One reason I’d like to put some distance between my family and northeast Indiana? I have never — never in my life — seen public schools with such draconian, because-I-said-so, zero-tolerance disciplinary policies. I went to high school in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio and it might as well have been Berkeley.
Follow the link to this story: Kid writes a column for the school newspaper complaining about new rules. Calls the rule-makers “Fun Nazis.” For this infraction, the entire press run of the paper is confiscated and everyone is given a stern lecture. But! Showing the sort of scrappy perserverence that generally serves journalists well, the kid writes another column, and if you put the first letter of each paragraph together, it spells out “Fun Nazi.” Of course no one would have known if the kid hadn’t told a friend, who told a friend, who…you know what happened.
Well, this sort of subversion cannot stand: The principal was understandably unhappy that his instructions had been ignored and he asked Clint whether he thought it was funny.
Most of us sooner or later understand that there are times when it�s wise to recognize when you�ve made a mistake and say what you know people want to hear. But Gillespie is still young. Yes, he said, he thought it was funny.
Gillespie was suspended for the rest of the school year � only three days � but he was also told he couldn�t take part in the graduation ceremonies.
I thought it was funny, too. So’s the rest of the story.
Paul said on June 3, 2004 at 8:49 am
Ummm….why exactly is the Journal Gazette writer taking the principal’s side here?
Nance said on June 3, 2004 at 9:14 am
Well, yeah. His concluding line, blunt pencil clutched firmly in fist: Clint�s name might fade, but for some time to come students will likely be reminded of his stunt and forewarned that a news story isn�t the place to plant jokes or hide secret messages. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s not the message I took away.
Donald said on June 3, 2004 at 9:18 am
This “zero-tolerance” b.s. isn’t a Fort Wayne or Indiana thing. It’s a modern public school thing.
Fort Wayne rightly receives much criticism, but this bit of foolishness is part of a national phenomenon.
Paul said on June 3, 2004 at 9:20 am
Maybe it’s a joke, and the first letters in each paragraph in the column spell out “I’M A FUN NAZI TOO.”
(I mean, suspending a kid for something that stupid? Jeebus. I’m glad to be gone from high school for many reasons, including having the ability to be around people with senses of humor.)
Lex said on June 3, 2004 at 9:38 am
You know, I would think it would be very difficult for this guy to run a school, what with that enormous stick up his butt and all.
alex said on June 3, 2004 at 10:29 am
Nance could tell you this is just another in a long series of absurd school suspensions in the Fort that have made the news. Usually it’s over nothing any sentient being could be bothered about. Meanwhile, the real troublemakers think nothing of shooting people at football games, as happened recently.
The zero tolerance shit may be new, but having attended public schools in those parts, I can see exactly how such authority would go to the heads of the small-minded sort that generally make up the population of teachers and administrators there. Calling some of them Nazis would be putting it mildly.
Vince said on June 3, 2004 at 11:19 am
The Principal simply proved Clint’s point.
He IS a Fun Nazi!
Lacne Mannion said on June 3, 2004 at 11:59 am
I’m no great fan of schools, school teachers, or school administrators—especially school administrators. The zero tolerance fad is ridiculous and, worse, useless. But the kid was NOT a victim of zero tolerance. He was a victim of his own impudence and recalcitrance. Or if you want to put it in a more complimentary way, and why not, I have to admire his chutzpah—his own civil disobedience. He did something he knew was defiant and he got caught and he got punished. There was no zero tolerance at work. He got scolded for his column—doesn’t matter that the principal really is a fun Nazi, doesn’t matter that writing that column shouldn’t have been treated as an offense, doesn’t matter that the principal over-reacted—he was told the ground rules, promised to abide by them, and then he went out and defied them. Maybe good for him in that the world needs more smart alek rabble rousers. But what was the principal supposed to do?
Make him write “I will not call any one a Fun Nazi again” a thousand times on the blackboard?
Personally, I’d have told the kid, “That’s it. No soup for you!”
Nance said on June 3, 2004 at 2:39 pm
The problem, Lance, was the overeaction to the first offense. I’m not big on loose use of the word “Nazi,” but in the culture of soup Nazis and feminazis, you can’t be too surprised when a 17-year-old uses it casually. A friendly chat after publication, maybe, but confiscating the whole press run? Refunding advertisers’ money? That IS zero tolerance. Whatever happened to, “the answer to offensive speech is more speech”?
Lex said on June 3, 2004 at 3:55 pm
And there’s a practical point here, too: Student newspapers are for learning. You can’t learn w/o making mistakes. (Well, maybe YOU can, but I’ve never mastered the art.) So a zero-tolerance policy on mistakes = a zero-tolerance policy on learning.
Which, come to think of it, would explain a lot.
::adjusts tinfoil hat, thinks about how good tonight’s daiquiri is going to taste ::
Michael Golden said on June 3, 2004 at 10:48 pm
Well, jeez, it�s not like this kid was a major threat to U.S. security or anything — like master conspirator Jose Padilla. As far as I can see all he did was piss off a tight ass principal and then have the gall to be amused by the situation. The lessons I see him learning are that there are bosses and editors who are what they are and that a little properly applied pressure does wonders.
deb said on June 4, 2004 at 7:52 pm
the kid had some cheek, but his actions didn’t rise (or sink) to the level that would justify denying him the privilege of graduating. several kids at a suburban school here were bounced from graduation ceremonies, too, but they deserved it. they planned a food fight in the cafeteria. the administration got wind of it and told them, don’t even THINK about doing this. they not only did it, they added to the fun by throwing human feces around. kids these days!