Scott Tibbs

Zero tolerance = zero intelligence

By Scott Tibbs, April 5, 2006

This is an open letter to the school board and administration of Warren Township Schools.


While reading the Indianapolis Star, I discovered an amazing display of stupidity by a government school principal in Warren Township Schools in Indianapolis. An eighth grader had been working with his pocketknife at home. When he was dropped off at school, he realized the knife was still in his pocket. He went directly to the office and turned in the "weapon".

Elliot Voge had been "recommended for advanced placement courses in English, science and social studies for his freshman year at Warren Central High School", according to the Star. Jimmy Meadows, the principal at Voge's school, described Voge as a "model student". That did not prevent Meadows from suspending the boy for an unreasonable and excessive ten days and going to the ridiculous extreme of recommending the boy be expelled from school. Keep in mind that the Star reports that the school does not even have a zero tolerance weapons policy!

I agree with Meadows that expulsion is needed, but not of Voge. Meadows should be "expelled" (fired) from his position as principal. He clearly does not have the good judgment, discernment or common sense required of a principal in our government school system. Taxpayers should not be required to pay the salary of someone who is so grossly incompetent at his job. Keeping him on staff will greatly undermine faith in the government school system's commitment to provide a good education to Hoosier children and treat those children in a fair manner.

What is stunning about this whole situation is that Voge did everything right. When he realized he was carrying the knife, he turned it in. He did not try to hide his error; he instead showed maturity by recognizing a mistake and trying to correct it. Voge could have easily hidden the knife, took it home after school and never spoke of the matter. For doing the right thing, he was harshly punished.

What message does this fiasco send to young people at Stonybrook Middle School? It tells them that lies and deceit are preferable to honesty. If they bring a "weapon" to school by mistake, they are to try to hide that weapon and make sure no one knows it exists. They will avoid punishment by being dishonest, but taking responsibility for human error will bring the wrath of the administration.

As it turns out, it appears that someone in the school system actually has some intelligence and Voge will not be suspended after all and will be allowed to make up missed work. However, Voge's parents are now facing $2500 in legal bills as a result of an incompetent principal. The honorable thing to do would be for the Warren Township school system to completely reimburse all legal costs they have incurred as a result of the outrageous actions of Jimmy Meadows.

Thank you for your time.

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