Feathers Fly Over School Suspension

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Friday September 29 9:44 AM ET

Feathers Fly Over School Suspension


ATLANTA (Reuters) - Feathers flew in a suburban Atlanta school on Thursday as officials faced criticism for suspending a sixth grader for possession of a Tweety Bird wallet that violated a school weapons policy.

Ashley Smith, an 11-year-old girl at Garrett Middle School, was suspended for two weeks on Tuesday after school officials noticed her wallet, which bore an image of the yellow bird-like cartoon character, was attached to a 10-inch key chain.

The Cobb County school district, which oversees the school, has banned chains as part a zero-tolerance weapons policy that places the items in the same category as pellet guns, ice picks and swords.

Officials said Smith, who maintains a Web site devoted to Tweety Bird, would not be able to appeal the suspension. They noted that students are routinely shown samples of items banned under the weapons policy at the beginning of the school year.

``These items have been used in the past as weapons. A chain like the one in question can have any number of devices attached to it and it becomes a very dangerous weapon,'' said Jay Dillon, communications director for Cobb County school district.

Dillon, who said he could not comment directly on the Smith suspension, added that it fell to the discretion of school principals to determine whether certain items would be banned under the weapons policy.

Callers to radio talk shows in Atlanta spent much of the day mocking the suspension. Civil liberties experts also rushed to the defense of Smith, noting that the school district may have violated the girl's right to due process.

``They shouldn't have jumped to immediately suspend her,'' Jerry Weber, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper.

In 1994, the ACLU successfully represented Atlanta student Rose Marie Spearman after she was suspended and charged with criminal weapons possession for bringing African tribal knives to school for a class project.

-- (hmm@hmm.hmm), October 02, 2000


Hope is the thing with feathers.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), October 02, 2000.

This is a fine example of a reporter with an agenda. What does it matter whether the item clipped to the end of the chain was a Tweety Bird wallet, a PDA with the Cat in the Hat stitched on the leather case, or a bag of sunflower seeds?

School policy is school policy. Fight it if they wish. No problem here. Just don't twist the crap out of the story, Reuters News Service.

What garbage we are fed in the guise of news. Not a reflection on you, hmm. I feel the need to rail against the crap which passes for reporting of the news.

Where's that molten lava pit...

-- Bingo1 (howe9@shentel.net), October 02, 2000.

I don't really see any "twisting" of the news here. The fact that the item was a Tweety Bird wallet was relevant to the story because it was at the crux of the controversy. Reuters didn't cause the controversy, they're just reporting on it. The controversy is what makes it news.

-- (hmm@hmm.hmm), October 02, 2000.

Bingo, I've seen this news on CNN last Friday, and the keychain in question. It was RIDICULOUS to suspend an 11 year old for that everyday common object! The chain was a tiny chain, the cheap kind attached to cheap keychains in dime stores for kids that breaks the next day. In NOWAY could it have been used as a weapon.

The outcry is all about the administration not using common sense whatsoever over this zero-tolerance policy. Where is it going to end? Trust me Bingo, if you had seen the keychain in question, you would agree with me that a pencil or a pen would have been a leathal weapon compared to that. What's next, they're going to ban pens and pencils? You can poke eyes and stab with that! But you couldn't even choke a bird with that chain before it broke.

-- (smarty@wannabe.one), October 02, 2000.

Also Bingo, my outrage is not on the zero-tolerance policies themselves, as I've said. I'm all for that. But those enforcing it MUST use good judgement and common sense. That kid could have been given an explanation by the principal for example, that chains aren't permitted in the school, no matter how innofensive looking they are, and tell the kid not to bring it back to school as a warning. But they suspended the kid, no warning, no explanation, nothing.

Zero-tolerance policies are meant to protect our kids, not to keep them out of school. I bet you every parent in that school is left feeling anxious not knowing what innofensive object their kids could bring to school and be suspended. That reminds me of EZB's "no trolling/flaming" policies! Done at the whim of administration, and if you happen not to be liked by the administration (maybe your skin is black, maybe the principal don't like your father who's your IRS auditor...who knows), well tough for you.

-- (smarty@wannabe.one), October 02, 2000.


