Zero Tolerance? How far is too far?

In April, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear the case of Savana Redding,  a girl who was strip-searched at school over suspicion of having brought some prescription strength ibuprophen to school.

The school was enforcing a zero-tolerance policy for drugs and violence, and when an assistant principle was told that she and a friend had the pills on them, he ordered school employees to search both students without notifying parents or police. The search turned up no pills.

Lawyers for the school district said in a brief that it was “on the front lines of a decades-long struggle against drug abuse among students.” Abuse of prescription and over-the-counter medications is on the rise among 12- and 13-year-olds, the brief said, citing data from the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Given that, the school district said, the search was “not excessively intrusive in light of Redding’s age and sex and the nature of her suspected infraction.”

In my opinion, this is the problem with zero tolerance policies. Not only does the article indicate that the Redding had no disciplinary record, it also indicates there was an interpersonal feud going on with an old friend, who accused her of having prescription drugs. Considering that the article is correct, the school officials (or anyone else) are able to hide behind a zero tolerance policy for their actions. In my opinion, this is laziness in the highest order. The trial system in the United States is based on the fact that the rule of law is subject to interpretation by peers, which is why we have trials and juries. In fact, the constitution even guarantees against unreasonable searches. Zero tolerance policies like those mentioned in the article circumvent such rights under the guise of “protection”. Shouldn’t this minor (she was 13 at the time) have the right to either have her parents notified, or due process of actually being approached by law enforcement officials before this search?

What do you think? How is too far in our quest to protect and educate the next generation?

You can read the article here.

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2 responses to “Zero Tolerance? How far is too far?

  1. Wow, I hadn’t heard this story, but I think it’s outrageous. I absolutely think that the girl had the right to parental involvement. This type of thing gets to me. It’s a pretty stark contrast between this type of rigid rule set and the “liberation” going on in society.

  2. Interesting that you make the comparison between zero tolerance and “liberation”, Steph. I believe they are related. I believe it was Karl Marx who said that the first step towards a communist state is mandatory public schools, which are funded and run by the government, and by which the silly notions of autonomy and certain rights are trained out of the students for the benefit of the commune. (This is my interpretation of Marx, by the way.)

    My take away, then, is that if the government wants more control over their citizens, they must start with the schools, and train students to be more compliant, and to accept less personal autonomy. The question is whether or not our government is both patient enough, smart enough, and devious enough to do such a thing.

    In any case, I also find the case outrageous.

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