Jordan Wiser, a student at Ashtabula County Technical School in Jefferson, Ohio is rightfully confused after being being arrested for bringing a weapon into school. The “weapon” was a pocket knife that he had in his EMT medical vest . . . that was locked into the truck of his car. That’s right, in the latest example of the insane application of zero tolerance rules, the school officials called police after searching the trunk of a locked car to find a pocket knife used by a senior in his work as a EMT. He was then fed into a legal system that refused to show discretion in his prosecution. Notably, prosecutor Harold Specht ran for office based on a pledge that he would maintain a “hardline, zero tolerance policy” as a prosecutor. It was the perfect storm for Wiser: zero tolerance administrators handing a student over to a zero tolerance prosecutor. But it gets worse . . .
Wiser may now be barred from fulfilling his dream of joining the Army. School officials say that he consented to the search but Wiser insists that he declined to give consent and asked to speak to this parents or a lawyer. School officials searched the car and found the small folding knife and an airsoft gun. (The airsoft gun was legal and used in a school club). They say that they had probable cause after monitoring comments Wiser made on an online forum. They specifically referred to videos that Wiser posted on YouTube discussing home defense techniques and self-defense.
The police was called and the school moved to expel him.
He was then charged with an illegal conveyance of a weapon for the knife.
He then spent 13 days in the county jail. That’s right, 13 days.
He now must enroll in a special online program to complete his education.
We have previously followed the suspensions and discipline of students under zero tolerance policies that are used by teachers to justify zero judgment or responsibility. I have long criticized zero tolerance policies that have led to suspensions and arrests of children (here, here and here and here and here). Here is a prior column on the subject (and here).Children have been suspended or expelled for drawing stick figures or wearing military hats or bringing Legos shaped like guns or even having Danish in the shape of a gun. Despite the public outcry over the completely irrational and abusive application of zero tolerance rules, administrators and teachers continue to apply them blindly. If you do not have to exercise judgment, you can never been blamed for any failure. Conversely, even when the public outcry results in a reversals, teachers and administrators never seem punished with the same vigor for showing no judgment or logic in punishing a child.