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In what has been called a case of political correctness run amok, school officials in Chicago, the city run by Barack Obama’s buddy, Rahm Emanuel, have decided that common tools such as screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers are weapons and must be banned like guns.
“Education truly suffers when school administrators exhibit such poor judgment and common sense, especially when it comes to their zealous misapplication of misguided zero tolerance policies,” John Whitehead president of the Rutherford Institute said. “However, what makes this case stand out from the rest is that this latest victim of zero tolerance policies run amok happens to be a veteran school teacher.”
Doug Bartlett is a substitute teacher with 17 years of experience in the classroom. While teaching a second grade class, the curriculum required a “tool discussion.”
During the lesson, employing a common technique by educators, Bartlett used a visual aid which included several garden-variety tools that included wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers. These tools are found in virtually every home and toolbox in America.
Along with the other tools, Bartlett displayed a box cutter and pocket knife and showed the students the proper use of these tools. When not in use, the tools were kept in a toolbox on a high shelf, which required the use of a chair for even an adult to reach.
On Sept. 27, 2011, following an investigation made after an observer filed a complaint, Bartlett was informed he was being charged by the district for “possessing, carrying, storing, or using a weapon” and “negligently supervising children, inattention to duty and repeated vagrant acts.”
Bartlett was handed a four-day suspension without pay.
The charge specifically mentioned the pliers, wrench and screwdriver along with box cutters and a 2.25-inch pocket knife.
Whitehead said the Rutherford Institute now is filing a civil lawsuit against the district in an attempt to get the weapons charge expunged from his record.
“The outrageous weapons charge could damage and effectively end his teaching career because it is now part of his teaching record and we want to get it expunged,” Whitehead said.
“Despite his 17 years of exemplary service he’ll never get in the door of another school to teach again as long as this remains on his record. When any school pulls up his record they will see the weapons possession charge and it is unlikely they will take the time to read the explanation of the charge.”
In the brief submitted against the district, it says the weapons charge is the result of the overzealous application of political correctness.
Whitehead told WND while zero tolerance policies have been around for years, there is a new movement afoot to take it to a new level where people are being taught to be afraid of anything that remotely resembles a weapon.
“I talk to people today who tell me they cannot even look at a picture of a gun because it is too frightening,” Whitehead explained. “I always tell him to walk down the street and look at a police officer who has several weapons on his belt. As a society we are going to have to live with guns and things that could potentially be used as weapons. If you’re using it safely as Bartlett did then what does it accomplish to make this an issue unless it is to put the fear of the state in somebody.”
Recently a West Virginia student was arrested, jailed and suspended after he refused to remove an NRA T-shirt to school. The arrest occurred after Jared Marcum, an eighth grade student, got into an argument with a teacher who objected to the image of a gun on the shirt.
Whitehead explained that while students like Marcum have been suspended for drawing pictures of a gun or wearing a picture of a gun, zero tolerance policies often go even farther.
“We had a case where a Florida girl, who was an honor student was expelled for year and three months after she passed her nail clippers to another student because it has a little fingernail pick in it.”
The Chicago student handbook defines a weapon as “any object that is commonly used to inflict bodily harm… even though its normal use is not as a weapon.”
The brief says that since it is a student handbook, Bartlett reasonably assumed that the definition did not apply to teachers who were using household tools as part of their instructional material.
“What we’re seeing in the schools today with all of these things is the belief that students are considered threats for doing anything that is slightly out of the ordinary,” Whitehead warned. “What these policies are doing is teaching kids and teachers to be very compliant and conditioning them to live in a police state.“
He also warns there could be unintentional consequences from sending the message to young children that common household items such as screwdrivers and pliers are now considered weapons. For instance, what would happen if a child were to call the police and inform them their parents have a large amount of weapons in their homes, referencing their father’s toolbox.
“The SWAT team would be there in a heartbeat with guns drawn. That has the potential to be a deadly situation very quickly,” he said.
Whitefield said while often courts tend to not use common sense and instead defer to school districts in these types of cases, he hopes the judge will look at Bartlett’s spotless record and realize how foolish the idea of charging him with weapons possession is.
“This is ridiculous; we’re talking about a 17-year veteran with a good record who has experience working with second graders. He definitely knows what he is doing. With all the gun violence in Chicago, it is crazy that the administration is worried about a pair of pliers and a screwdriver.”