Don't Let Me Stop You

What the heck, you'll do what you want anyway.

Zero Intelligence

Posted by Dan Draney on September 30, 2005

The Omaha Public School District is trying to convince the neighboring districts that this is an organization they should join. Catching 6 yr old Ethan Gray, an Omaha first grader, with a “deadly weapon,” OPS immediately swung into action.

TheOmahaChannel.com: “OMAHA, Neb. — A butter knife in a boy’s book bag led to suspension at Omaha Public Schools this week. Ethan Gray is a first-grader at Ed Babe Gomez Heritage Elementary School at 17th and P streets. Gray said he didn’t know the knife was in his book bag. OPS said it has a zero-tolerance policy.”

They might also have mentioned that they have zero sense, but perhaps that was clear enough without saying it. Apparently, the boy’s 4 yr old brother slipped the knife in the bag when no one was looking. The parents contacted a lawyer to fight the suspension, who advised them to keep the boy out of school and threatened to sue OPS if the boy’s record wasn’t cleared.

So Nebraska once again looks stupid on the newswire and in Best of the Web. Fortunately, some sanity returned, and the suspension was lifted. The child won’t be punished.

Omaha World Herald columnist, Michael Kelly, says:

For every overreaction, there is an equal and opposite overreaction.

An Omaha school, earnestly trying to do the right thing under a zero-tolerance policy, gives a 6-year-old a one-day, in-school suspension because a butter knife fell out of his backpack.

The child said he didn’t know it was in there. (His parents say a 4-year-old brother may have slipped it in.) Was the swift-and-certain justice of a first-grader losing six hours of in-class instruction really merited?

Then came the second overreaction:
The parents take the child to the office of attorney James Martin Davis, who on Tuesday stands with the boy in front of TV cameras. Davis threatens a lawsuit and righteously fulminates about this unfair blot on the pupil’s Permanent Record.
Omigosh. Overall, wasn’t the whole situation overkill?

Couldn’t the school have contacted the parents, emphasizing the importance of not allowing any kind of knife in school and letting it go at that? Was it necessary for the theatrical Davis to call a press conference?

Even the attorney’s friends joke that the most dangerous place to stand is between Jim Davis and a TV camera. His is the most familiar face and mop of graying hair in the Omaha legal community.

Davis, a Vietnam infantry veteran and former Secret Service agent, boasts that he keeps some Omaha reporters’ phone numbers on his speed-dial.”

Well, at least he got his client off, but we agree this looks like massive overkill. Meanwhile, the world has heard about the incident now, so the fact that it’s not in the boy’s official file is almost beside the point. Now it will show up in his Google searches for life. Talk about a “permanent record.”

One hopes that a quiet talk between the parents and OPS could have given the same outcome without actually needing to push the button to launch the lawyer. We weren’t there, of course, but wouldn’t OPS officials have been smart enough to cut their losses before they looked like complete idiots in front of the whole country? One hopes.

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