Rules rage is little more than hot air - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Rules rage is little more than hot air

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Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2004 6:45 am | Updated: 5:07 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

If there’s one profession that keeps the antacid industry in business, it’s probably school administration.

The job becomes more impossible by the year.

In the old days it was hard enough. You had to drill readin’, writin’ and ’rithmetic through the skulls of young ’uns who would much rather have been down by the fishin’ hole. The big disciplinary problems were chewing gum and pigtails in the inkwell.

In the new days you still have to do the three Rs while trying to keep the learning environment safe from tidal waves of booze, drugs, tawdry dress and loose conduct. Contraband used to be a prison problem. Now it’s a school problem.

To deal with contraband, schools have developed "zero tolerance" rules that can get a nipper suspended for so much as sniffing an aspirin. The problem with rules is that their inflexible application can sometimes lead to interesting situations. Ergo, school expulsions often make the news.

Take the case of one Hayley Hoffman. She’s a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Greenfield Junior High in Gilbert.

Last week the kids were decorating the gym for a dance. Helium-filled balloons were part of the setup.

Now, you know what happens when helium and kids get together. It’s the same thing that happens when helium and adults get together. Inhaling helium creates some of the funniest moments any of us are likely to ever have.

So Hayley did what people do with helium and, boom! She got suspended from school. The administrators said it was because she violated the zero-tolerance rule on inhalants.

That seems absurd on the surface, and no one can blame the youngster for being upset. But who’d want to be in the principal’s shoes? If suspending the girl was a mistake, at least it’s a mistake on the side of caution. A more flexible helium-sucking policy may soon be in place, Hayley will move on, and society will get by. No huge deal.

The other suspension that made news this week was that of John Lopez, also 13, who attends Heritage Academy in Mesa.

His suspension was painted by supporters — including his overwrought father — as the result of saying no to fellow students who offered him booze during lunch. But the school said he was suspended for lying to administrators who got wind of the drinking and thereafter pursued a legitimate investigation into lawbreaking on campus.

"I didn’t know you could get suspended for not ratting on your friends," John told the Tribune.

"Not ratting" is one thing. Lying is another. The young fellow will have benefitted greatly from this experience if the responsible adults in his life help him appreciate the difference. And as for the administrators: You go, guys.

There should be no backing down on this one.

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