Not really sure I want to weigh in here, but here goes. I'm going to speak here as a Californio, & explain that the prohibition came from the long keychains which came into style - what maybe 5 years ago? They WERE gangbanger weapon apparel. I don't know if you realize, but much of the 'fashion' that has been sported on MTV, and filters down to the kids, is gangbanger or prison wear. From the dew, or do rags { & colors} to the buttoning of a shirt only by the top button.

The schools clearly printout their prohibitions from the get go. I don't think the fact that a Tweety Bird was attached at the end means that they have to give her special dispensation. The 'no tolerance' approach is troubling, at times. I was more distrubed by the girl who violated 'drug rules' by carrying Tylenol a few years back.

-- flora (***@__._), October 02, 2000.

Thirteen lines including the header. FIVE lines refer to the IMAGE on the wallet. The image had NOTHING to do with the suspension. Or do I misinterpret school policy as presented in the piece?

The crux of the story is the CHAIN, not Tweety Bird. Where's the description of the chain? It's ten inches long. That's it. When a reporter has just a few lines with which to work he/she better get to the heart of the matter quickly and descriptively.

The girl has a web site devoted to Tweety. How cute. How irrelevant.

No, this isn't just an obvious attempt at twisting the story. It's also a lousy piece of reporting.

-- Bingo1 (howe9@shentel.net), October 02, 2000.

smarty, my above comments do not in anyway reflect my opinion of this school's policies. I have no way of assessing the violence problems nor the quality of communications to students and parents of school policies.

I will say when I was a kid I would have been absolutely elated at a two-week vacation from school WHILE everyone else was in class! I never received more than one week off and then the powers that be instituted Saturday suspensions for infractions.

That was their mistake. I told them I was Jewish and they then had to open up the school on Sundays just for me. Paid a teacher and a custodian. When I dropped out, the principal was actually quite relieved. Imagine that!

-- Bingo1 (howe9@shentel.net), October 02, 2000.


I think you may be missing the point here. Nobody in their right mind can doubt that this 10-inch keychain was *IN FACT* harmless. As has been pointed out above, you could do more injury to someone with nearly anything a child can carry, or even with bare hands.

So you need to ask yourself WHY the school district would choose to suspend an 11-year-old girl for 2 weeks for carrying a harmless keychain. And flora provides the answer -- because such a chain can be *symbolic*. It can symbolize "gangbanger or prison wear". As such, it becomes offensive much as a nazi armband might be considered offensive, though you can't injure someone much with an armband either.

OK, we're dealing with symbolism and intent here. Was it *IN FACT* this girl's intent to mimic, adopt, or otherwise depict a forbidden lifestyle? If so, she clearly deserves discipline according to the school district precepts. If such intent had never crossed her mind, the punishment is beyond absurd, it is counterproductive because it has projected a symbolism where it otherwise doesn't exist.

Hence the emphasis on the Tweety Bird. This is about as far from "gangbanger or prison wear" as one can possibly get. The offensive symbolism in this case is neither intended nor present whatsoever. The school board is either utterly unable to exercise judgment, or dumber than dirt. As hmm says, this is at the heart of the controversy. Something has gone seriously wrong when we start punishing people where harm is neither done nor intended. The Tweety Bird, and NOT the chain, is the real story here.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), October 02, 2000.

I'm Smarty, but that's why I'm a wannabe. I could not explain to you Bingo, as well as Flint has, my outrage over the issue. I know in my guts it's ridiculous and the Tweety Bird is the real crux of the matter, but I could not explain why as Flint has.

I guess that's what Ken Decker means by "critical thinking skills" and writing abilities.

-- (smarty@wannabe.one), October 02, 2000.

flora may be correct. I don't see the gang issue raised in the story. What she says is true outside of this case, no doubt.

I do know for a fact a 10" chain can be used as a weapon. We don't know the actual weight or thickness of the chain, do we? We don't know the construction or if it was filed at any point. My point was the reporter gave the reader squat with which to formulate an opinion, IMO.

Side Note: Even if the girl isn't prime for committing a violent act, another kid can steal the chain and use it with malice. Ever have a chain around your wrist and pulled tight so the circulation cuts off? If the chain is filed it would also cut the victim. This type of thing happened regularly in my school experience. We couldn't have paper clips, for example. A buddy of mine shot one with a rubber band into a teacher's eye in 6th grade.

You assume a lot here, Flint.

-- Bingo1 (howe9@shentel.net), October 02, 2000.


