Monday, June 18, 2007

When Rules Trump Common Sense

Posted by Picasa Zero tolerance strikes again in California: "A fifth-grade promotion ceremony in Rancho Palos Verdes turned into a free-speech battleground Thursday, when students were asked to remove weapons from toys that had been placed on mortarboard caps because of the school's zero-tolerance policy for weapons on campus....
"Each year, students decorate wide caps with princesses, football goal posts, zebras, guitars and other items to express their personalities and career goals. Cornerstone at Pedregal School is the only Palos Verdes Peninsula public school to practice the tradition.

"On Thursday, before the ceremony, one boy was told he couldn't participate unless he agreed to clip off the tips of the plastic guns carried by the minuscule GIs on his cap. Ten others complied with the order before the event.
"In enforcing the decision, the district cited its Safe Schools policy and the federal Gun Free Schools Act of 1994, a federal law designed to remove firearms from schools.

"Susan Liberati, an assistant superintendent, said she believes 'the principal has interpreted district policy accurately, and we support her in that.'

"A copy of the district's Safe Schools policy obtained by the Daily Breeze includes no mention of toy army men. Students found to be "possessing, selling or otherwise furnishing a firearm" are expelled for one year, the policy states.

"Weapons are also mentioned in the board's "weapons and dangerous instruments" policy that allows only authorized law enforcement or security personnel to possess "weapons, imitation firearms or dangerous instruments of any kind" on school grounds."
We have all read many cases like this where minimal judgment is thrown out the window based on one policy or another. And given the quality of the decisions made by these teachers of America's children is it any wonder results are so under par.
I am also reminded of the fact that even our judges are so hand-cuffed by mandatory sentence statutes that judgement is taken away from good judges. Onerous sentences are imposed for offensives committed under varying circumstances that often require and demand creative, and yes, sometimes lenient, sentences. Drug cases clearly fall into this trap many times given the number of incarcerations for minor drug offenses.
Andy McCarthy referred to this in a recent post in The Corner:
"With lots of support from conservatives, Congress several years ago was determined to make sure convicted felons were taken off the street. (Based on similar concerns that weak liberal judges were not cracking down hard enough on crooks, law-and-order conservatives similarly supported the very same draconian sentencing guidelines that resulted in Libby's 30-month sentence.) Basically, congress — with broad public support — has removed judicial discretion because we no longer trust judges to be judges.

I hate this new system (which came into being in 1984 and has gotten worse since). Yes, judges occasionally make outrageous rulings (those are the small percentage of rulings we hear about). But, most of the time, left to their own judgment, they act pretty reasonably. Our statutes, however, no longer leave them to their own judgment. "

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