Belleville West's expulsion of Vantezz Carter caught my attention. While sitting in a car that was parked on Belleville West property, Carter apparently pointed an Airsoft-style handgun out the window. Carter did not own the handgun replica.
Carter, who is 18 and would have been a Belleville West senior in the fall, does not deny pointing the imitation handgun out the window. However, wishing to define his own punishment, Carter goes on to claim that expulsion is an extreme penalty. Not so.
First, the magnitude and frequency of recent firearms violence in public schools more than justifies a zero tolerance policy. You display a gun, or even a toy which is specifically designed to appear as a handgun, and you are removed from the school. Period. It does not matter who you are, what you really intended or whether or not anyone was injured. Zero tolerance means no excuses and no leniency.
Second, expulsion is appropriate because it represents a real-life lesson in the consequences that can follow foolish conduct. How many prison inmates would like to have the capacity to define their punishment? Just as inmates are not permitted to determine their penalties, students must bear the consequences of their behavior.
Finally, Carter speaks of second chances. I favor second chances that are earned at a price. Perhaps the Belleville High School Board might lift the expulsion in exchange for Carter's performance of 400 hours of school-related community service over the summer and 400 additional hours of similar service during the next school year.
Redemption always comes at a cost and can be quite expensive.