Chains have been banned in our school district for a few years, or so. To most in our little town, this seems absurd. Yet we have several fairly close towns where gang turf warfare is constantly being waged. Some battles are even planned within prison walls, some have carried on for generations and have traveled up from the border {we have a Hatfield/McCoy situation, as well as a deadly north/south war - just within one racial group alone}.

The issue is more complex than it looks from the surface.

-- flora (***@__._), October 02, 2000.

Bingo, I think the problem between your position, mine and Flint is that you're focusing on this one article from Reuters, and I'm including more extensive news from CNN.

I agree with you that this one article above is very sketchy and does not explain in detail the the entire issue.

But the public outcry itself stems from much more than this one article. CNN went into details, and the Tweedy website probably does too, although I have not seen it.

So before we get all bent out of shape on this thread, we should lay down the facts as much as possible.

"I do know for a fact a 10" chain can be used as a weapon. We don't know the actual weight or thickness of the chain, do we?"

Yes we do, at least I do, I've seen the actual keychain held by the actual suspended-from-school 11 year old girl on CNN. The keychain was just as I described in my earlier post. Definitely NOT a weapon or gangmember symbolism.

-- (smarty@wannabe.one), October 02, 2000.

Flint's on the right track.Tweety Bird is how the meth freaks recognize each other.The big boys down at the pool hall told me so.

Tweet Tweet.

-- Sam (wtrmkr52@aol.com), October 02, 2000.

What you are bumping into is a safety problem, and if you are responsible for the safety of minor children - where & how do you draw the line. Trust me, no one in their right mind in California wants to be {literally} caught dead with a red or blue bandana. Yeah, it may sound pretty goofy, til you realize those are the symbols for the Norteno & Serrano gangs. {Now they wear defining underwear & flash the tops at each other before a rumble}.

There was a deaf woman shot on the freeway in Silicon valley a couple of years back. The gangbangers saw her signing & figured she was flashing 'symbols'. {She survived, forutnately}.

If you were a school official, where do you draw the line?

-- flora (***@__._), October 02, 2000.

I withdraw from this thread. I tried to make a simple point and failed miserably. Carry on wayward sons.

-- Bingo1 (howe9@shentel.net), October 02, 2000.

Here's the CNN article. Thanks, smarty.

Georgia school lifts suspension of girl with Tweety bird 'weapon'

September 29, 2000 Web posted at: 8:18 p.m. EDT (0018 GMT)

AUSTELL, Georgia (CNN) -- Cobb County schools Friday reversed the "zero tolerance" suspension of an 11-year-old girl for bringing a "weapon" to school -- a 10-inch long chain attached to a Tweety bird wallet.

The controversial chain

The school board said it was lifting the 10-day suspension of 6th grade student Ashley Smith, removing the disciplinary action from her record and revising the district's weapons policy "to more clearly reflect what types of chains are permitted." Under existing policy, the trinket chain fell into the same category of weapon as swords and nunchakus seen in martial arts movies.

"I thought, when I first heard about (the suspension) ... give me a break," said School Board Chairman Lindsey Tippins. "It makes us look stupid."

The disciplinary action was actually taken by the principal of the Garrett Middle School. The girl's parents said they couldn't believe it and were very angry.

A statement released by the school board late Friday said:

"The Cobb County School District continues to hold student safety as its highest priority. In 1992, the Board of Education adopted the first zero-tolerance discipline policy in Georgia. Since that time, the district has maintained one of the safest records of any school system its size in the nation. This safety record is a direct result of a strong zero tolerance policy.

Ashley Smith's mother shows her daughter's Tweety bird key holder As times have changed, the district has continued to update and improve the policy. Situations like the one involving the Garrett Middle School wallet chain have pointed out where specific improvements are needed. If an error is made in interpreting the policy, it always is best that the error be on the side of student safety."

The suspension raised a local uproar and the school board initially said that the disciplinary action was not open for debate.

Tippins said school principals need to have the authority to make tough decisions.

"It's never, ever the clear-cut decisions that get challenged," he said. "It's the ones where there's a fine line, and it could go either way. People make mistakes sometimes."

-- (hmm@hmm.hmm), October 02, 2000.

Here was the LINK.

-- (
hmm@hmm.hmm), October 02, 2000.


Don't run off.

