Sunday, April 03, 2005


I wonder where all the Leftist champions of "tolerance" are on this one? All tolerances are obviously not equal

Unaware it had turned cool overnight, Eddie Evans's 12-year-old son bolted out of the house in shirt sleeves. He was on his way to the bus stop when his mother called him back for a jacket. In third period the boy discovered that the three-inch pocketknife he had taken to his last Boy Scout meeting was still inside his coat - a definite no-no under the school's zero-tolerance policy. Unsure what to do, he consulted a friend before putting the knife in his locker. The friend turned him in and, after lunch, police arrested him and took him to a juvenile-detention center without contacting his parents, according to senate testimony. Mr. Evans says the school then expelled his son for 45 days and enrolled him in an alternative school for juvenile offenders. By the end, the First Class Boy Scout, youth leader at church, and winner of an outstanding- student award was contemplating suicide. "All the teachers knew it was an honest mistake, but none of that mattered because of the school's policy," says Evans two years later.

Evans is one of the many parents who are trying to change the state's Safe Schools Act of 1995. In fact, Texas - one of the nation's toughest-minded states when it comes to crime and discipline - is now at the forefront of a small but growing movement to relax zero-tolerance policies enacted by states in the 1990s. More than a dozen bills that try to bring a less rigid approach to school discipline have been introduced in the Texas legislature this session, including one that requires school officials to consider a student's intent. The bill is currently moving through the House of Representatives. "We have seen a number of states toy with the idea of scaling back or trying to make the process of school discipline more rational," says Bob Schwartz, executive director of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia. "But Texas is ahead of the curve at this point."......

One former Katy, Texas, high school student says he understands that administrators are trying to create a safe environment, but that they are going too far. A sophomore in 2001, he was late to biology class one day and his teacher sent him to the office for a tardy slip. While he was gone, he says, she asked the class to turn in their spiral notebooks - but no one told him to turn in his notebook when he returned, and his grade dropped from a B to a C. So he scribbled her name on a piece of paper labeled "permanent list of people who piss me off" - a joke, he says. He then tore up the paper and threw it in the wastebasket. But by day's end, he was in handcuffs. He spent the night in juvenile hall, having been declared a "terrorist threat," and spent eight weeks in an alternative school. "Zero tolerance is an absolute joke," he says. "I understand that it makes teachers feel better, but it's making school almost like a prison."

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A student's bylined column in the Alhambra High School newspaper asserting that Latinos lag behind Asians academically because of a lack of parental support has led to an uproar on campus. Robin Zhou, the author of the column, has been threatened with bodily harm by other students, school authorities said. Teachers have held classroom discussions on the issue, sometimes expressing strong views themselves. One teacher reportedly scrawled "Racist' on the article and pinned it on the chalkboard. Opinions have generally converged along racial lines, with Asian students agreeing with the gist of the piece and Latinos questioning whether it should have been printed at all. Some Latino students and teachers wore brown to school Wednesday as a show of racial solidarity. Alhambra High School is 54 percent Asian and 38 percent Latino.

"He wrote an article saying that Mexicans are laggards,' said sophomore Janine Rubalcaba, who wore a brown T-shirt and cardigan Wednesday. "He can have his own opinion, but the school shouldn't let him write it. He should have kept it to himself if he thinks that about us.'

Despite the heated emotions and threats of violence, teachers and administrators say the controversy generated by the opinion piece has been a good thing for the school. "There is much greater awareness now. My goal is not to sweep this under the carpet and get everything back like it was. This is something that needs to be discussed,' said Principal Russell Lee-Sung.

In his "Nerd Rants' column in the March 22 issue of The Moor, Zhou claimed that cultural factors such as "Hispanic parents who are well-meaning but less active' help explain the gap in academic performance between Asians as a group and Latinos as a group. "Is this suggesting that brown people cannot think on the level of white and yellow people Absolutely not. But the difference is real, and it needs to be acknowledged and explained before it can be erased,' Zhou wrote. Zhou, a senior whom teachers and other students described as a science whiz with one of the highest grade-point averages in his class, could not be reached for comment.

Few of those who objected to the article disputed the existence of the achievement gap. What bothered them, they said, was the article's uncompromising tone and its reference to "brown people.' "The statement that was made about culture it's many factors. It's not black and white there are too many factors,' said Alejandra Perez, a Spanish teacher at the school. On average, Alhambra High School's Latino students score significantly lower than Asian students on standardized tests 767 on the API for Asians versus 610 for Latinos, for example. While 44 percent of the school's Asian students take all the courses needed for admission to the University of California system, only 9 percent of Latino students enroll in all of them.

The gap between the two races is not limited to the school or the district but is also apparent in county and statewide statistics. Alhambra administrators and district officials, including Superintendent Julie Hadden, have tried to address the problem with parenting classes and programs that target students with academic potential. But the performance gap had not previously been much of a topic of discussion among students, even though a glance around any Advanced Placement class shows that few Latino students are taking those challenging courses.

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