Friday, February 09, 2007

Zero Tolerance... Zero Sense

Casey Harmeier, a 10-year-old student in Houston, Texas suburb of Tomball, was in line with classmates and a teacher was nearby when he accidentally brushed a clear plastic cover over a fire alarm. Seeing the cover was ajar, another boy dared him to pull the cover off. Casey removed the cover, triggering a very loud horn. A few hours later, police arrested the boy and he was charged with a felony for the false fire alarm. This is where the story gets interesting.

It was determined that the child did not trigger the fire alarm. The horn that had sounded simply warned that the cover was off the alarm's pull switch. The fire alarm itself was tripped later, by a school secretary trying to silence the horn. Unfortunately for the student, this determination came 51 days after his arrest. The only reason it even came to light - the boy's father is a teacher at another local school and knows how the system works. He found the mistake, but it took weeks to get the system's assistant superintendent to admit it. But no apologies from the school system. Casey still faces charges, although they have been reduced to a misdemeanor. The jury trial is set for May 15th.

Casey had been a good student, making A's and B's, and was well liked by his teachers. He'd never been in any trouble. Since his arrest, he's been put through a session where, without his parents present, he was asked whether they abused him, sexually or otherwise. From the Houston Chronicle report...

After that session he wrote a brief journal item: "I feel like a dieses. Like all I am is a viol monster of a person well at least thats wat I think. I'm always scared every time I leave my parents sight and the questions I had to answer were scary and asked if I had ever been high, drunk, or raped and it scared me."

I don't know how the school system officials (who refuse to drop charges against Casey) and the county prosecutor can sleep at night. The harm they are doing to this child in incalculable. Sure, he made a bad choice. But he is being punished for something he didn't so, something the school secretary did. In-school suspension would have been an appropriate punishment. But arrest and trial? Unbelievable. Sickening...