The Grand Old Partisan of Illinois

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tank Johnson's "Second Chance"

Shortly after noon, police responded to Roosevelt Center for Adult Education, 978 Haskel Ave., in reference to an anonymous tip regarding a student with a gun. Rodrick F. Lyke, 17, was found in a classroom.

After speaking with Lyke, police determined that he was armed with a 38-caliber handgun. Police said Lyke never displayed the weapon or threatened anyone. Lyke was charged with unlawful use of a weapon and failure to carry a firearm owner’s identification card. He was lodged in the Winnebago County Jail, where he is being held on a $50,000 bond...Lyke is suspended pending a recommendation from the Roosevelt principal for expulsion.”

- The Rockford Register-Star, December 12, 2006

Chronic misfit defensive tackle Tank Johnson, who has been arrested three times in the past 18 months (most recently for six misdemeanor weapons violations), received a slap on the wrist Tuesday from the Bears.

Amid speculation that he could be released or at least be inactivate for the remainder of the 2006 season, Johnson instead was given a one-game suspension by the team and will be back on the field for the regular-season finale Dec. 31 at Soldier Field against the Green Bay Packers. He will not be paid this week, unlike last week when he was placed on the inactive list."

- The Daily Herald, December 20, 2006

Something is deeply, deeply wrong here.

Before I say anything else, I must point out that the headline for the Daily Herald story is “Bears Give Tank a Second Chance.” Excuse me, but if he’s been arrested three times in the past year and a half, then this would be his fourth chance, by my count.

Now, I’ll admit that I don’t know if Rodrick Lyke is a Bears fan or not. And I can’t say that there is any direct link between his behavior and that of any specific celebrity or potential role model. But the juxtaposition of these articles says a lot about our society’s priorities and values.

There are plenty of ridiculous examples of zero-tolerance gone wrong in our country, but I pointedly chose Lyke’s story because it does involve a serious situation that certainly should be dealt with severely and judiciously. In my opinion it’s not only unfair, but also counterproductive, to let a school board ruin the prospects of higher education and a good career for a 17 year old but accept the Bear’s decision to simply give a slap on the wrist to a repeat-offending adult for what is ostensibly the same crime.

After all, zero tolerance, as a disciplinary policy, has a lot more to do with deterring behavior than actually correcting it. Offending students are “made an example” for others, in an effort to discourage them from pushing the envelope of acceptability. But talk about mixed (and downright unfair) messages! Imagine the impact it might have on students if they got a “second chance” from their school, but learned that the their ability to make a living with the talents God gave you could be ruined if they didn't shape up and live within the law as an adult? We might never know for certain if that would or would not discourage any kid from bringing a gun to school; but I’ve got to think that it would be more effective than the reverse, which is what we are doing now.

Cross posted at Illinoize


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