October 22, 2019

"A black security guard who was fired from Madison’s West High School last week for repeating a racial slur a student had hurled at him, in an attempt to correct the student, will get his job back."

"Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore said she rescinded the termination of Marlon Anderson Monday. The decision comes less than a week after Anderson was fired Wednesday for what he said was defending himself from a student who was calling Anderson the N-word. The incident was followed by days of outrage among community members, a student walkout and national attention.... In a statement, School Board President Gloria Reyes said she asked Belmore to rescind the termination, which stemmed from a zero-tolerance approach by the district on the use of racial slurs by employees. The policy, put in place last year, has resulted in at least seven employees losing their jobs."

The Wisconsin State Journal reports.

That shows that applying pressure works, not that any of these authority figures have good character or judgment. And what are they going to do about the other employees who lost their jobs under the zero tolerance policy? Those former employees shouldn't get worse treatment just because there was no display of outrage on their behalf.

If a contextualized judgment is what was required for Anderson, then it's required for all of them. You don't have a zero tolerance policy if you make exceptions.

The zero tolerance policy began as a device that made life easier for those in power, and their interest in their own comfort is underscored by their caving to pressure when that policy made their life difficult. What we're left with is unprincipled power. Have a clear rule and stick to it or consider all the circumstances for everyone. The school authorities do not deserve the ease of leaving those other cases closed.

59 comments:

tim maguire said...

A zero tolerance policy is also a tool of unprincipled power. It represents the abdication of responsibility by those in charge.

Michael The Magnificent said...

Did the students who were calling him the N word got expelled?

Char Char Binks said...

What about all the wypipo who were fired for the same "offense"?

Fuck that n-word!

Bay Area Guy said...

Good result - stupid ass policy and administration.

narayanan said...

The zero tolerance policy began as a device that made life easier for those in power.
_______________
Oh Wise and Cruel and Neutral Emerita - please explain difference between :

Off with this head says Red Queen and zero tolerance policy

MayBee said...

I agree with Tim Maguire and Althouse, too.

I have zero tolerance for zero tolerance policies.

etbass said...

Right you are, Althouse.

gahrie said...

If I was one of the seven fired, I'd be filing a lawsuit right now.

Skeptical Voter said...

A zero tolerance policy is, in all too many instances, a form of virtue signaling. And it also reflects the absence of thought, as well as abdication of responsibility.

Bobb said...

I assume slurs like "All Trump supporters are racist" are exempted. Otherwise, most activist teachers would be gone.

Rick said...

The zero tolerance policy began as a device that made life easier for those in power,

It's a tactic for those in power to avoid responsibility for exercising it.

wendybar said...

And the kid probably got a pat on the head. Nothing to see here, except intolerance for the wrong people.....AGAIN!!

tcrosse said...

A zero tolerance policy allows one to say "Hey, I don't make the rules. I was only following orders".

rcocean said...

Zero tolerance results in these Alice-in-Wonderland firings and rulings. First, why shouldn't the man have been disciplined by a suspension or reprimand? Why the application of the "death penalty" aka termination for saying Nigger? Crazy.

Second, if all we need is someone to say "off with his head" "execution first, trial later" under zero tolerance, you need to hire someone less expensive for the Superintendent's job. Just find a clerk who can do it. Third, as Althouse says; what about everyone else who got fired? Looks like they need to lawyer-up and get a payout.

Peter said...

As a lawyer, I an absolutely convinced zero tolerance policies are the tools of totalitarians. Kudos to Ms. Althouse.

Amadeus 48 said...

"What we're left with is unprincipled power."

That's what we started with, too.

Fernandinande said...

slur a student had hurled

You hurl sixteen slurs, what do you get?
Another security guard fired and MSM beset.

Those former employees shouldn't get worse treatment just because there was no display of outrage on their behalf.

They white.

Hagar said...

We need to have rules so that we can tell what we are deviating from.
Otherwise it is just anarchy.

CJinPA said...

As a former school board member overseeing a majority-white high school and majority-black high school, I am familiar with this.

the previous cases in which staff were either fired or resigned over the use of racial slurs all involved white employees.

1. Are there different standards for white & black employees? Is context allowed only in cases involving black employees?

2. What happened to the student who actually used the word with malice?

In my school district, the superintendent wanted to expel seven white students who used the N word on social media, in a closed group, aimed at another white student.

The same superintendent would say that when walking the halls of the majority-black school, she would hear a student yell the N word, and be relieved that the student was black and no discipline was needed.

