Friday, August 12, 2016

That's Not a Bat, This is a Bat

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 2004. Since the Olympics are going on, it's a sports-related column. Sort of.

Teaching is a noble profession, one that should attract the best and brightest to a rewarding career of shaping young minds and encouraging lifelong learning.

Unfortunately, some of these teachers become administrators, which grinds out any lofty ideals they had when they first entered the profession (that, and the fact that after 32 weeks of school, most of them can't stand the little monsters anymore).

But occasionally we find news stories about these same administrators, and the phrase "couldn't find it with both hands and a flashlight" springs to mind.

In 2004 in Fort Worth, TX, administrators at Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School were peering into students' cars in the school parking lot, when one of them spotted an eight inch wooden bat inside a car. They tracked down the driver, sophomore Cory Henson, and pulled him out of class, disrupting his educational process. They ordered him to unlock the car and searched it thoroughly, as more students disrupted their educational processes and watched from the windows.

When they discovered the bat had fallen off a baseball trophy — Cory is a junior varsity baseball player — they dropped their flashlights, declared the mini-bat to be a weapon, and immediately suspended him. He was suspended for four days, under Texas' Zero Tolerance scheme, which was hatched in 1995.

Zero Tolerance is the mantra of school administrators who ensure their schools are safe from plastic butter knives, anti-PMS medicine, and students who say "hell" or "gay," as I have mentioned in previous columns.

And the administrators had focused on this mini-bat so intently that they completely ignored the regulation-sized aluminum bat Cory carried in his trunk.

That's why Ignacio Torres, the school's assistant principal, said the mini-bat, and NOT the full-sized bat, was considered a weapon.

I can only imagine the scene, as young Cory Henson was yanked out of class, and told to unlock his car — a machine that generally weighs over a ton and kills thousands of people each year. They then confiscated the little wooden bat, and ignored the big aluminum bat, forgetting that bats are a favorite weapon of seedy bar owners and guys who "wanna know what you said about my sister."

The administrators then escorted Cory into school, which is filled with pens and pencils, which are great for stabbing. Cory may have heard the band practice as he walked, listening to the drummers beat their drums with sticks the same size as the one clutched in an administrator's sweaty hand.

Cory's head may have hung as he walked past the cafeteria, filled with metal forks and knives, and into the assistant principal's office, which contained more pens, pencils, and several pairs of scissors. I imagine he then had to call his mother, who drove her own one-ton vehicle to the school.

But apparently none of this concerned LoEster Posey, the director of student affairs for Fort Worth schools. He told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that if an item is only "prohibited," such as a pocketknife, pepper spray, or firecrackers, the student will be given a warning. But if the item is "illegal," like an eight-inch mini-bat, then the student is suspended.

In other words, if you can stab them, blind them, or blow their fingers off, you're just given a slap on the wrist. If you can whack someone with it, you'll be suspended. But if you can actually kill someone with an item like, say, a full-size aluminum baseball bat, you're allowed to keep it.

I realize that a small wooden bat can be used as a club, but so can nearly ever other item in a school. A large reference book, a cafeteria tray, and even a well-thrown baseball can all become weapons in the right hands.

Suspending a student for having a small bat while ignoring a full-size bat borders on gross ineptitude. But labeling knives, pepper spray, and fire crackers as only prohibited, while a small stick is illegal only reinforces my thoughts about school administrators.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but when you combine it with a little power and very little common sense, you've got something deadlier than any miniature baseball bat.

Maybe we should ban administrators instead.




Photo credit: Peter Miller (Flickr, Creative Commons)


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