It’s about time, but judgment is making a comeback. In February, Cherry Creek High School student Marie Morrow faced expulsion because she left a …
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It’s about time, but judgment is making a comeback. In February,
Cherry Creek High School student Marie Morrow faced expulsion
because she left a plastic rifle in the back seat of her car when
she drove to school. Not only was it a non-functioning rifle, she
had no intention of using it for intimidation of fellow students.
She’s a member of Douglas County Young Marines and she uses the
rifle in performance drills.
But as soon as two fellow students — who noticed the gun in her
car as they headed for the edge of campus to smoke a cigarette —
reported it, a snowball of shameful decisions began to roll.
The district’s actions followed state law which, at the time,
said that even facsimiles of guns aren’t allowed on school grounds,
which follows school district policy mandating a 10-day suspension
and a subsequent expulsion hearing. Following is the whole
As happens so many times in cases like these, people quit
leading and start following. They suspend their own good judgment
to follow policies created for events that have nothing to do with
the situation at hand. They either don’t look at the intent of the
policies and the intent of the people involved or they wait far too
long to do so until things progress to ridiculous points. As my
boss is fond of saying, people need to stop the music and
I think people in leadership positions, and often the people who
put them in those positions, forget why they are where they are.
Usually, it was their good judgment that inspired enough confidence
in bosses, voters or whoever put them where they are.
I think the reason they forget is that the constituency beats it
out of them. People in responsible positions often get much more
criticism than they bargained for. I used to cover a town council
where the mayor’s favorite joke at swearing-in ceremonies was,
“You’ve been sworn in and from here on out, you’ll be sworn
I understand the necessity of policy and procedure. I’m a
managing editor, which makes me a middle manager who develops
policies and enforces them. It’s tough to make decisions on the
fly, so we create policies and procedures to think clearly through
situations when we’re not in the heat of the moment so we have some
road map to get us through those situations in the future.
But we should never suspend our judgment for the sake of a
policy. The thinking through is never done and it’s the great
leaders who rely on their own judgment when the situation calls for
Last week, Gov. Bill Ritter signed SB237, which allows school
administrators some discretion in their handling of cases involving
the facsimile of a firearm such as Morrow’s drill rifle.
It’s a good start.
Jeremy Bangs is the managing editor of Colorado Community
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