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Zero Tolerance, Zero Logic?

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Policies meant to keep our kids safe sent dozens of students to jail for a good old-fashioned food fight.

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Food fights are messy, sticky, gooey affairs ... but dangerous? A Chicago school rounded up students ages 11 to 15 for participating in the cafeteria chaos, had them arrested, and charged them with misdemeanors for reckless conduct.

Many parents of students at Perspectives Charter Middle School are stunned at the treatment of their children for what amounts to a schoolyard prank. But the school stands by its decision to have the children arrested. A statement released yesterday says: "The Chicago police officers who help protect our school, concerned about potential injuries resulting from the fight, felt it was necessary to arrest those responsible."

As schools become more and more sensitive to violence erupting on their campuses, "zero tolerance" policies have often become an excuse to crack down on any negative behavior, even if it poses no real threat.

One of the participants in the melee, 13-year-old Cassandra Russell, understands her actions weren't acceptable: "It's wrong because it's a food fight," Russell told ABC. "[But] I never thought I could be arrested for a food fight."

What's next ... kids being thrown in the slammer for throwing spit wads?


next: Teacher Axed for Facebook Photos
6 comments so far | Post a comment now
Thanita November 13, 2009, 4:50 PM

As a mother of a 6 year old daughter with life threatening food allergies, this is a nightmare. A food fight like this could kill my daughter, and that’s not an exaggeration. I had to call 911, Epipen her and ride in the ambulance because she became anaphylactic after hugging a cross contaminated buddy bear (given to her by her teacher from school) this past June. It wasn’t even food (she didn’t have to ingest anything) but someone had eaten something w/her allergen and got it all over the bear. She’s allergic on contact and airborne. So a food fight like this could actually kill her.

I’m on the fence about the arrest. While it may seem harsh, the results of anaphylaxis (death) is worse. So I have to take this into account. I don’t know. Arrest? Death? Hmmmm…

Rachel November 14, 2009, 5:24 AM

If your child has allergies that severe, it might be best to look at other options - homeschool, etc., - or dial down your expectations a bit. It’s impossible to make 100% sure that allergens stay out of school. That being said, this whole story is ridiculous. Arrested? Really?

LindsayDianne November 15, 2009, 7:55 PM

We can’t all cater to the lowest common denominator. Sorry, it’s just not realistic. Our school systems are bogged down enough without having to bleach everything that a kid may touch. I agree with Rachel. Finding alternatives are up to you.


We need to stop this governmental legislation mania and stop it soon. It’s getting out of hand. Enough already!

Thanita November 21, 2009, 11:41 AM

Dear previous 2 posts (Lindsey and Rachel)-

I suppose then we should just round up all the kids with Autsim and send them to a “special school”, then we’ll take all the kids with blue eyes and put them all in the same class, then we can take all the kids with type 1 diabetes and send them off too? Point being, it is within my child’s civil rights to go to school and be safe at school.

Food allergies is considered a hidden disability and is treated much like diabetes. Children in school with food allergies are protected by the ADAAA which allows their parents to set in place accommodations that will keep them not only safe, but alive. My child, while she has life threatening food allergies is very intelligent and has a lot to give to this world. I will not allow her allergies to stop her from doing what she loves. She deserves the right to be with her friends, go to school, learn in the same classrooms as they do and go to field trips. In short it is within her civil rights to receive the same opportunities as everyone else.

Your comments, while you may feel justified are closed minded and breeds discrimination. Where would we be without the ADA? I have 2 older children with special needs. My son is Autistic and is FULLY included in class. Do you know what a long road it’s been for families to be able to do this? Now we are facing this with our food allergic daughter. I’ll be damned to allow this kind of thinking to sway me from giving my daughter what is rightfully hers.

In conclusion, this food fight could have killed another child. Plain and simple. Get your head out of your rear and let’s stop pretending that this is the 1960’s. ‘Good ‘ol fashion food fight’ was then, this is now.

egene November 23, 2009, 5:51 PM

The school has the authority and responsibility to protect students from potential harm. The school exercised this responsibility and sadly many parents are outraged their children were arrested. Tragic, as the parents shud be applauding the school and the police for doing precise what they are responsible to do. The food fight should never have happened and all participants should be severely punished for their outrageous behaviors that are unacceptable in a learning enviornment like a SCHOOL. The parents should be thankful and when their children return home they should have a long sit down with them to explain to them something about values, rights and wrongs and the consequences of doing wrong.

Robert December 29, 2009, 9:41 AM

Yes, I agree that something should have been done about the food fight, that should be a given. But arresting a bunch of kids for throwing mashed potatoes and peas at each other? Seems a little overdone, in my opinion.


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