I'm kinda leery about the 'student profiling' that is being proposed since the Littleton shootings. I doubt those two kids would've fit into a profile any better than many other individuals, 'cept in hindsight.

-- flora (***@__._), October 02, 2000.

Schools have had rules like this for quite some time. I remember when Punky Brewster was popular and my daughters bought different colored laces for their shoes. They were warned that they may not wear different colored laces to school. It had to do with gang colors. Another time, my son was staying with his dad and I'd pick him up from school the next day after school. He had scouts after school, and they were doing soap-carving. He'd been practicing at his dad's, so had to bring the knife to school to bring it home the next afternoon. The knife fell out of his book-bag, was noticed, and I was called to the Principal's office to bail him out.

As a parent, I didn't read the official guideline book that's sent home each year until a few incidences. The kids, however, were read the rules on day 1. They knew exactly what they could/couldn't wear, what they could/couldn't bring.

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), October 02, 2000.

Thanks for digging that up hmm.

This picture only shows the chain, but not the Tweety Bird trinket that was attached to it. The girl on CNN tv news was holding the trinket with about an inch of the chain left attached to it (I guess they let her keep the trinket and confiscated the rest of the chain.)

Some of my comments on the official school board statements:

""The Cobb County School District continues to hold student safety as its highest priority. In 1992, the Board of Education adopted the first zero-tolerance discipline policy in Georgia. Since that time, the district has maintained one of the safest records of any school system its size in the nation. This safety record is a direct result of a strong zero tolerance policy."

I applaud them for thier inniciative and safety record, but I wonder at what price to the innocent kids caught in this, like this girl's case. Imagine if the country as a whole had that same zero-tolerance attitude, we'd all be in prison.

""It's never, ever the clear-cut decisions that get challenged," he said. "It's the ones where there's a fine line, and it could go either way. People make mistakes sometimes.""

I agree with that, and I agree that it's better to err on the side of safety when it comes to kids in school. But I'm glad parents have the right to challenge and do, in outcries such as this, to reverse mistaken decisions. Justice has been well served for this little girl.

-- (smarty@wannabe.one), October 02, 2000.

All right I'll confess. I was sent to the dean's office in jr. high. Not only was I self indulgent enough to join the other inmates in whistling the theme from the Bridge Over the River Kwai - over & over & over again - BUT I was also self righteous enough to tape the hemline of my offending miniskirt right back up after I was released from hard time.

{Bingo, that was before your time, hon. Back in the Dark Ages, before girls were allowed to wear pants}


Aren't you troubled by 'profiling'? That seems much more subjective & potentially damaging in my eyes.

-- flora (***@__._), October 02, 2000.

...my outrage is not on the zero-tolerance policies themselves, as I've said. I'm all for that. But those enforcing it MUST use good judgement and common sense.

Um, "zero-toloerance policy" and "good judgement/common sense" cannot be used in the same sentence. They are mutually exclusive. By definition, Zero Tolerance treats the smallest infraction identailly to the largest. Thence, carrying a nail clipper is as serious an offence as carrying a handgun.

And like the good little socialist you are, you support the criminalization of innocent children, with innocent items. You are a fool. Too bad there are so many like you.

Zero Tolerance = Zero Thought

"Never underestimate the power of large groups of stupid people."

-- no one here (-@-.-), October 02, 2000.

So "no one here", should I interpret what you said as you're completely against zero-tolerance policies?

I think it's safe to say that there are as many "zero-tolerance" policies as there are school districts. I'll not engage with you in a pissing contest over this one. Your spelling and grammar skills are below mine, so there.

Flora, "Aren't you troubled by 'profiling'? That seems much more subjective & potentially damaging in my eyes."

I might be if you point out to me what makes you think I'm profiling. I don't think I am.

-- (smarty@wannabe.one), October 02, 2000.

sorry smarty,

I was referring to something from my previous post. Besides possessing iffy writing skills, it appears to be in my nature to veer perilously Off Topic.

I quickly found a CNN article for you about profiling:

"FBI: School threat report not meant for student profiling" "Findings seen as helping police, educators head off violence"


-- flora (***@__._), October 02, 2000.

I'm with Bingo on this one.

Zero tolerance means exactly that, zero, zilch, nada. You can't say you weren't warned, as they distribute lots of material about this during school registration. When they start making exceptions for little this and little that, that pretty much blows the entire policy, and it's not fair to exclude some students and some instances.

