Loony in Lansingburgh

The Lansingburgh Board of Education has denied a request to strike Matthew Whalen’s suspension from school records. Whalen is the 17-year-old Eagle Scout and National Guard member thrown out school for 20 days after a tiny pocket knife was found in his car in September.

According to the Troy Record, Whalen’s family plans to take the matter to the State Education Department. His father told the paper, “I hope people remember this in May when some of the board is up for re-election.”

The persecution of Matthew Whalen is shameful —but this is what you get when zero tolerance trumps common sense.

9 thoughts on “Loony in Lansingburgh

  1. they denied it? I was quite surprised to hear that he received more than a 5 day suspension which is a common school consequence (I work for a school district!). I have to wonder what more is involved that the district can’t share and the family is choosing not to share.

  2. Interesting question. None of the coverage has suggested that there’s anything more to the story.

    I’m not one to argue against school discipline, but in this case I would have complained strenuously —which probably wouldn’t help matters.

  3. Thanks, Ed. That’s exactly the sort of meticulous attention to detail my readers have come to expect from me 😮

  4. While zero tolerance policies sound good in theory, they are simply too harsh and inflexible to apply to real life situations, as this case illustrates. Also don’t forget about the elementary school boy in the state of Delaware who brought a camping knife, fork and spoon set to school to eat his lunch with and was suspended for a long time. Where I live in Guilderland, we just reexamined our “Dangerous Weapons Policy” in light of these two incidents. Our school board policy is not a zero tolerance policy but imposes progressive discipline depending on the student’s age, intent and disciplinary record at the time of the weapon use or possession. We reaffirmed our policy. I urge everyone to get to know what your school’s policy is and should it be changed or tweaked in light of these two events.

  5. Zero tolerance means zero tolerance. Think West Point lowers their standards to placate absent-minded students? I think this poor kid should be more concerned how his family is turning this into a PR spectacle by dragging his story all through the news. It’s over, it happened, isn’t his suspension over?

  6. My WAG is that this is, in part, an entrenchment after so much national criticism. On its face, there is no no justification or logical rationale for holding to such a draconian, stringent punishment. Even at its beginning, the suspension was disproportionate to the offense (if there actually was an offense at all), and the admin surely must recognize that they are on an island here. Their response is, as you say, loony. There is no principle here, thus, it smack of complete stubbornness and ego to me. A public statement that a young boy’s life and future are small sacrifice to show that the admin isn’t going to be pushed around by anyone’s (or everyone’s, in this case) opposing beliefs.

  7. Sasquatch – while West Point does have rigidity in its rules and regulations and while cadets must confrom to those rules exactly, when it comes to rule violations with strong,potentially life-changing punishments, they do have a process. Cadets go before boards, can offer defenses, have witnesses. Further, for most or all infractions, including the big ones, there decider has a range of punishments that can be applied. In this type of situation, both the violator and the decider have numerous opportunities to use thought and judgment. That is not zero tolerance; in fact, it is diametric to zero tolerance.

    Ideally schools should teach us many things that go beyond mere recitation of facts. Schools should help the matruing process, they should help their students apply those facts, to think, to make informed decisions based upon knowledge. to accept responsibilty for application or misapplication of knowledge. Zero tolerance policies roun compltely counter to that. They prevent the authority from taking facts into consideration, from using those facts to arrive at a specific and individual judgment, to basically use their brains to make thoughful responses. Further, those policies are shields for the cowardly. They allow the martinet to avoid responsibility for making a hard decision when the situation calls for it or a compassionate one where circumstances call for it. The policy allows you not to act as a judge or even as an individual, but merely as a tool that enforces. It is the height of irony that it is the school where zero tolerance is most often used.

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