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Postcript to “Mayhem on Delaware campus”:

Postscript to “Mayhem on Delaware campus”  . . . 

A six-year old boy in a Delaware school was recently sentenced to a five-day suspension and 45 days in a reform school for bringing a Cub Scout camping knife to class. The item was given to him when he joined the Cub Scouts. It combines a fork, spoon and knife in one tool, a tool indispensable to every Cub Scout and Boy Scout—I’m uncertain whether such tool is given to Girl Scouts and/or Brownies, and if given, whether it would be indispensable to them.

Click here to view my original posting. It prompted the following response from a viewer:

“Significantly reduced the boy’s sentence—impressive. Schools have become such odd places. Being an older father of elementary students, I am shocked at how far schools go to assert their dominance over students. But then, I look at the parents of some of my children’s classmates and understand why.”

The viewer’s response was highly cogent—clear, logical and convincing, and obviously heartfelt. His comment about the dominance exerted on students by today’s schools was insightful and accurate. We daily abdicate our responsibilities and surrender our children to schools at every level—faculty members are in full charge of the students. In effect, the students become charges of the institution (note the definition of charge below).

I responded to the viewer’s comment as follows:

Thanks for the comment—I appreciate your interest. I realize that in your case the thoughts expressed below constitute “preaching to the choir,” but perhaps some wayward readers will be influenced by them, one way or another—we need all the help we can get!

This is the definition of CHARGE (from Wikipedia):

“During the European Middle Ages, a charge often meant an underage person placed under the supervision of a nobleman. Charges were the responsibility of the nobleman they were charged to, and they were usually expected to be treated as guests or as members of the household. Charges were at times more or less used openly as hostages, ensuring that the parents were kept in line.

The nuclear family is fast disappearing from the American scene. Our families have become splintered because of government intrusion by local, state and national authorities, intrusions that we appear to welcome.

I abhor the appellation of Chicken Little, but in this instance I embrace it—the sky is falling, and telling the king won’t stop its downward spiral because the king is, in many ways, responsible for the accelerated pace.

I fear that our slide down that slippery slope will continue.

 

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Letter to the editor, San Antonio Express-News: Mayhem on campus . . .

In the interests of full disclosure: This posting was not published by the San Antonio Express-News, the only daily newspaper in the second-largest city in Texas and the seventh-largest in the United States. My decision to not submit it for consideration was based on its premise, its length and my experiences with rejection in the past.

Also in the interests of full disclosure: I served as a member of the U.S. military for 22 years and another 26 years as a federal law-enforcement officer. As a result of that combined 48 years, I am not completely unfamiliar with the various ways and means one might use to commit mayhem on campus.

Mayhem on Delaware campus:

A six-year old boy in a Delaware school was recently sentenced to a five-day suspension and 45 days in a reform school for bringing a Cub Scout camping knife to class. The item was given to him when he joined the Cub Scouts. It combines a fork, spoon and knife in one tool, a tool indispensable to every Cub Scout and Boy Scout—I’m uncertain whether such tool is given to Girl Scouts and/or Brownies, and if given, whether it would be indispensable to them.

The Delaware school has a zero-tolerance policy on students bringing to school any item that could possibly be used as a weapon. The incident has gone national in our media, and many people feel that in this instance the school has gone too far, that it has overreached in its efforts to protect students from harm (and to protect themselves from lawsuits).

No, I say—they have not overreached. On the contrary, they have fallen far short. Their action indicates a lack of attention to detail—they can’t see the forest for the trees.

In any school on any day, there are many items that can be used to maim and kill. These are items that are immediately available to all students and faculty members, items as deadly or deadlier than a Cub Scout camping tool, yet they are not prohibited by the school administrators—either they are unaware of their potential for maiming and killing, or they feel that the utility of the items outweighs that potential.

Let’s make the policy on weapons in our schools truly zero-tolerance at every level, from pre-kindergartens to kindergartens to elementary schools to middle schools to high schools and to all schools awarding advanced degrees. The threat is the same at all levels. The only difference is the ages of the people involved.

Let’s ban every item that could possibly be used by a student to kill or maim another—and we probably should extend this policy to faculty members—one could always go postal (forgive me, USPS) and attempt to take out a few students or other faculty members.

All those items—every one—should be removed and banned in order to protect the children and faculty.

Let’s start with the school cafeteria:

Do the students use metal flatware in the lunchroom? If so, all metal knives and forks and spoons must be removed—each tool, even the spoon, can be used with deadly results.

Do the students use plastic tableware? If so, all plastic knives, forks and spoons must be removed. We routinely use plastic forks to stab a chicken breast to hold it in place while we cut it with a plastic knife. And yes, a plastic spoon has fine edges and can cause damage—if held properly and applied forcefully, it could easily remove an eye.

So how do we handle a zero-tableware policy? The answer is obvious—restrict the students to finger foods. And while I’m on the subject of fingers, those digits, thumbs as well as fingers, were used in early times with deadly results—they were used to blind convicted criminals by gouging out their eyes, and are still used with deadly results in gang fights on streets and in our alleys, and probably in certain Middle East, Asian and African countries.

