Pubdate: Wed, 14 Apr 1999
Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (TX)
Copyright: 1999 Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas
Author: Larry Nickerson
Note: This letter is followed by the column to which the letter refers. -ed


I can't tell you how much I enjoyed J.R. Labbe's column on Friday,
"BEER: Better Erase Egregious Rules."

Oh, how contradictory indeed are our expressed ideals, and the
expression of our policies and laws. Everyone says they want less
government intrusion, and then they zap us with more than ever before.

Of course, it's all for the good of society. Yeah, right!

The kids (God bless their self-image) are forced to do something in a
cup -- we want to catch them smoking dope, you know. Then we are told
that gambling is evil and illegal, but we are enticed to play the
lottery. They search our private parts at the airport if they don't
like our looks because we might be drug couriers. Yes, kids, drugs are
bad; but parents, if you don't get some Ritalin for your kids, they
are going to get kicked out of school.

It used to be that loyalty was first to God and family. Maybe that's
changing. I can see a brave new world out there with rewards for
telling on your customer, your doctor and anyone else you can get some
inside information on.

You don't like what's going on? Better do something while you still

Larry Nickerson
Fort Worth

Think BEER, Arlington: Better Eradicate Egregious

For a community that was quick to pooh-pooh Hillary Rodham Clinton's
idea of "it takes a village to raise a child," Arlington sure has
embraced the theory with a vengeance.

Leadership in my old hometown has always postured that the city of the
Flying A is a conservative bastion that believes in less government
intrusion in people's lives. You sure couldn't prove it in the last
few years as the elected leaders on the City Council and the school
board continue to pass ordinances and policies that reflect a growing
desire to tell folks how to run their private business -- including
how to discipline their kids.

Take the recent move by school district officials to file public
information requests with the police to get the names of 50 students
who allegedly were cited during spring break for alcohol violations.

The district's zero-tolerance policy extends beyond what students do
during school-related events. Minors caught with alcohol on or off
campus can be suspended from participating in extracurricular
activities for the rest of the school year.

I have no quarrel with district officials taking action against
students caught breaking the rules during school-sanctioned events,
whether they are on or off campus. If students attending a game in
another district break the rules, then bust their little rear ends.
Yank them off the debating squad; forbid participation on the football

But Arlington's policy encourages snitches to inform district
officials about youth activities that are totally unrelated to school.
Under the current policy, students can be banned from extracurricular
activities for the rest of the school year if (1) a district employee
sees them in possession of alcohol, (2) they confess to having
alcohol, or (3) if they are ticketed by police.

District officials found out about the spring break violations because
some of the students allegedly involved were athletes and the rumor
mill was running at full-tilt boogie. Had it been a group of no-name
nerds whose only involvement in school is showing up to class every
now and then, no one would have bothered talking about it, and the
district wouldn't have bothered with requesting the police records.

Even Superintendent Mac Bernd admits that the third caveat to the
policy is only enforced selectively. Bernd said that the district
won't ask for citations on a regular basis, fearing it would be too

No kidding, Mac.

But such thinking makes one question how committed the district really
is to cracking down on teen drinking. If only the high-profile cases
draw scrutiny, it looks like the district is more concerned about
public image than the students' well-being.

Frankly, I'm amazed that Arlington hasn't instituted mandatory drug
tests for students wishing to participate in extracurricular
activities. It's just the kind of thing that would seem to appeal to
zero-tolerance zealots. Let's not wait until a teen exhibits signs of
possible drug use -- let's assume they are all guilty and have
everyone void into vials.

The only school district connection in the alleged Spring Break Bust
was the fact that the teens were enrolled in public schools. Shouldn't
it be the business of the police and the little miscreants' parents to
determine punishment, and not the school district?

Somebody has to do it, argued a colleague, and the parents aren't.
Yeah, he's right. Not every family has Ozzie and Harriet as Mommy and
Daddy. Some parents aren't as engaged in their children's activities
as they should be, and perhaps they don't discipline the way you or I

But you know what? There are parents who don't make their kids brush
their teeth twice a day either, and let them watch garbage on TV, and
let them stay up to all hours of the night -- all of which undoubtedly
can be documented by some sociologist or child psychologist somewhere
as contributing factors in the overall disintegration of a child's
ability to learn. Should the school district step in to dictate
bedtimes and personal hygiene and TV viewing habits?

The scary thought is that there are probably people on the school
board who would love to do just that.

Arlington trustees are reportedly revisiting the district's
zero-tolerance policy. That could be good news or bad news, depending
on what they decide to do. And unless they decide to do away with a
policy that infringes on parental rights, one that disciplines only
students involved in extracurricular activities, one that selectively
enforces the rules, one that extends beyond school-related activities,
then they're wasting their time.

Jill "J.R." Labbe is senior editorial writer and columnist at the
`Star-Telegram.' She can be reached via email at  by phone at (817) 390-7599.
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