Cole Withrow is an Eagle Scout who was on track to graduate with honors this month from Princeton High School in Princeton, N.C. (That’s Cole with his sister in the photo.) But he’s also a fallible teen-ager who made one small mistake Monday morning — and that mistake led to his arrest and expulsion from school.
In a sane world, Cole’s mistake wouldn’t be a big deal and nobody would even know about it. But in the world of “zero tolerance” in schools, his small mistake has become an absurd tragedy.
When Cole got to school Monday morning, he realized that he had an unloaded gun in his vehicle. He had been skeet-shooting the day before and the gun was still there. It wasn’t until he picked up his book bag that he noticed the weapon was there. He would be late for school if he left campus to return home, so he locked the gun in his car and went to the school office to call his mother to ask her for help.
But someone in the office overheard his conversation with his mom and things quickly escalated. Police were called and he was arrested. He was expelled from school and banned from school grounds for one year.
This is just another example of the idiocy that results when “zero tolerance” is the standard. Under this standard, nobody is allowed to use judgement, about actual danger or intent. The law clearly wasn’t designed to punish this sort of mistake, but because judgement isn’t allowed, a good student is being smeared.
This is the same sort of insanity that led to the arrest of a Florida girl for mixing a couple of household chemicals one morning recently while waiting for school. It’s the same sort of insanity that leads to many students being harmed by the same sorts of policies — and there’s no reasonable evidence that anybody will be safer because they’ve been “protected” from Cole’s mistake.
A spokesman for the local county school system defends the decision, of course.
“A student brought an unloaded shotgun on campus,” school spokesperson Tracey Peedin Jones said. “The shotgun was located in a locked vehicle. Administration reacted promptly and the proper procedures and protocol were followed. The law is very clear when a person knowingly and willingly brings a weapon onto educational property.”
Notice what the administration is concerned with. Not fairness. Not actual safety. Not using good judgement. No, they’re concerned with “proper procedures and protocol.”
It’s also interesting to note that an assistant principal at the school made the same mistake and still has his job. He was just suspended for three days. The punishment for a teen-ager making a mistake is apparently much tougher than when an alleged professional makes the same mistake.
Zero tolerance means zero thinking and zero judgement. It has no place in a sane society.
Update: Although the school system told local television news that Cole was expelled from school, the system is backing down and now claiming that Cole will be able to graduate by attending alternative school and meeting other requirements. That’s right. This honors student is being sent to the program for troublemakers.