I am a columnist at The Washington Post and I have written frequently over the years about the devastating and unproductive impact of the zero tolerance policies in the Fairfax school system. I've been alerted to Josh's tragic story through your family's blog and I wonder if it might be possible to sit down with Josh's mother to talk about what happened and how this terrible experience might be an opportunity to put new pressure on the school system to reform its approach.We agreed to meet with him because we do have questions regarding the zero tolerance policies in FCPS and the way Josh was treated as a result. For those who are new to the blog, please refer to the following post to understand the circumstances surrounding Josh's death.
His article ran in today's paper; it is on the first page of the Metro section.
There is a place to post comments on the article and I've had to make sure that I was ready to read them, as it is inevitable that many would not find any problem or issue with the zero tolerance policies in FCPS. Perhaps, not having been subject to the School Board hearing process with our other three children, we would've agreed.
However, for any parent who has had a child suspended with the recommendation for expulsion, and the subsequent treatment as if he/she were a hard-core drug dealer or someone who has brought weapons to school, our contention is that the policy of a "one-size-fits-all" does not do justice to our young adults and the resulting punishment does not fit the crime. One of our main issues that was not really brought forth in the article as much as we would've liked is this: Why aren't there varying degrees of consequences that are aimed at teaching our young people about their choices? Shouldn't expulsion be reserved for those kids who are a genuine threat to the school community? Why isn't this question being asked on the teacher/counselor evaluations?
It is too late for Josh, but not for other parents and teens who are reading this blog. I would urge you to post comments to his article and decide at the very least, to demand that the School Board provide statistics on the effectiveness of this policy. Once the stats have been disclosed, the parent community can then determine if the School Board should look at what, if any, revisions are necessary.
This is an important issue for all parents who send their children to FCPS, as despite our best efforts to raise kids to make good decisions, anyone with a teenager knows that they are their own person.