Captain's Quarters Blog

« Ugh ... | Main | Lawyers outta control »

October 11, 2003
"Zero tolerance" rules make zero sense

I understand the motivation behind dress codes such as this, but when they're implemented in an inflexible manner, it makes everyone look ridiculous.

An 11-year-old Oklahoma girl has been suspended from a public school because officials said her Muslim head scarf violates dress code policies.

Board officials met Friday to discuss the fate of suspended sixth-grader Nashala "Tallah" Hern, who was asked to leave school in the eastern Oklahoma town of Muskogee on October 1 because she refused to remove her head scarf, called a "hijab."

"Zero tolerance" rules really mean "zero thinking", and this is a great example of it. Gang members do identify themselves through clothing, including headgear, usually with professional sports merchandise. Prohibiting such displays makes sense, and public schools should try to eliminate them. However, instead of exercising some judgment or making the effort to determine what is and is not acceptable to wear, administrators take the easy way out and simply ban all headwear, regardless of purpose or motivation, and then assign that policy a "zero tolerance" label. Trapped by these policies, schools inevitably make idiots of themselves by making decisions like banning a Muslim girl from wearing her hijab, even though there is no earthly harm that will result to anyone if she does. Even the attorneys end up sounding like fools:

"As I see it right now, I don't think we can make a special accommodation for religious wear," said school attorney D.D. Hayes. "You treat religious items the same as you would as any other item, no better, no worse. Our dress code prohibits headgear, period."

School policies should be specific, but should allow for some judgment, in order to promote a safe environment and respect for their authority. Promulgating foolish decisions out of a refusal to use judgment does nothing but create hard feelings and reinforce the notion that administrators are out of touch with reality, neither of which promotes an environment of safety and trust. Remember this whenever you hear about zero-tolerance policies.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 11, 2003 9:35 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry is

Design & Skinning by:
m2 web studios

blog advertising


Proud Ex-Pat Member of the Bear Flag League!