"Zero Tolerance" Policy Causing Schools to Resemble Prisons

By:  Bob Adelmann
04/16/2014
       
"Zero Tolerance" Policy Causing Schools to Resemble Prisons

Zero-tolerance school policies are resulting in the criminalization of innocent or childish behavior, with lifelong consequences.

Jordan Wiser, an 18-year-old student at Ashtabula County Technical and Career Campus (A-Tech) in Jefferson, Ohio, about 60 miles northeast of Cleveland, has been caught in the zero-tolerance web. His plans to become a police officer are probably ended. He’ll be lucky to find work anywhere if he’s convicted of a felony.

On December 12, 2013, Wiser was aggressively approached by the principal of his school, demanding that he be allowed to search Wiser’s car parked on campus. Wiser explained:

The principal said he had reason to believe I had weapons in my vehicle and needed to search it.

He made me empty out all my pockets, and the vice-principal grabbed me and patted me down very forcibly.

It was somewhat awkward.

Then they took my car keys.

When Wiser said he wanted to talk to an attorney or his father, he was told that “wasn’t an option.” The search revealed an airsoft gun, a stun gun, and (horror of horrors) a 3-inch folding knife inside the pocket of his EMT jacket which was locked in the trunk of his car. Wiser is — or was — a volunteer firefighter, and had the knife in the event he needed to cut a seat belt to free a victim in a car crash.

But those days, along with his dreams of eventually becoming a law enforcement officer, are long gone. Wiser was arrested and jailed, where he stayed incarcerated for nearly two weeks. In a hearing the judge ordered him to be held on an incredible half-million dollar bond. But he got off a little easier. Said Wiser:

I was in jail for almost 13 days. The first bond hearing I went to was on December 15. The judge ordered me to be held on a half-million-dollar bond, pending a psychological evaluation.

I did that and passed. They found I was not suicidal, homicidal or a threat to anybody.

My attorney brought it up in front of a different judge, who let me out on a $50,000 bond and an ankle monitor.

I was released from jail on Christmas Eve.

His trial is set for June, and the prosecutor isn’t bending. He’s running for an open judgeship on a “no tolerance” platform, and Wiser is unwittingly helping his campaign. Said Harold Specht, currently Ashtabula’s chief assistant prosecutor:

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