Honestly, sometimes I feel like I could post every day about some ridiculous disciplinary overreaction, and that 90% of the time, the student victim of the zero-tolerance abuse would be a boy. Take for example the case of an unnamed 14 year-old from Lewisville, Texas, who recently had delinquency charges pressed against him–and then dropped–by local prosecutors for sniffing his teacher’s hand sanitizer. That’s right–this poor boy worked his way through school disciplinary action, a police investigation, and nearly to court before prosecutors decided that taking a big ol’ whiff of Purell may not be against the law.
Admit it, you think I’m exaggerating here. No one could possibly find something amiss in a kid’s smelling of hand gel, could they? (Well, I do find something a little amiss, inasmuch as hand sanitizer smells like drunk cartoon flowers, but some people like the smell of Axe Body Spray, so what do I know?) But no, that’s exactly what happened. The boy (whose name was withheld from news reports at his father’s request) used his teacher’s hand sanitizer, took a big sniff of his hands afterwards (because he liked the smell), and was disciplined for trying to “huff” the sanitizer fumes as intoxicant. No, I am not kidding. It was a drug charge. According to the local assistant police chief, all the kids are doing it nowadays, though apparently the National Institute of Drug Abuse in Washington, DC had never heard of abusing hand sanitizer as an inhalant–though there have been reports of people trying to drink it because of its high ethyl alcohol content. (Proving once again that there’s nothing too disgusting and stupid for someone somewhere to try to consume.)
In the interests of blogging integrity, I just took a big sniff of the bottle of Purell in my purse and can report that I now feel slightly nauseated, but am definitely not experiencing anything even close to drug-like exhiliration. Also please note–I am a trained professional at sniffing strange things from my purse, and you should not under any circumstances try this experiment at home.
Anyway, I do feel that while such ludicrous zero-tolerance policies are injurious to all students, they also tend to disproportionately affect boys. Why? Well, I think that the bias and inclination to view boys as troublemakers plays into it–so that some people are ready to interpret a boy’s innocent actions in the worst possible way. (Seriously? Sniffing one’s hands as drug abuse?) Moreover, I think that boys’ natural interests and energy , as well as the way that they tend to favor physical action also play into the problem. (As in the famous case of the boy who was disciplined for drawing a soldier with a gun.) And I definitely think that this undercurrent of suspicion contributes to the creation of the anti-boy school experience. Really, if you were a young boy, how enthusiastic would you be about learning in an environment where they call in the police and accuse you of doing drugs when all you did was indulge your appreciation for artificial scents?