I told her that can't work. Not just that double standards are wrong, but that it is not sustainable.

Tommy Duncan said...

It appears Mary Burke's departure from the Madison school board was well timed.

cyrus83 said...

Zero tolerance policies are administrative laziness mixed with virtue signalling. It comes from administrators wanting to show they're "tough" on something without having to deal with all the fuss that due process and justice demands, so they simply pre-judge everything and hope that they never have to deal with any actual hard cases.

Roost on the Moon said...

"What we're left with is unprincipled power. Have a clear rule and stick to it..."

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Only one of the other seven employees appealed. Should the others have their cases reopened? I would imagine they can't sue, if they didn't exhaust their administrative remedies.

Fernandinande said...

Ryan Mucaj and Jarred Karal "recited"[sic], rather than hurled, some sort of "slur"; they didn't address it to anyone.

Here's the video from "UCONN NAACP" The speech criminals were alone in a large parking lot with nobody else around.

Hagar said...

There is no such thing as a general rule that is 100% applicable. There is always the odd case where you need to come up with a different solution. Perhaps even one there is a rule forbidding ever being used.

This is true even in the material world of science and engineering.

AllenS said...

What if the other 6 employees be white? That right there will be the school administration reason to keep them fired.

Kay said...

Zero tolerance in the criminal justice system is even worse.

purplepenquin said...

That shows that applying pressure works

While I am happy with how things turned out, I am surprised to see you also feel as such.

Given how you you have repeatedly mocked & scorned the idea of "It isn't over until we say it's over!" it is kinda weird seeing you now cheering on those who refused to accept the decision that was made.

sunsong said...

some good news for a change

Bay Area Guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pettifogger said...

I must have dozed off when we passed through the looking glass.

whitney said...

The thing we know for sure is the student was not white

Bay Area Guy said...

"Equity bends the law to do justice in a specific case" -- Aristotle.

In other words, "zero tolerance" is a bleeping joke, pushed forth by ignorant moderns.

rhhardin said...

Every school board has to be considered on its own.

Hagar said...

You are supposed to have a rational explanation to keep fighting before you say "It isn't over until we say it's over!" Just a hissy fit don't cut it.

Char Char Binks said...

What part of "That shows that applying pressure works" implies approval? It seems like a bare statement of fact.

I agree that applying pressure works, but I decry the decision to rehire the n-word.

Kirk Parker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sprx said...

Can racial slurs only be "hurled"?
You never hear about them just being "tossed".
Shouldn't the policy take velocity into account?

Ken B said...

If I were good with photoshop I'd have Eichmann at his trial with a word bubble, We had a zero tolerance policy.

Philip K Howard wrote some good books on what this kind of thing — the evasion of responsibility and judgment — are doing to us.

Kirk Parker said...


Althouse,

"What we're left with is unprincipled power."

You're moving to the right! You can deny it, to yourself above all others... but somewhere the ghost of Lord Acton is smiling.

vanderleun said...

"Have a clear rule and stick to it...""

I thought we h ad that. I thought everybody in the nation knows the rule, "You can only use the N-word if you look to be black." and then you can use it over and over and over again in speech until you are always just two words away from the N-word in any sentence and one of those two words is "Motherfucker." Without those means of expression, Ebonics is mute.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

School Board President Reyes "suggests" to Interim Superintendent Belmore that Belmore ignore a District wide policy.

Smells like a non-public Board meeting was held by sequential contacts between board members. In Texas, that would be a violation of the Open Meetings Act.

The zero-tolerance policy on racial slurs was not formally adopted by the School Board. It was put in place last year under then-Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham based on official board policies, such as one governing non-discrimination.

So.. is the policy even written anywhere? How else to know what simple utterances might cause termination of employment.

[Reyes said] “We will grapple with complexity and assess it through a lens of deep racial equity.”

Last week, Belmore said the previous cases in which staff were either fired or resigned over the use of racial slurs all involved white employees....


Deep racial equity? One must wonder if other "official board policies, such as the one governing non-discrimination" are applied in a likewise discriminatory manner.

ndspinelli said...

Zero tolerance is created because stupid people think it will prevent ambulance chasing attorneys from suing them. They're wrong. Nothing stops greedy attorneys.

Kay said...

Now this post has me thinking about zero tolerance, but this time in relation to immigration policy.

Hagar said...

In my maxim above, We need to have rules so that we can tell what we are deviating from, I consider it implied that you must be able to explain, at least to yourself, why a problem is different from the general situation and why your solution is better. If you can't, the rule should be followed.

n.n said...

