2/02 Give Zero Tolerance An F

Give Zero Tolerance An F
Larry Pratt

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, that you have already heard the most idiotic, preposterous and just plain stupid example of “zero tolerance” in our government-run schools, you realize, suddenly, that you have not.

As Steve Glink, attorney for the falsely accused explains it, the trouble started for Patrick Bryant, a student at Palatine High School in Palatine, Illinois, when, on a parent-teacher night, “some parent comes up to some teacher and says, basically, that they heard Patrick has a hit-list in his locker.” The school official who deals with the police tells the principal about this allegation. The principal approves a search of Bryant’s locker. No hit-list is found.

Case closed? You gotta be kidding.

What they found in Bryant’s locker are the following items, according to the Chicago Tribune (2/6/02): “A doodle of a gun, a photo of two swords, an essay defending the right to bear arms, and another writing assignment that mentioned weapons.” Glink, who says Bryant wants to be a U.S. Marine, says that part of the writings in his locker answered the question: What did Bryant fear most about growing old? Answer: “Getting arthritis in my trigger finger.”

Glink says that in addition to searching Bryant’s locker, school officials also searched the files of the computer he used at school. There they found that he had visited — horror of horrors! — some pro-gun, pro-Second Amendment sites. This information was printed out, says Glink, and presented at Bryant’s “expulsion hearing.”

Bryant’s expulsion hearing?! That’s right. School officials moved to permanently expel Bryant. Says Glink: “It was unbelievable. The worst part was the way the school made these assumptions and just jumped all over this kid with no real evidence! Prior to this time, not one person — no student, or teacher, or parent, nobody — had ever complained that they were afraid of this kid, or thought he was violent, or anything like that.”

Then, to add insult to injury, Palatine High School officials insisted that Bryant attend, alternatively, the Connections Day School, a school for students with emotional and behavioral problems. Glink says that Bryant’s forced attendance at this school stigmatized the young man, indicating that he might be a little nuts. He adds that Bryant’s parents were “very upset” over their son having to go to this school.

But, thank God, Patrick Bryant’s parents were more than merely upset. They sued. They won. The judge in the case demolished the pathetic arguments of officials at Palatine High School and the Palatine Township High School District 211.

The Honorable Nancy J. Arnold, in the Circuit Court of Cook County concluded, among other things, that there was “insufficient evidence to support the factual findings by the School District, and that the decision of the School District to expel Patrick was arbitrary and capricious…. the judgment and proceedings of the School Board are quashed.”

To her credit, Judge Arnold systematically took apart the School District’s preposterous case against young Bryant:

She noted that the School Board was acting under a School Code provision permitting expulsion for “gross misconduct” or “gross disobedience.” The School Board’s handbook of school policy defines these phrases as including “acts which endanger or harm the health, safety, and welfare of others,” and “behavior in which the student tries to harass, intimidate, or frighten, directly or indirectly, any school employee or student.” But, she pointed out, what the handbook here refers to are acts which endanger others, or behavior which intimidates others. Thus, “the mere possession of literature and photographs dealing with weapons does not rise to the level of an ‘act’ or ‘behavior’ proscribed in the school policy.”

Part of the alleged evidence against Bryant were statements from what other students supposedly said about Bryant. But, when asked, school officials admitted these students never saw what they were summarized as saying, they never signed these statements, never reviewed, or, in any way, authenticated them! Thus, Judge Arnold ruled that it was “arbitrary and capricious” to accept such summaries of student statements as proof of any allegations.

Incredibly, the school psychologist refused to produce her notes regarding students she interviewed saying she would do this only if they were subpoenaed! She invoked some Federal law dealing with mental health and confidentiality. But, Judge Arnold ruled there were “no grounds” for asserting this privilege, that this law is irrelevant to the Bryant case.

Judge Arnold says: “There was no proof brought forward of any specific acts of intimidation by Patrick…. There are no specific incidents outlined to establish that he committed any acts of students in school.” And she notes that both Bryant and his accusers concede in their arguments “that any act by Patrick must have occurred in school to fall under the purview of the School Code and give authority to the school to act.”

As things stand now, Patrick Bryant has been allowed to come back to his school. And his parents may be filing a law suit against the School Board. But, Attorney Glink says there was “something funny about this whole deal.” He says the mascot of Palatine High School is a pirate. And part of the School’s logo is that this pirate is holding — a sword! Glink says that when this was pointed out at Bryant’s expulsion hearing, school officials said nothing. He adds: “When it goes against them, they don’t say anything. You know how that goes.”

Well, indeed we do. And we know that this insane “zero tolerance” policy in our government-run schools is never applied in a way that is more malevolent than when guns — or, in this case, a “doodle” of a gun — are involved. Never underestimate the fanaticism of the anti-gun, anti-self-defense, anti-Second Amendment zealots, as this case proves, with a vengeance.

In Palatine, propaganda and fanaticism have replaced education.