November 12, 2003


Sixteen-year-old Ryan Richter got kicked out of school Monday morning for a stick-figure drawing that another student thought was a violent threat.

Richter, a LaBelle High School sophomore, sketched a figure shooting another figure. He did the sketch in a recent geometry class and passed it along to a friend and thought nothing else of it.

The classroom doodling, however, got him suspended for a week and as of Monday’s disciplinary hearing, got him kicked out of LaBelle High and recommended for a 45-day stint in Hendry County’s alternative high school.

Violent drawings -- though this one doesn't sound like it qualifies anyway -- ought to be looked at as potential warning signs, something that might lead to appropriate treatment of kids who are genuinely troubled and dangerous. Instead -- because school administrators are, basically, stupid and lazy -- they're often treated as disciplinary problems and subjected to "zero tolerance," a bogus solution that only makes things worse.

(Via Matt Welch, who observes that "Based on today's lunatic standards, the material in my early-'80s high school notebooks would probably qualify me for the death penalty in a dozen states.")