"Zero Tolerance" for the state's intolerance

The documentary "Zero Tolerance," (trailer here) explores the role of SROs--law enforcement officers called "school resources officers"-- who are stationed in schools across America.

"Why are children as young as five being arrested in schools across the USA? In a misguided attempt to avoid another Columbine, Zero Tolerance policies in schools have detained, fined and incarcerated hundreds of thousands of children for 'offences' such as chewing gum or being late for class." ~ IMDB

Set mostly in Texas, the stories are harrowing. But, there was one principal who, at 66 years old and retired, agreed to take on what I can only call a distressed urban high school.

Bertie Simmons did away with ticket writing, met with each student one-on-one "to listen," set up a school court with a 12 person jury made up of seniors who were authorized to mete out punishment, and turned the school around. I was so impressed, afterwards, I wrote her an email to thank her for her positive human action. She wrote back and said: "Thank you. Working together we can make a real difference."

It was moving to see one person make such a remarkable difference in young people's lives through de-escalation, personal interaction, caring, and civility.

It is also a reminder of how callous and cruel Governor Hassan's veto of a bipartisan bill and the recent court decision about school choice in Croydon truly is.

The NH Department of Education used YOUR tax dollars to fight parents and a small town school board to FORCE four students out of an environment they were thriving in, and back to the Newport public school this fall. And, remember, the Montessori school was SAVING the taxpayers of Croydon thousands of dollars per year.

Makes you wonder about the motivation of NHDOE, because unlike principal Bertie Simmons, it doesn't sound like they have the students' best interests at heart.

The documentary also made me wonder about our schools in Goffstown and Manchester, and whether questionable conduct by SROs might be taking place in our own backyards? I recall there was one excessive force incident a few years ago at West Manchester High.

We already know our schools are being locked down with alarming frequency, e.g. eleven times in three weeks this May. Are all of these really necessary? Or could it, long-term, be creating a more dangerous situation when students start to see these warnings as "the grown-ups crying wolf, again"? What does it condition children to accept?

In the movie, a young lady who was being bullied struck back after being punched. If this happened outside of school, you would be within your rights to act in self-defense and hit someone who hit you back. But inside this school, BOTH students were punished. So basically, children are being taught they are not allowed to defend themselves.

"Zero tolerance" is a terrible idea. The word "tolerance," after all, means a "willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own." When the state says it won't tolerate behavior that is different from its own stated goals, like we saw recently in Croydon, we are cruising down the road to tyranny.

As your senator, I will work to reverse this trend towards ever more invasive government, encourage openness and transparency, and make sure your individual rights, and those of your family, are protected above all.


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