By Ronald C. Tobin
There are many hideous notions that are plaguing our lives here in modern America. No good choice politics, the spectre of global warming, racial tensions, hypocrisy - the list can go on and on. I am here to express my outrage over a widespread shortcut being utilized in public schools throughout the nation, and also by law enforcement in many jurisdictions. This shortcut, this doctrine of destruction, goes by the name of zero tolerance.
What precisely is zero tolerance? Simply put, it is a doctrine under which, if someone commits a proscribed act or possesses a prohibited object (such as a firearm) or substance (like aspirin on some campuses), then one is immediately expelled. Off campus, zero tolerance is utilized for the completely immoral "war on drugs." The Coast Guard, for example, has a zero tolerance drug policy in force, so if they board your vessel and find so much as a gram of marijuana, they can seize the vessel and sell it. This is called forfeiture, in which the government charges the vehicle or structure with a crime. You can say that the drugs were not yours, perhaps even prove it, and you may not be charged with anything - your HOUSE is guilty, and thus is forfeit to the government. Never mind your guilt or innocence, this is zero tolerance in action.
Most of the readers of this fine zine will be more familiar with how zero tolerance works on school campuses. I know of a case where a high school junior with a stellar record was expelled from her school because she gave a friend a couple of aspirin. The school's reasoning? Zero tolerance of drug distribution. In other words, this student was declared a DRUG DEALER by her school! No asking why, no recourse, just this insane policy to make someone into a criminal for an act of kindness. Another bizarre case happened here in Arizona, where a high school honor student, who was going to a shooting competition, sanctioned by the school, showed his unloaded shotgun to a friend in the campus parking lot (the weapon had been in his trunk all day). This was spotted by campus security. Net effect? Both of these students, who had never violated any rules previously, were expelled. The shotgun was seized. No charges ended up being filed, but the two students were not allowed to graduate with their class.
Zero tolerance is unjust because it does not allow for any sort of appeal. The why, what, and how of the situation does not matter. The gravity of the infraction matters not at all. Under zero tolerance, there are simply no exceptions. Whatever happened to the notion of innocent until proven guilty? The notion of a fair trial? Zero tolerance and its advocates care nothing for this. At the public schools, what they want is a "crime-free" environment, no matter what it takes. It's strictly a matter of control. There is no trust, no room for error, and no excuses, according to the almighty 'them.'
The time has come to demand justice in our society. It is time to put an end to all forms of zero tolerance - save perhaps for ONE form: I recommend that we show ZERO TOLERANCE for zero tolerance! Demand accountability! Demand explanations! Don't let these fools get away with this and keep on destroying lives young and old!
Ronald Tobin
The Thought
PO Box 10760
Glendale, AZ 85318-0760
[This article originally appeared in BULLETPROOF #4.]