On further thought even a stiff finger, especially the middle one, will put out an eye if properly directed with enough force into the eye of one student by another.

If you’re wondering how to deal with those deadly thumbs and fingers, that answer is also obvious—simply require students to wear mittens at all times while on school property. Also obvious is the fact that mittens would seriously impede certain activities, including writing, scratching an itch, using restroom facilities, etc. Such activities would be handled (so to speak) as they arise, possibly by a one-on-one policy of having a faculty member supervise any activity that would require the removal and replacement of one or both mittens. Such supervision would, of course, be costly—additional personnel would be required to serve as restroom monitors and in numerous other areas. One possible alternative would be to appoint a second student as monitor, and that student could assist a fellow student in such instances. In some circumstances, particularly in rest-room visits, the team should be comprised of same-sex students. Special training for identity-definition and identity-recognition will probably be required for faculty members in higher grades. Such training should reduce the possibility of appointing rest-room teams comprised of other than same-sex students.

Pencils—particularly sharpened pencils—and ball-point pens must go. Pencils and pens, held properly between two fingers of a clenched fist with the point outward and the top pressing against the heel of the hand, can maim and kill.

Press the point into an ear and push, and the eardrum is ruptured. Press the point into an eye and push, and the eye is destroyed. Press the point into the neck toward the jugular vein and push—the jugular could be punctured and the victim will bleed to death. Press the point between two ribs with enough force and internal organs can be punctured. Think about that for a moment.

Has anyone ever noticed that airport security personnel never confiscate pencils or ball-point pens? Has anyone ever noticed that security personnel at federal buildings never confiscate pencils or pens? Think about that for a moment.

Wooden rulers with a metal edge built in to facilitate paper tearing can be used to maim and kill. The metal edge is very thin, and wielded properly will slice deeply into human skin. With a strong swing and a keen eye, a child can cut deeply into another child’s neck and possibly sever the jugular vein. Even a plastic ruler will do major damage when wielded with enough force.

Any pin such as a broach or smiley-face button (and God forbid, any campaign button) can be used with equal effectiveness. Hold the item with the pin outward, as with a pencil or pen, and push or slash with force and major damage to the skin will result.

Heavy metal items abound in a school environment, items that can be wielded with enough force, even by a small child, to main and kill, including staplers, hole punches, hammers and (by larger children or staff members) folding metal chairs. Look around—see how many offensive weapons are available to any student intent on hurting another student—or teacher.

Belts and shoelaces can be used offensively and should be viewed as deadly weapons. Belts with a heavy buckle can be swung with deadly force, and either a belt or a tie can be used as a garrote. Shoelaces can be tied together and used as a garrote. Police require arrestees to give up belts, ties and shoelaces before entering a cell. This precaution is taken to prevent the arrestee from attempting suicide, but it’s also meant to protect the officers.

All the children (and the teachers) must therefore give up belts, ties and shoelaces while in school. Considering the way some boys wear their trousers, some will have a problem. Since any maiming necessarily requires the use of one hand at a minimum, the lack of a belt may reduce or prevent such incidents. Any potential maiming, by a person using both hands while wearing low-riders, would subject such person to additional charges such as indecent exposure and intent to commit a sexual assault.

This is a posting in progress—there are many more items that should be removed from the environment in which our children spend some one-third of every day while schools are in session.

I’ll get back to you later with more details.

Postscript:

The School Board has reconsidered its decision in the Delaware case. The members of the Board have significantly reduced the boy’s sentence, and are making significant adjustments to the school’s zero-tolerance policy.

 

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The wooden bowl . . .

I received this story, author unknown, from a friend several years ago. I found it recently in my saved e-mail and decided to share it with anyone whose path might cross my blog.

The Wooden Bowl

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law and four-yearold grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred and his step faltered. The family ate together at the table, but the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Food  fell off his fork onto the floor, and sometimes when he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. ‘We must do something about father,’ said the son. ‘I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.’

So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since he had broken dishes in the past, his food was served in a wooden bowl.

When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had tears in his eyes as he sat alone. Still the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.

The four-year-old watched it all in silence. One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, ‘What are you making?’

Just as sweetly, the boy responded, ‘Oh, I’m making some little bowls for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.’ He smiled and went back to work.

His words so impressed the parents that they were speechless. Tears streamed down their cheeks, and although no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.

That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with his family.  And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, or milk was spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

On a positive note, I’ve learned that no matter what happens—no matter how bad it seems today—life goes on and tomorrow will be better.

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about people by the way they handle four things—lost luggage, a rainy day, tangled Christmas tree lights and the elderly.

I’ve learned that, regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from this life.

I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life, and I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands—you need to be able to throw something back.

I’ve learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you. But if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can, you won’t need to look for happiness—it will find you.

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.

I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.

I’ve learned that every day, you should reach out and touch someone. People love that touch—holding hands, a warm hug or just a friendly pat on the back.

I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn, and I’ve learned that you should pass this on to everyone you care about.

I just did.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on August 27, 2009 in Family

 

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