HBA’s Change of Heart

From the April/May Eagle Eye Print Edition

On February 14, 2014, HBA administration enacted a landmark decision when it changed its Zero Tolerance Policy from an automatic dismissal to a case-by-case review. That decision, in my opinion, was a foolish one.

Perhaps one can analyze the context of the decision and defend the administration. A recent incident that would have resulted in automatic dismissals led to the policy change, and the school administration cited grace as part of its rationale for the change. Understandably, the administration’s decision process was a herculean task, but an automatic dismissal policy should still be in place. A closer analysis of the Zero Tolerance Policy will reveal that most violations in this category are in violation of the law, whether it be federal or state. Most students, from the beginning of their school careers, are constantly reminded never to bring firearms, drug and related paraphernalia, intoxicating substances, or tobacco to a school campus. Ignorance is one thing, but knowingly breaking one’s commitment to the school, which all students signed contracts to, as well as to the law is just an inherently heinous crime.

[one_third]Ignorance is one thing, but knowingly breaking one’s commitment to the school, which all students signed contracts to, as well as to the law is just an inherently heinous crime.[/one_third]

In addition, breaking the law is inconsistent with the school’s Expected Schoolwide Learning Results; one cannot be a community builder by practicing good citizenship when he or she is clearly violating a contract or law, which he or she agreed to abide by. The action of the administration tells the public that it is currently fostering an environment in which students who break the law can walk away with reduced punishments, which makes the administration absolutely ridiculous and worthy of ridicule.

Is it possible that the administration has gone overboard with both grace and punishment? In this recent incident, the school did not notify the police, which is understandably appropriate. This alone should have been gracious enough, but the administration went further by removing its automatic dismissal policy. Ironically, this reversal creates an unintended cruel punishment; the students who returned to school inevitably have to face not only the stigma of having committed zero tolerance violations but also the people who disagree with the decision not to expel them.

I can only imagine how difficult it could be for them to explain in their college applications why they were suspended from school. I imagine it will also be a difficult task for teachers and counselors to write immaculate recommendations for them. It may have been in the students’ best interests to have left and started fresh. Every justice system must have what Teddy Roosevelt coined a “big stick.” Has the school lost some muscle to prevent future violations by retiring its “big stick” of automatic dismissal? To be fair, the fact that the administration did not rid itself of the power to expel students is worth noting. The updated handbook now says, “The following actions…could result in dismissal.” Students should continue to be aware of their actions and keep in mind that extreme consequences are still probable. Yet given the administration’s recent change of heart, what is next on their agenda is anyone’s guess.

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