No tolerance policy needs common sense

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 27, 1999

As two expelled Rankin County students wait to find out their fate after being charged with bringing pocketknives to school, Attorney General Mike Moore says he’s rethinking the state’s no tolerance policy.

While we applaud the state for taking a tough stand on school violence, the no tolerance policy — when applied strictly — has no room to handle things on a case-by-case basis.

And as we all know, most of these school situations are rarely ever black and white.

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Few laws can fit every situation perfectly and this one is no exception.

Some folks may be quick to suggest the state change or modify the existing law.

We disagree.

What we need isn’t a change in the existing law, it’s simply common sense on the part of those school officials charged with applying that law to each case.

School district officials must act as police, judge and jury for the students under their care and as such must consider the intent of the student when handing down punishment for infractions of the rules. Doing so will require school administrators to be strong willed and firm in their judgments.

The Rankin County case isn’t an isolated one either. The Natchez-Adams district faced a similar situation recently after several students were suspended for fighting.

Fortunately, members of the Natchez-Adams School Board had the wherewithal to use good judgment in punishing each student and made its decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Moore is correct; something does need to be done. But we urge lawmakers and school district leaders not to change the law, but to use common sense in creating a solution that keeps our school safe and leaves room for individual circumstances.