Ahmed's Clock: Why Children Do Not Benefit from a Zero Tolerance Culture
It took us a couple days after it all went down, but when Irving, TX police released the above photo (credit: Irving PD/AP) some things really hit home. I hate playing Monday morning quarterback, especially when it comes to law enforcement but given what has come to light about this whole situation I am disappointed but not surprised with how this whole scenario played out.
Having gone to school in Texas, I am familiar with how their zero tolerance policies have evolved. I do not agree with them, but I understand in today's overly-litigious society zero tolerance polices are effectively a CYA to prevent lawsuits based on how administrators handle situation. Although this is not going to change zero-tolerance policies it is another point as to why they have created a culture of cuff-first, ask questions later.
Right before the Irving PD held a press conference tweeted something to the effect of "don't end up on the wrong side of history." What I failed to realize was by that point it was too late. I hate the fact that school resource officers have become the police in schools rather than the police at schools. One misunderstanding can lead to a suspension which can inevitably damage a child's life, especially if they are looking to apply to top-tier colleges. Many high schools have become factories which are interested in children passing state exams (for their own sake, not for that of the child) and then letting them go. Although there is a silver lining in this story - the cloud it surrounded was dark. Also, for many kids caught up in Zero Tolerance enforcement, they don't end up with tech giants and the POTUS on their side.
As an engineer this whole situation saddened me; as a parent this unsettles me. I never want to have to go to a police station to talk about my child's invention - especially when at worst - it could be handled by a principal. I understand the need to protect children, but that means we need to protect all children - including the one who brings their ingenuity to school with them. We must balance the physical safety of children with the safety of a child's future because that's then entire point of education.