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Adrionna Harris

Adrionna Harris

Remember Erin Cox, the honors student and star volleyball player from North Andover High School near Boston who was suspended for five games and demoted from team captain for responding to a friend’s request to be driven home from a party where alcohol was being consumed? Everyone else thought Erin deserved a medal for not letting a friend drive drunk. But the school system felt she needed to be punished for violating the zero tolerance policy of being present where alcohol was being served.

Well, now comes Adrionna Harris of Bayside Middle School in Virginia Beach, Virginia. You decide whether her recent actions deserve high praise. . .  or severe punishment.

The week before last, Adrionna, a sixth grader, saw that a fellow student was cutting himself on the arm with a small X-Acto blade. She stepped in immediately to stop this self-destructive behavior and took the blade away. Then she threw it in the trash and told a teacher.

And that’s when Adrionna got in trouble. Rather than being lauded for her decisive and responsible action in an emergency situation, she was slapped with a ten-day suspension for being in possession of a dangerous weapon on school grounds, with a recommendation that she be expelled.

In other words, had Adrionna not saved this boy from serious harm when no adults were around, and not been honest and truthful about holding the blade for the amount of time it took to seize it from the boy and deposit it in the trash, she wouldn’t have had any problems.

Rachel Harris, Adrionna’s mom, was shocked and contacted the school system. No one would even return her calls until a local television station got involved, and after a few days the heroic young lady was allowed to return to school. That doesn’t make this stupidity any less appalling.

On the adolescent level, the purpose of punishment is to discourage behavior that is harmful, dishonest or disruptive. By punishing courageous and upstanding young people like Erin Cox and Adrionna Harris, are the Massachusetts and Virginia school authorities actually saying they want to discourage the behavior they displayed; that is; selflessly saving their friends and classmates from demonstrable harm?

As we keep asking in these situations: What is your objective? And shame on all of those officials who just don’t have the imagination to get it. Is it that difficult for these shapers of young minds to determine intent when they’re deciding whether a given situation requires discipline?

Adrionna and Erin are now members of a small but growing club of adolescents who display a lot more intelligence, wisdom and character than the adults who are supposed to be responsible for their education.

 A reporter from WAVY asked Adrionna if, knowing what would happen to her, she would do the same thing again.

“Even if I got in trouble, it didn’t matter because I was helping him,” she replied. “I would do it again even if I got suspended, yes.”

Now that’s character. And an example a whole lot of adults could learn from.

8 Responses to Zero Tolerance For Zero Tolerance

  1. carolynquinn says:

    I applaud children like these two girls! Why the schools can’t get it, I don’t know. The trick is to never assume that schools are run by logical individuals. The worst school experience I ever had involved a teacher with serious substance abuse issues and logic was never a part of the equation.

  2. mdricex says:

    Some people just dont think anyone should do anything. If we were all of the opinion of these folks, we would all be speaking German right now. Sometimes you have to stand for what’s right. Thank god not everyone is like the morons who made this decision. What courage it must have taken for that girl, I hope she knows not everyone has the opinions of those who have punished her for her courage. So, I suppose (according to their logic) it would have been better if the poor girl just sat their and watched him, or allowed him to keep the weapon and, therefore, putting herself and everyone else in danger? That is the problem with these types. They all want to say, You should not have done this, but they have absolutely no alternatives for what should have been done. If all you can say is that one approach is not the way it should be handled, instead of giving a realistic solution, then you are just part of the problem.

    People make these horrible judgement calls like the administration in this school, and then the very same people wonder how things like the Kitty Genovese case happens.

    I hope the ACLU picks up this case and sues the entire city.

    • Well said. By the way, there is a fascinating piece by Nicholas Leman about reconsideration of the Kitty Genovese in the March 10 issue of The New Yorker.

      • mdricex says:

        Thanks! I will look that up. This case always fascinated me.

        I was also wondering if either you or Mr. Douglas have any opinions regarding the Boy in the Box case? Perhaps you could maybe do an article on it here one day? If either of you have any previous writings on this please point me to where to locate them?

        MD Rice

  3. Rick Bruner says:

    I like to think things were different when I was growing up, I understand that in many ways schools have acted and continue to act in a discriminatory manner towards minority students. Originally, zero tolerance was viewed as a way to remove individual judgment and thus bias from the school discipline. That said, it has not had the desired results as recent studies continue to show. Bias is alive and well. What it has been effective in doing is removing the exercise of common sense by teachers, administrators and school boards. The message they send is that students should not get involved; they should ignore the needs of others and they should turn a blind eye towards those being abused or brutalized.

  4. Cornerstone says:

    As far back as I can remember, the schools have always punished both parties to any incident. Rather than investigating, which is a simple matter of asking several witnesses — and at school, there are always witnesses — they punish both the victim and the criminal equally. It’s a longstanding tradition based on political correctness (avoiding discrimination charges and parental finger-pointing) and laziness.

    So I’m not surprised that another injustice was done to someone just trying to do what schools have consistently failed to do: protect a student.

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