zero tolerance” should be tempered with judgment.

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