OUR VIEWS: Discipline’s not one size fits all

Jul 5, 2012


They were, after all, going to head out hunting after school.

It was also not uncommon to see children pointing toy guns at each other on the playground.

Now it means serious business if an antique gun from a recent Civil War re-enactment is found in a student’s car trunk or a gun look-alike in a kindergartner’s backpack.

We often hear news reports on unreasonable expulsions or suspensions for minor infractions. Oftentimes, the children in these cases had no intention of ever using a weapon on a fellow student or staff member. They’ve sometimes been straight-A students with no disciplinary record who simply forgot something had been stashed in their car, jacket or backpack.

Some schools with no-tolerance policies had little choice but to enact the harsh punishment their policies required. It was black and white.

But there are always shades of gray. Life is full of them.

The State Board of Education recently asked that school districts in Michigan consider those shades of gray and ease up on their zero-tolerance policies. It seems some local policies were entirely too strict and didn’t allow for other factors to be considered.

Such zero-tolerance policies likely make it easier on administrators, as there’s little to discuss or consider. But the policies leave much to be desired.

There is no one-size-fits-all policy. What’s good for inner-city schools in Detroit could very well be terrible for schools in the Tri-Cities area, and vice versa.

In this area, however, school administrators should be given the latitude to consider the child and the details of the situation at hand, and collaborate with highly trained school counselors and teachers to determine the best solution.

And parents need to be a part of the process. Parents are ultimately responsible for the actions of their children and should be active participants in the disciplinary process.

In the end, we all want the same thing — for our children to be safe at school, and for them to be treated fairly and with respect should disciplinary situations arise.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Kevin Collier and Liz Stuck. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.




We need to be careful who is doling out the discipline. Careful that their agenda is the betterment of the kids and not the latest education theory using our children as test subjects. We need our educators and administrators to be adults who serve as mentors of appropriate behavior and learning. If you kick a child out of school because he /she brought a plastic peanut butter spreader to school you missed the mark. Teachers are born not made, and many of the outrageously stupid things done by administrators is because that person was not doing the job his/her appropriate for their abilities namely burger flipper or insurance salesman school lunch lady. Schools are infected with agendas other than instructing our children.


OMG.....OUR VIEWS continues be be STUPID......PLEASE JUST stop!!!!! I am a teacher, and you never know when that "toy gun" in that childs backpack is a real one and loaded..........

explained by...

Karingh, I think you might be missing the point of the article. I think the author of the article would agree with you that all schools should have a policy prohibiting the carrying of guns/weapons to school -- even toy ones -- for the reasons you mention; a teacher can't always know the difference. The different point made by the article is that not all violations of the policy should be treated the same. For example, a 3.8 GPA kid who accidentially brings his swiss army knife to school in his backpack, b/c he used his backpack on his weekeend hunting trip with his dad, is not the same as the kid who brings a switch blade to school in his back pocket with the intention of stealing money or drups from his class mates. Yet, we have school policies across the county that require each of these situations to be treated identically: bringing a knife to school = automatic 4 week suspension. That is ludicrous. There is no rational justification for imposing ruinious consequences in both sitautions, without reagrd to the particular facts and circumstances attendant to each.

Having a policy written down on paper is not a replacement for intelligent thought, but that is exactly how these policies are sometimes administered by school staff. Rather than investigating each situation and evaulating it on its own particualr facts and circumtances, an administrator just points to the policy and say "my hands are tied." By doing so, we are doing a grave injustice to the education of our kids. We treach them that written mantras on a piece of paper are more important than either intelligent thought or justice.

I should point out that some of the school policies I have encoutered locally, in the Tri-Cities, grant administrators at least some of the needed flexibility to deal with different sitautions differently. That is a good thing. However, that is certainly not true across the board. Hardly a week goes by when you don't hear of some small-minded school bureaucrat or ignorant school board that attempts to justify some sort of ludicrous acton by putting on blinders and pointing to a "policy" - - as though a "policy" makes it okay to act witout any relation to rational thought.

This is the type of action that the article criticizes. And the article is right for doing so.


Because little Jimmy is a good white kid from a nice family he is treated differently than a minority
The U.S. Education Department's Office of Civil Rights found that between the 1972-73 and the 2006-07 school years, suspension rates for white students rose from 3% to 5%. Meanwhile, suspension rates for black students rose from 6% to 15%


Without siting the reasons for expulsion in both the white children and the black children your comment has no merit. Cherry picking numbers will always have a result in the favor of your own agenda. Were more black children that were suspended carrying weapons? Were more of the white children that were suspended carrying weapons than the black children?


Black and Hispanic schoolchildren are more likely to be disciplined than white peers and are taught by lower-paid and less experienced teachers, according to federal data being released today for the first time.
Black children made up 18 percent of students in a survey of U.S. schools while accounting for 35 percent of those suspended once, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Black students are more than 3 1/2 times as likely to be suspended or expelled than their white classmates, the survey showed.
More than 70 percent of students involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement were Hispanic or black, the survey also found.
The data, available down to the individual school level, was collected from more than 72,000 schools serving 85 percent of students in the 2009-2010 school year.


Newsblogger your comment " Were more black children that were suspended carrying weapons?"

Is an Overtly Racist Remark ... Thank you for showing who you are


OH? And who brought up race in this thread anyway? Sirhansalot did! So who is the racist?


43 north open your mind not your mouth .I did bring up race because if you are not white you will receive a longer suspension from school, these are the facts. .The point is a "no-tolerance policy" helps to stop discipline from being doled out unfairly due to race


I have No Tolerance, for No Tolerance policies or laws. Addressing this head-on, anything that’s rigid, be it a stick, ruler, or thought will someday bend, twist, or break because it’s nature’s way. The only “absolute” in this world, is that everything you can see, hear, touch and feel is destined to change, by nature’s way. At the time when “No Tolerance” policies regarding guns and knives on school property were hastily, injudiciously and thoughtlessly put into place as the fool’s gold policy’s, there was sure to follow a run to take place eliminating common sense and refusing to recognize human fallibility. And, so it did come to pass, where innocent 5 and 6 year old children were handcuffed in their school rooms in front of the other children, for drawing a stick picture of what was thought to be a gun and another pointing the index finger with the thumb raised simulating a finger gun. Both of these harmless, a picture on paper and a hand figure, which by Law is considered a crime in these communities. These innocent little children who had no intent to harm anyone or anything are expelled from their respective schools. We might as well forget about Democracy because it has just been trashed, throwing the Constitution and Bill of Rights out the window! Now welcome, Totalitarianism, because with this form of rule nothing is tolerated and punishment for the smallest infraction of the law will be met with the most severe punishment or even death. I mean, this will set an example to put other radical thinking children 6 years old and younger in line so they will think and act the right way, so as to put creativity and imagination in their place, in a lock box, which will hopefully never be opened again, because we don’t want to let those natural human attributes ever to roam freely again among the Human population. God only knows what could happen if that took place. When you mix a child with imagination or creativity it’s a volatile mixture, destined to cause the little one to possibly think or make something like a toy. Perhaps to even say something funny. Son of a gun, you never know what a child will say, do, or draw, so you want to keep a tight grip on the reigns, because the slightest relief, could make you and them ecstatic. Then, who knows what would happen!


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