Diversity breeds adversity. The Pro-Choice quasi-religion aids and abets its progress.

Hagar said...

Oh, and I mean "explain" as Althouse would mean "explain" - with cruel neutrality.

vanderleun said...

YUP. NO doubt about it. The comment section becomes duller by the day.

I usually just check back when comments flow. Now I have to leave the page open and when I refresh I see that the "pace" of comments h as become tepid and hence less interesting.

Char Char Binks said...

Reyes needs to be deported. I don’t care where she’s from, even if it’s the US, I’m calling ICE.

Amadeus 48 said...

They have a rule. It is:

"We are going to adhere to a strict zero tolerance policy on use of the n-word, unless our zero tolerance policy results in an outcome that is so clearly unfair--particularly if the victim is a black employee-- that we look like idiots, and, indeed, we are idiots. Then we will relieve our victim of the consequences of our folly, hoping that no other former employees--particularly white former employees--upset the apple cart further."

I think we are deeply into manners here. Mr. Anderson committed no breach of manners when he told the student not to call him the n-word. The student breached manners by calling Mr. Anderson the n-word and should have a typical mild punishment administered--perhaps kept after school for a week.

If you have any further questions, please submit them in these comments. You may continue about your business.

Amadeus 48 said...

vanderluen--

I think you have to think about this comment page differently. It used to have a lot of flame wars among various individuals, with rapid response and some thrust and parry. Some regulars ruined that, and one of my personal favorites was one of the most guilty parties.

Now, I try to think of what I want to say about what Althouse has decided to write about, and I try to make my comments interesting (to me, anyway) regardless of what others have said. It is different, but the new policy puts a premium on one's own insight rather than hacking away at some hapless schmo or paid troll.

Freder, readering, Howard, etc. still get their licks in, but you have to be more patient if you want to respond.

I liked the old format, but it had become untenable.

Nichevo said...


vanderleun said...
YUP. NO doubt about it. The comment section becomes duller by the day.

I usually just check back when comments flow. Now I have to leave the page open and when I refresh I see that the "pace" of comments h as become tepid and hence less interesting.

10/22/19, 4:41 PM


The answer is simple. We're going to have to get rid of Chuck once and for all. Somebody offer him a bottle of booze, and we'll set up a stakeout across from his liquor store and take it from there...then we can have open comments again.

Jeff Brokaw said...

“Have a clear rule and stick to it”

Unworkable, especially in a school administration setting. And it isn’t even a good idea, if we ignore the practical applications of it.

Freedom of speech as defined in the Bill of Rights and the exceptions carved out by the courts over the centuries is not just good enough, it must be good enough, by definition.

We must err on the side of freedom; as a nation we have shown we cannot handle slicing and dicing our freedoms to improve things. We aren’t smart enough or capable enough as a people to improve what the framers graced us with.

Jon Burack said...

I am still seriously wanting to know (I've asked before) if anyone in the Madison schools can tell me if "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" is taught in Madison schools. Given that the dread word is used 219 times in that novel, there is no way to come close to a true appreciation of its powerful anti-slavery and anti-racist meanings without reading, reciting and paying very deliberate attention to the way that word is used.

Brent said...

Can anyone tell me the race of the student who "hurled" the N word? There is a reason no one is told. We'd like to think its because of some worthwhile priciple.
Do you really think it is?

Paul Doty said...

Mighty white of them.

Milwaukie guy said...

A moderation comment. On the left coast it seemed like threads ran away before I could really read them. With moderation, it seems I can get into the second tranche, get read, and participate more.

I have been with Althouse ever since Glenn pointed her out. Ann, you are a gem.

Bill R said...

Many years ago, the Church required Catholics to refrain from meat on Friday. I remember going weekly to the local Fish Fry place with my parents. It was always packed.

When eating meat on Friday was no longer a mortal sin, I saw a cartoon. A lesser devil is in hell talking to Satan himself.

"What do we do with all the guys who ate meat on Friday?"

I think the moral of the story is the same. When you are making up the list of mortal sins, it's best to keep it short.

Bill R said...

Many years ago, the Church required Catholics to refrain from meat on Friday. I remember going weekly to the local Fish Fry place with my parents. It was always packed.

When eating meat on Friday was no longer a mortal sin, I saw a cartoon. A lesser devil is in hell talking to Satan himself.

"What do we do with all the guys who ate meat on Friday?"

I think the moral of the story is the same. When you are making up the list of mortal sins, it's best to keep it short.