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School Principal Screwed By Zero Tolerance

School Principal Experiences Zero Tolerance

An elementary school principal got to experience Zero Tolerance first hand, and decided he didn't like it.

Jerry Bostic, was the principal of Brookside Elementary School in Gastonia, North Carolina, until this past Wednesday, when he was told he either had to quit or be fired for wrongly suspending a student.

He chose to retire.

Bostic was the victim of his own form of Zero Tolerance, after he suspended 9-year-old Emanyea Lockett for two days for calling a teacher "cute." Bostic said it was a form of sexual harassment, and suspended the youngster for making "inappropriate statements."

To be fair, the school said Emanyea said "fine" in a suggestive tone, and not "cute," but even so, this is still nothing more than an hyper-dramatic overreaction on their part. You typically don't see finger pointing hysterics like this except from a campaign manager in the final months of the presidential election, not from someone in charge of a bunch of unruly children. But I repeat myself.

In the original suspension letter, the school also says that Emanyea used other inappropriate language to describe other students, which they further used to justify their overreaction.

"What’s in that letter, what they accuse him about — if that’s true, I should have been notified about it," Emanyea's mother Chiquita Lockett told WSOC TV, Charlotte's ABC affiliate. "And if so, then I would have seen where a suspension would have taken place."

But the Gaston County school system thinks Bostic overreacted, and blame him completely for the national furor that arose after stories appeared on cable news, as well as numerous blogs and Twitter messages. They issued a statement exonerating young Emanyea, saying there was no sexual harassment whatsoever, and that they "regret this situation happened." They also said they would send an official letter of apology to Emanyea and his parents.

Then they threw Bostic under a yellow school bus, and told him that his 44-year career as a Gaston County educator was officially over.

Bostic told the Gaston Gazette newspaper that he was given one hour to choose between quitting, being fired, or demoted to an assistant principal. So he chose to quit.

"I made a mistake, but I’ve worked for Gaston County Schools for 44 years and (Gaston County Schools Superintendent) Reeves McGlohon could (not) have cared less," Bostic told the Gazette. "One mistake in 44 years. And I’m not given the benefit of the doubt."

So, a kid says one word — cute, or fine — and you throw him out of school, but you're not given the benefit of the doubt?

While I don't think a two-day suspension is quite the same thing as an end-of-career firing, I'm surprised that Bostic thinks he should have been given the benefit of the doubt when he couldn't give it to a little kid.

That's Zero Tolerance for you. It's a harsh, unforgiving mistress, that just claimed one of its own enforcers.

Zero Tolerance is the Draconian rule that says a student will be suspended or expelled if they bring any weapon or any drugs to school. And not just guns and pot. Students have been ZTed for carrying lunchroom knives and Motrin, without any chance of appeal or benefit of the doubt. They have been thrown out for sharing a hug, sharing a Midol, and leaving a replica baseball bat in their car.

Bostic told the Gazette he wanted to apologize, but was told he could not. "I've had the best of evaluations my entire career and because of some syndicated columnist in New York or California, I don’t have a job."

Let's see if I can remember some of the answers I heard when I was a young student:
You've got nobody to blame but yourself. If you hadn't put yourself in that situation in the first place, this wouldn't have happened. If we make an exception for you, we have to make an exception for every principal. It's all fun and games until someone ruins their reputation.

I'm conflicted on this issue. I'm completely sympathetic to Bostic's plight over losing his job in such an unfair manner. But I think he's getting a well-deserved taste of his own medicine after he suspended a little boy over a single word that wasn't even a bad word.

I wish this would help other school administrators realize the horrible problems of Zero Tolerance, and get them to eliminate it before it claims them in the same unfair manner.

You know what though? I'm sure they'll be "fine." I have no doubt.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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Comments

  1. There is a certain sense of satisfaction from seeing the universe mete out true justice. Hoist with one's own petard!

    Zero Tolerance and its supporters are a scourge on our society and needs to go away entirely.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mellodee, it's funny you said "hoist with one's own petard." I very nearly used that as the title for this column.

    Good one!

    ReplyDelete

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