Thu, May 23

<CENTER><B>Letters to the Editor</B></CENTER>

Editor all wet on stand on guns in schools


This morning I walked out to my driveway and picked up The Bugle newspaper, and read it. I was greatly disturbed by your page 4A editorial, (Schools have no choice but to be heavy handed on weapons violations) and the thoughts it conveys to all about the Zero Tolerance Policy, and what you are not telling your readers in this article. Let's go though some of the editorial paragraphs.

#1. The only difference in yesteryears and today is the school administers fear of legal suits and former President Clintons 1994 DOJ Designated Gun Free Schools Act.

#2. Why shouldn’t the kid display a gun, why can he display a car or Tommy Hilfinger shirts but not a gun, knife, drawing, key chain, etc?

#5. "Today, a kid who brings so much as a squirt gun to school runs the risk of some rather severe disciplinary action, including expulsion." Tell the whole truth, kids have been expelled from school for such items as carrying a steel ruler to shop class, having fingernail clippers, for pointing a chicken finger, scissors, and one third grader, proud of his soldier/uncle, drew a picture of the uncle with a gun, knife and grenades.

Another case was Lindsay Brown, a senior at Estro High School in Ft. Meyers, Fla. While moving, a kitchen knife fell from a packing box onto the floor of her car. School officials later saw the knife. The honor student was not only kicked out of school, but was also arrested for felony possession of a weapon. She was not allowed to graduate with her class. Ultimately, she may lose her scholarship.

That wasn’t the case for Hunter Marner, a high school sophomore from Eufaula, Ala. His father, a doctor, replaced the rearview mirror bracket on his son’s car, and forgot to remove the pocketknife and scraper blade he used to scrape the old glue. During a routine drug search on students’ cars in the school, the knife and scraper were found.

The son was suspended (for the fathers lack of action) and will be penalized to 45 days of "alternative school" this coming academic year. This bars Hunter from athletics, school extracurricular activities, and removal from the National Honor Society. This will preclude application to the US Naval Academy-his son’s longtime dream. Probably best, he’d just be around those nasty guns.

#6. "We’ve learned the hard way that guns and schools are about as volatile a mix as gasoline and fire." I agree that guns, and cars, are dangerous if they are not used properly. It is assumed Mingus has a class in driver Ed, but when do they teach gun safety.

#7. Nightmare? What was the nightmare, except for the students who had their property searched and siezed in defiance of the Bill of Rights assurance against "unreasonable searches?" Can I come into your home or office to search for anything I don’t like, including notes like you used in this story, and then seize and destroy them?

#12. "Such action would have been considered heavy-handed 20 years ago." I consider it heavy handed today. It is to be expected in Russia or China.

#13. Excuse me; give up our rights for fear of a Columbine. What are the chances of a child dying from a gun vs. lightning? What is your stand on lightning detectors and Zero-Tolerance of lightning?

#14. "It’s an unfortunate sign of the times." Amen, that we take the liberty our parents and ancestors so lightly that we are giving up our rights because we have an infinitesimal chance of being hurt by guns.

Research on Zero Tolerance was produced by social scientists Russ Skiba and Reese Reterson for Phi Delta Kappa, an international association of professional educators. It is called The Dark Side of Zero Tolerance: Can Punishment Lead to Safe Schools? Quote: "Virtually no data suggest that zero tolerance policies reduce school violence, and some data suggest that certain strategies, such as strip searches or undercover agents in school, may create emotional harm or encourage students to drop out."

"More to the point, Dark Side authors get to the question of the sadistic nature of ZT, in which the best of kids are punished-ruined-for the least of infractions." Zero Tolerance is defined as punishment for all offenses, regardless of degree of severity, doing it harshly and without mercy.

"Yet the indiscriminate use of force without regard for its effects is the hallmark of authoritarianism, incompatible with the functioning of a democracy, and certainly incompatible with the transmission of democratic values to children." "If we rely solely, or even primarily, on zero tolerance strategies to preserve the safety of our schools, we are accepting a model of schooling that implicitly teaches students that the preservation of order demands the suspension of individual rights and liberties," Skiba and Perterson conclude."

"These practitioners of authoritarianism whose iron hands control the lives of children would raise a whole generation of kids who will find nothing wrong in being searched or having their property searched for no reason; who will find nothing wrong in the loss of due process; who will believe petty snitching honorable; and who will be afraid to express ideas freely."

Quote from the teachers online version of The New York Times’ Upfront online, which calls itself "the news magazine for teens": "The casualty figures-since a Moses Lake, Wash., student walked into his math class and gunned down three classmates in 1996- read like a report from a war zone: 39 dead, 104 wounded, in 18 separate incidents." Remember these numbers. War Zone? In this time period there were an estimated 75 MILLION kids in school.

The Justice Policy Institute put the figures this way: "To give the reader a sense of the idiosyncratic nature of these events, the number of children killed by gun violence in schools is about half the number of Americans killed annually by lightning strikes." But because of the media hype major polls show that 40 percent of Americans actually believe there will be a Columbine-type massacre in their neighborhood school.

Arizona statehood was held up for 30 years because of the lawlessness of the Pleasant Valley War. In 30 years a total of 20 people were killed. But this was big time killing then. Couldn’t be because everyone carried a gun, must have been something else.

As a result of the media "reporting" about youth violence and the fact that people believe that, an atmosphere has been created that could kill the very notion of liberty for an entire generation. With that say good-by to private gun ownership, and with it the end of elections, liberty of speech, press, ownership, and everything that has made people come to the USA.

If you are really concerned for the safety of our children you will advocate the safety system in Israel, where they have had not student/terrorist attacks. Maybe it has to do with every teacher being required to carry, and be able to use, a gun.

I apologize for this letter being so long, but this is not a subject that can be explored in a couple of paragraphs.

Dan Merritt

Lake Montezuma