The case of Jordan Wiser being arrested and charged with a Class 5 felony for bringing a four-inch folding knife onto an Ohio community college's school grounds has elicited outrage among conservative news groups.Jordan Wiser, a high school senior, was suspected of being in possession of a weapon by school administrators at the A-Tech Technical and Career Campus in Ohio. His vehicle was searched by school administrators and a four-inch knife was found in his EMT training kit.
He was arrested, charged with a Class 5 felony, and ordered to not have possession or access to weapons as a condition of posting bail. These are the undisputed facts of the case -- yet each aspect of these facts has been sensationalized to the point of claiming that Wiser is being denied visitation to his dying grandfather.
Battle lines are being drawn between zero-tolerance weapon policies and infringements on the right to bear arms. Too often this argument solely revolves around gun ownership, but in this case, a knife was really brought into a gun fight.
According to the National Association of School Psychologists, 91 percent of all schools in the United States have a zero-tolerance policy on the possession of any form of weapon (94% have policies exclusively geared toward firearms) on school grounds. The history of zero-tolerance stems from the 1980's initial push on the so-called "war on drugs."
The theory behind it is the "Broken Windows" theory of crime. The analogy being that a few unrepaired broken windows attracts further crime and delinquency -- a "repair" (even through removal) of criminal and delinquent behavior holds its spread at bay.
The success of these policies is a matter of considerable debate. From the school's perspective, after-the-fact actions are completely ineffective and cannot undo the damages caused. Considering the limited pro-active courses of action schools have available, zero-tolerance is here to stay.
Most of our civil rights can be limited through contractual obligations. Each time we sign a contract we agree to either "do" or "do not" perform activities that we are otherwise legally entitled to perform. This case is no different. The enrollment agreement with the school, which includes the student handbook, outlines conduct of both parties -- something that is fully agreed to by the student prior to enrollment.
A couple of interesting point arise from this case. Pages 24 and 25 of the A-Tech student handbook outline the school's weapon policy. The policy clearly outlines both what weapons are forbidden and what the punishment would be for breaking the rules. An interesting side note is added into the handbook, stating:
Items or instruments that are required for a career-technical program will be used only when under the supervision of the career-technical instructor and must remain in the career-technical (trade) area.
Even if Wiser "needed" his knife for the EMT program, he was not following school policy on the proper storage of the equipment.
Page 15 outlines the school's right to search lockers, cars, and the student's person when there is a suspicion of wrongdoing. This is an interesting point -- countless cases have consistently shown that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to school districts when it comes to search and seizure. There is no expectation of privacy on school grounds.
This case has been sensationalized to the point of elevating Wiser to sainthood, demonizing the school district, and criticizing the prosecutors and judges as "judicial activists." Even the most trivial of facts in this case have been distorted and twisted into a partisan rally against the system.
For example, the Huffington Post's headline: "Teen jailed for 13 days...over a pocket-knife." While Wiser spent thirteen days in jail, it was thirteen days before he posted bail -- big difference. Some defendants do not post bail -- and remain in jail until trial.
Two weeks ago, Shawn Griffiths published a piece on the "Art of Playing the Victim." This article gives an intuitive insight into what is happening in politics -- but it is also happening throughout society. If someone is caught doing something wrong, attempting to show how the wrongdoer was the victim of the system clouds the issue and gains public support.
The entire rationale of owning a weapon is to keep the owner from becoming a victim, yet in each recent highly-publicized case of owners violating the law, the victim strategy has been employed to rally the support of like-minded people. Does this really make sense?
Guns don't kill people, but the flip side is that guns don't make mistakes or break laws -- people do. Wiser had the aspiration of becoming a police officer or a fireman after an enlistment in the military. The question begs to be asked, how could this young man, who is portrayed as a wholesome, patriotic kid, become an effective policeman when he has a total disregard for existing laws?