October 27, 2003

Rachel Boim, updated

Rachel Boim has been allowed back into Roswell High School until her hearing on November 13th, at which point the school board will decide whether to uphold the suspension. The indignant articles have already begun, and I hope that the outcry has some impact on those who insist that Rachel must be a threat to her teachers:

"Schools with zero tolerance stirs critics":

Fulton County officials said the journal was confiscated because Boim passed it around in class, causing a disruption. And though facing public outcry, Fulton officials stand by their process. But the zero tolerance policy they used likely will face heavy scrutiny.

"Zero tolerance means zero brain," said Brian A. Glaser, an education professor at the University of Georgia and co-director of its juvenile counseling and assessment program. "The hope of zero tolerance was that if you take the human judgment and emotions out, then the rules would be equally applied across various groups."

"Diary entry provokes overreaction":

If only common sense were more common.

Last week, Fulton County school officials expelled an honor student for a story she wrote in her personal diary...

By Friday, after public outrage, those same officials announced they would temporarily rescind the expulsion pending further investigation. They should make that decision permanent...

It probably [?!] was not appropriate for the teacher to read the personal diary that he had confiscated. It certainly was not appropriate to react by delivering the sternest punishment available to a school, which is expulsion.

...dealing with it through punishment, as if writing a story in a private diary was a thought crime of some sort, is an overreaction. Surely cooler heads in the Fulton County school bureaucracy can see the folly of their original approach.

Finally, we have a guest column by Ms. Boim herself:

When a teacher took up my journal during fifth-period class on Oct. 7, I wasn't concerned that someone would read the story about the dreaming girl. I was more worried that some of my poems would be read...

When I wrote this story I never perceived it as a threat. The story was just something I had written at the beginning of the year while I was bored in class...

The journal in question contains some personal poems, plus quotes, songs and stories. It has a collage of words on its cover. At the time it was taken, one of my friends was writing in it.

The following day I was taken out of class by the school resource officer. At first I was really worried that something had happened to one of my parents. When I was told it was about my journal, I thought that it was ridiculous to have an armed guard escort me to the office...

(Yeah, you know how those young, poetry-writing, flowy-haired blonde girls are, statistically, the ones most likely to physically attack a school principal. You can't turn your back on 'em for a second - of COURSE an armed guard was necessary.)

My tribunal was on Oct. 22. It was a closed trial that lasted for three hours. David Bottoms, Georgia's poet laureate, and Megan Sexton, editor of Five Points Magazine, testified on my behalf. We also presented written testimony from the Heritage Professor of Writing at George Mason University, David Bausch, the author of 15 books. The hearing officer found me guilty and sentenced me to expulsion. I don't think it would have made a difference if the pope had testified on my behalf. The decision was made before I even entered the room...

But of course! That's the whole point of "zero tolerance." School administrators should not have to consider evidence, weigh the facts, or make judgments about any situations! I'm surprised there was even a hearing at all. Must be a vestige of those days when school officials actually stopped to think before they expelled students.

This experience will not discourage me from writing. If anything it will motivate me to write more stories. I will just have to be more careful about where I write them and who I show them to.

Unfortunately, she's correct.

Posted by kswygert at October 27, 2003 12:08 PM