Over the years my things-to-blog-about queue has been occupied by an abundance of articles on Zero Tolerance policies and the misguided idiots who promote them. But most of these posts sit gathering cyber dust, grouped together for a future post that gets pushed aside because I open up the articles and get so angry I can't blog about them. A few incidents from my files (at least a dozen of which are about kids bringing "weapons" to school to do such dangerous things as "cut apples", repair lacrosse sticks", and "slice birthday cakes" - the horror!): A 6-year-old boy brings a combination fork/knife/spoon to school and gets a suspension plus a stint in reform school, another 6-year-old boy gets suspended for "sexual harrassment" after he sings a line from the chart-topping song, "I'm Sexy and I Know It" to a fellow student, and a 14-year-old boy gets suspended for hugging his best friend.
Then there are the ones that really make me irritated, like a student getting suspended for more than seven weeks for keeping her prescription antibiotics in her locker. Or the one where a student gets strip-searched over Advil.
It is madness, I tell you, madness. And it has all made me very, very angry. But none more so than this recent horrifying incident, wherein a 17-year-old student nearly DIED because his mother hadn't signed the proper paperwork allowing him to have access to HIS OWN DOCTOR-PRESCRIBED INHALER, so when he began having difficulty breathing, the school nurse did the only logical thing: she DENIED him his inhaler (packaged with his name on it and everything), IGNORED the fact that he was passing out, and LOCKED HIM IN THE ROOM BY HIMSELF!
Whew, sorry, I just can't stop yelling. It makes me so angry I feel like I'm about to morph into The Hulk and demolish my way through the internet until I can find this woman and strip her of her nursing license myself. I don't care what school policy is, when someone is having trouble breathing, you do not leave him alone, you do not deny him medication that has been prescribed to him by a doctor, and you do not hesitate to call 911.
I don't care if his mother didn't sign the forms. A 17-year-old can drive a car, for crying out loud. You're telling me that someone who is legally allowed to climb in a vehicle and launch it down the freeway at 80 mph is not qualified to know when and how to administer his own medication? It is absolutely ridiculous that any forms should be required for a teenager to handle his own medical issues.
Frankly, even an elementary school student should be allowed to handle his own emergency medication. Things like asthma inhalers and Epi Pens should not be stored with the school nurse, they should be stored in the student's backpack, regardless of whether a parent has signed some ridiculous form. Even non-emergency medications should be allowed to be kept in lockers or backpacks or wherever they need to be kept. A girl who can handle the hygiene requirements of her period can certainly handle a bottle of Midol without interference from school officials.
The inability to see a difference between Advil and heroin, immaturity and harassment, a pocketknife and a loaded gun, is destroying the safe environment it purports to create. It's not Zero Tolerance, it's Zero Sense.
And it's killing us.