Friday, April 27, 2007

Good kid, bad officials

This from Rogersville, Tennessee:

A good kid made a bad decision Wednesday at Cherokee High School that will land him in alternative school for the remainder of his high school career, school officials said.

As a result of a search in the school parking lot Wednesday morning, school officials found a shotgun in the vehicle of CHS senior Justin Tyler Luster, 18, 1430 Beech Creek Road, Rogersville.

Aside from closing out his high school career in alternative school, the Hawkins County Sheriff's Office charged Luster with carrying a weapon on school grounds.

Hawkins County Director of Schools Clayton Armstrong was quick to point out Wednesday that there was no threat to students at school, the shotgun was never in the school building, and Luster had no ill intentions for the shotgun.

Apparently Luster was planning on going turkey hunting after school and had the shotgun hidden out of view in his vehicle.

So, let me get this straight. The shotgun was unloaded, locked in the kid's car, and clearly intended for an innocent use, and Luster is said to have made a "bad decision?" School officials are willing to simultaneously admit that they know that Luster had no ill intentions, and also to punish him severely?

Actually, school director Armstrong says he could have expelled Luster, so he apparently thinks he's being merciful.

This is what you get with mindless zero tolerance policies. You start with a rule that is already unnecessarily restrictive, such as a ban on possessing firearms on school grounds, even when unloaded and locked in your own vehicle. You then apply the rule robotically, even to people who very clearly intend no harm to anybody. Presto! Innocent people are subject to suspensions, expulsions and criminal prosecutions.

And when officials are faced with clearly unjust results as a consequence of their rules, they simply roll their eyes heaven-ward and plead that they have no discretion--under the rules they themselves established to escape the torment of exercising intelligent judgment.

We can only hope that Justin Luster comes through his encounter with knee-jerk officialdom relatively unscathed, and with a healthy disrespect for authority.

Do us all a favor. Call Director of Schools Clayton Armstrong at 423-272-7629 x110 and tell him he's a weasel.

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