These policies are in place to protect our children. There have been instances of children being killed simply because they looked gang- affiliated. Sad but true. Let school administrators do their job, and parents pay attention to what your kids have in their pockets and backpacks when they leave for school. Go over the rules with them. Take responsibility.

-- cin (cin@=0.)), October 02, 2000.

...should I interpret what you said as you're completely against zero-tolerance policies?

Correct. These policies have no business in our society. All they do is treat everyone the same, no matter if an offense was committed with intent, or in innocence. The case of the girl getting tossed because she took a Midol comes to mind....

Zero Tolerance = Zero Thought

If one carries that to its logical conclusion, a speeder doing 10 mph over the limit, trying to get his pregnant wife to the hospital, would get hte same sentence/bail amt as one going 100 mph over in order to evade the cops. After all, it's still speeding.

"If you treat everyone like a criminal, no one can complain."

Some of you sheeple amaze me. God help us if some of you ever get into power.

-- no one here (-@-.-), October 02, 2000.

flora, I misunderstood your question. You provided a good article, thanks.

Yes, I agree that profiling is very troubling. More so to me than "zero-tolerance" policies, because those appear to be tailored by each individual school district according to the dinamics of a locality and at each school board's judgement. For example in my school district, there is no problem with gangmembers as there would be in LA or NY. On the other hand, profiling would be dictated at a higher level and from a generic point of view. Who would come up with the standard profile? Not the local board members.

It's reasuring that the FBI is speaking out against it.

-- (smarty@wannabe.one), October 02, 2000.


No matter how "zero" a tolerance is, judgment will *always* be required. So there's a "no chains" rule, right? Does this apply only to link-type metal chains? How about 1-inch-long key chains? Chain letters? Chained sentences? Leather or paper chains? Chain dances? Chains of argument or reasoning? At some point, *somebody* has to examine a particular instance and decide whether this instance constitutes a "chain" within the INTENT of the rule. And this is a judgment call, there's no avoiding it. Zero tolerance can never mean zero judgment.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), October 02, 2000.

Flint, my teenage son has one of those chained wallets, and a pocket knife. He knows all too well that neither of the items are allowed on school grounds. They are very clear about this, Flint.

-- cin (cin@=0.)), October 02, 2000.

Bingo, you stupid idiot, it was a harmless chain. What are you gonna do -- outlaw metal necklaces?

Your ilk are the ones ruining kid's educational experiences by banishing them from the schoolyard for carrying fingernail clippers and Tylenol, thinking that you are preventing the next school shooting, not realizing you are helping to entice it.

Get with the program moron.

-- Bingo Dumbo (@ .), October 02, 2000.

BD, I fail to see a relationship between your post and anything Bingo has said in this thread. He avoids either supporting or criticizing the school district in question, believing such would be premature. His only beef (legitimate, in my view) seems to be with the Reuters article.

-- David L (bumpkin@dnet.net), October 02, 2000.

cin, chain wallets are associated with punk movement and drugs in my neighborhood. I won't let my sons have them, no matter how fashionable they are with teens. And pocket knives, well that depends on what the definition of your school's pocket knive is; do they include the type that comes with a nail kit? My school's district was very specific about that, no sharp-edge metal carried in pockets.

-- (smarty@wannabe.one), October 02, 2000.

No one, you said,

...should I interpret what you said as you're completely against zero-tolerance policies?

Correct. These policies have no business in our society.

Were you *trying* for irony, or just saying that you have a zero tolerance policy for zero tolerance policies?


-- Someone (ChimingIn@twocents.cam), October 02, 2000.

cin, I just realized I wasn't very specific myself about the type of "chained wallets" I meant (since this Tweety Bird keychain was a small wallet attached to a keychain.) The type I mean is the regular men's leather type wallet, on a larger sollid chain with a ring at the end meant to attached to a belt hoop (which supposedly is meant to guard against the pick-pockets.)

-- (smarty@wannabe.one), October 02, 2000.

Yes smarty, I know exactly the wallets you are referring to. Some of the skaters around here wear them. I think they are sort of cool, and I don't mind my son having one, just as long as he doesn't take it to school. I know he's not a hoodlum. Anyway, it must now be passe, because I haven't noticed him using it. =)

-- cin (cin@=0.)), October 02, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