Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
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Friday, February 05, 2010

You know, in my day they had this thing called detention

Queens girl Alexa Gonzalez hauled out of school in handcuffs after getting caught doodling on desk
Alexa is the latest in a string of city students who have been cuffed for minor infractions. In 2007, 13-year-old Chelsea Fraser was placed under arrest for writing "okay" on her desk at Intermediate School 201. And in 2008, 5-year-old Dennis Rivera was cuffed and sent to a psych ward after throwing a fit in his kindergarten.
The girl wrote on her desk with an erasable marker. At most she should have had to remove the marks and perhaps had detention. Instead she was arrested and detained for hours, was suspended, and now has an 8-hour community service punishment to fulfill.

In a similar story of overkill, also in New York City, Laura Timoney fumes after son Patrick, 9, is busted for bringing 2-inch-long toy gun to PS 52
Patrick and a friend were playing with Lego figures in the school cafeteria on Tuesday when he pulled out the faux machine gun and stuck it in the hands of his plastic police officer.
His friend's LEGO figure had an axe in his hand, apparently less threatening. The mother received a call from the school and the boy was almost suspended. The mother thinks the principal over-reacted, and I think so, too. It was a two-inch toy that fit in a LEGO hand, and could not in any way be mistaken for a real gun. The boy's father is a retired police officer himself. The boy had to promise not to bring the gun back to school. He's avowed not to bring any toy to school again.

There are things schools should have zero tolerance on--drugs, real guns, bullying, threatening violence--but there's a big dose of common sense needed as well. Kids get suspended these days for giving a classmate with cramps an ibuprofen, or doodling on a desk. It seems the focus on learning is blurring in the school systems, something we cannot afford to have happen in an era of texting with its loss of writing skills and short attention spans. Schools increasingly seem to be playing babysitter (and in their defence, parents seem to encourage this at times), teaching how to beat a test so funding isn't cut, that sort of thing. I've met people in education who are disgusted with today's schooling. That's not to say there are not good teachers, principals, librarians, and programmes out there. But there's a lot of stupid silliness, too, and these stories count.

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