Tag Archives: public schools

Regulation of the Day 150: Toy Guns

Samuel Burgos is 8 years old. One day he brought a toy gun to school in his backpack. That got him expelled from his Miami school for two years. Toy guns violate his school district’s zero-tolerance policy for weapons.

The district offered to place Sam in a correctional school; his parents opted to home-school him instead. His father told the local NBC affiliate, “I can’t sit here and allow them to send my kid to a school where students have committed actual crimes,” Burgos said. “He hasn’t committed a crime.”

Sam misses his friends. And he may have to repeat the second grade. All because common sense has gone missing from Broward County’s schools. That’s what makes the school board’s response especially galling:

The school board says it’s common sense to know that this kind of item can’t be allowed on school campus and that responsibility also falls on parents to know what their children have in their backpacks.

The Burgos family has suffered enough. Toy guns are not weapons. They are toys. The school board should exercise a bit of common sense and reinstate Sam immediately.

Regulation of the Day 119: Bake Sales

New York City’s public schools spent $18,365 per student in the 2007-2008 school year. That spending has been growing at more than double the rate of inflation over the last decade. That’s a lot of money. But since it isn’t spent very wisely, nowhere near that amount actually reaches the classroom.

Instead of firing teachers for incompetence (and sometimes worse), the district re-assigns bad teachers to “rubber rooms,” where they do nothing except receive their full salary. Maybe play Scrabble or surf the Internet. But mainly sit around and get paid.

Average teacher pay in New York City is approaching $70,000. There are about 700 teachers in rubber rooms. Assuming the rubber room teachers draw roughly average salaries, we’re talking about as much as $50 million that never makes it to the classroom from rubber rooms alone. That’s nearly $50 per student right there.

To make up for some of the money that gets lost in rubber rooms and central offices, schools often have fundraising events like bake sales.

Well, not anymore. At least not bake sales. Those are basically banned in New York City. Mayor Bloomberg and the city’s Department of Education worry that bake sales contribute to child obesity.

Bake sales are technically still legal. But only approved foods can be sold. And only at approved times. And never before the end of lunch hour. And you have to keep detailed records. And so on.

Complying with all the rules is just too difficult for a school basketball team raising money for a new scoreboard, or to cover the cost of traveling to a tournament.

Anything goes after 6:00 pm, food-wise. But hardly anybody stays in school that late. PTAs are given a longer leash. But even they cannot hold more than one bake sale per month.

(Hat tip: Fran Smith)

Regulation of the Day 116: Doodling on Desks

Many government schools have zero-tolerance policies. They are supposed to help discipline rowdy students. But they are inflexible. Too inflexible.

Alexa Gonzalez, 12, was arrested and put in handcuffs for writing “I love my friends Abby and Faith. Lex was here 2/1/10 :)” on her desk in green marker.

Seems a bit much. At the very least, she should be made to clean it off. Maybe given a day of detention. But haul her to the police station in handcuffs? Overkill.

The child is not described as a trouble maker. But now she has a criminal record. At age 12. This will not help her when she applies to college in a few years. Or when she applies for a job during high school.

Ms. Gonzalez is not the only victim of one-size-fits-all zero-tolerance policies. The CNN story linked to above also mentions the plight of Chelsea Fraser. As a 13 year-old, she was arrested and handcuffed for writing “okay” on her desk.

CNN notes a third child who met the same fate. She is known in court documents as “M.M.”

In Chicago, 25 students were arrested because of a food fight. Arrested. Try detention next time. Let the punishment at least be in the same order of magnitude as the crime.