Being a parent is becoming a lot easier, as school systems are now doling out punishment for acts of disobedience committed on private property. And the consequences are far worse than a few weeks without TV.
Two Virginia Beach middle school students have been suspended and are facing expulsion hearings for firing airsoft guns in their front yard while waiting for the school bus. According to the school's zero tolerance policy, all infractions must be punished equally and immediately with no room for discretion. A standard punishment is set, usually suspension, and it cannot be adjusted to fit certain circumstances.
Virginia Beach police became involved when a neighbor called 911 after seeing Khalid Caraballo and his friend Aidan shooting airsoft guns at a target hanging on a tree. The neighbor acknowledged that the guns were not deadly weapons, but she said seeing the boys waving them made her uncomfortable. Virginia Beach law concerning non-lethal firearms is somewhat vague on the subject, stating that the weapons can be fired on private property with the permission of the owners. Khalid was technically acting without permission; his mother had asked him not to shoot the gun. One of the responding police officers told a local news station that the police department does not actively seek out violators of this law, but once they received the 911 call they had to respond.
This story should have ended with a warning from police officers and two teenage boys being grounded. But, thanks to zero tolerance, the school got involved. The middle school's principal said his investigation found that, although the yard in question was 70 yards from the bus stop, a student standing 10 feet from the bus stop ran from the plastic bullets and were still hit. Apparently, this puts the issue in the hands of the school, and zero tolerance is unforgiving.
Khalid and his parents are incredibly distressed at the harsh nature of the punishment. "It's terrible. I won't get the chance to go to a good college. It's on your school record. The school said I had possession of a firearm. They aren't going to ask me any questions. They are going to think it was a real gun, and I was trying to hurt someone. They will say 'oh, we can't accept you,'" Khalid said.
This case is a perfect example of zero tolerance gone too far. Our entire justice system is built around the idea of giving defendants a chance to argue their case to a jury that can make a decision based on the specific circumstance. Khalid and his friend were acting in a way most 13-year-old boys do. They did not endanger anyone's life, and they were not even on school property. Zero tolerance is taking the thinking out of justice and looking more and more like Big Brother every day.