Tempest over photo symptom of greater concerns

THE RESPONSE TO THE photograph of three black Sheboygan Falls basketball players, brothers, new to town, is not just a tempest in a teapot.

It is an explosion of interest into the policies of “Zero-Tolerance” and why the concept should be questioned because of the damage it may do to individuals, schools and communities.

There is plenty of research on the subject. Simply Google it.

In a nutshell, serious inquiry suggests that the “local control” of teachers and principals — basically effective — was sometimes found to be bad in individual cases.

As a result, courts developed “student rights” laws.

The unintended result of these laws was that teachers and principals felt forced to develop “all or nothing” rules, which left their subjective insights out in the cold.

This all was put on speed in the wake of the Columbine shootings and the 1994 “No Guns” edict of the Clinton administration. There is no question when the issue involves weapons, overt threats and violence. Beyond that, however, as happened in Sheboygan Falls, the practice becomes far more problematic.

Schools have set out on a path where discipline (once localized and personal) forks off to where fear of mistakes and reprisal may overrun common sense.

The impact has fallen mainly — so the critics say — on people of color and school districts which are mostly populated by blacks.

Fear has become institutionalized.

Has this concept and procedure worked? Are students, schools and communities safer or better off?

It’s debatable. So far, the positives seem to be on shaky ground.

For us, as the situation in Sheboygan Falls evolves, we should pay attention to the questions asked and the answers given.

Do the questions go deeply enough into the potentially subversive nature of how “Zero Tolerance” may become itself an assault on not only individual students but the entire student body the idea is supposed to “protect?”

The reputation of the Sheboygan Falls School District has been tarnished. Its’ own students have openly supported the players during the game at Plymouth Friday by displaying the normallyaccepted three-point gesture for a long shot score — which started the whole debacle.

Beyond that, the image of Sheboygan Falls,

Sheboygan County and Wisconsin has been potentially degraded in the minds of the millions of people who saw and many times commented on the issue.

These included Sports Illustrated, Bloomberg Commentary, ESPN, The Milwaukee Journal and many state or regional newspapers or radio shows.

There have been hundreds of comments, virtually all negative, on our own Facebook page as well as that of others.

Why? Because this decision strikes a deep nerve that there may be something wrong with something we may do which hasn’t been specified and may result in punishment.

Ratcheted up, it goes to the heart of concerns over National Security Administration phone record collections.

Locally, the controversy involved speculation on the part of police liaison officers, which led to a decision which was overturned on appeal. The American Civil Liberties Union has said it intended to probe the issue further to see what, if any, specific codes may have been violated and to assist in training Sheboygan Falls educators and police on how to best deal with what it calls “diversity” issues.

All of this will rightfully move forward. There are many stakeholders, including city promoters, businesses and local government.

It was also an amazing demonstration of how rapidly the new “social media” can pick up and run with stories where perceptions of fairness are involved.

At issue:
Falls basketball players
Bottom line:
Deeper questions to answer

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