Charlie Sykes

I have a confession to make. When I was a child, I was a chronic, repeat doodler.

During dull moments at school, I admit, I not only drew soldiers shooting one another, but also tanks, bombers, fighters, and even the occasional space ship with planet destroying powers.

These days, of course, any of them would have been enough to get me kicked out of school. In our era of zero-tolerance, I would surely have spent most of elementary and middle school shuttling between suspensions and expulsions, with an occasional time out for social studies.

Just ask the 7-year-old in New Jersey who was suspended for drawing a smiling stick figure shooting another smiling stick figure with a gun. He reportedly also drew pictures of a skateboarder, a ghost, King Tut, a tree, and a Cyclops. These are still apparently not yet illegal acts of art.

Meanwhile, in South Carolina, high school student Amber Dauge faces expulsion for accidentally taking a butter knife to school. She says that she ran out of the house to meet the bus while making a sandwich and when she realized she had the knife, she put it in her bookbag, and later left it in her locker at. A few weeks later, the butter knife fell out, fellow students saw it, a teacher intervened, and the over-reaction commenced. The knife was seized, Amber was suspended, and the process of expelling her from high school began.

It is not clear precisely what threat is posed by a butter knife, except to a sandwich. Even a dull pencil is a more dangerous weapon; the forks in the school cafeteria are more lethal. But once “zero tolerance” kicks in, educrats refuse to draw such fine distinctions: a butter knife becomes indistinguishable from a samurai sword.

Of course, after Columbine, educators do have legitimate reasons to be concerned about student safety, but the low-grade hysteria and hyper-bubble-wrapping of children in the name of zero-tolerance is really about something else: the refusal of adults to use their common sense.

Some years ago four kindergarten boys in New Jersey were actually suspended for playing cops and robbers -- using their fingers as guns. In Texas, a high school baseball player was busted for having an 8-inch long souvenir baseball bat on the front seat of his car, after officials decided it met the written definition of a “weapon.”

“Nature,” as H.L. Mencken once observed, “abhors a moron.” The same obviously cannot be said of school boards, who often hire them as principals.