Zero tolerance gone awry in the Katy Independent School District

Less than zero

By now you may have heard about 12-year-old Shelby Sendelbach, who attends Mayde Creek Junior High in the Katy school district. After all, a Japanese television network is filming her as a case study in how not to discipline students.

Sendelbach took a Sharpie and wrote "I Love Alex" in three-quarter-inch letters on a school bleacher. For this she now faces three months in an alternative school. Anyone who knows what alternative schools are like in Texas knows that getting three months in one for three words of graffiti is like getting ten years for running a red light.

Shelby's been diagnosed with ADD. "This could really damage her," says her father Stu. "We're afraid she'll get so far behind and won't be able to catch up."

Her story's not unique — that's the state of things in Texas schools these days. So we are introducing what is bound to be — with the never-ending cooperation of ham-fisted school officials — a regular feature.

We do this to honor the bold, by-the-book bureaucrats of the Zero Tolerance Units all over the Houston area, those noble crusaders against common sense. Shelby Sendelbach, you're first up. To review this week's episode, click here.

Further Adventures in Customer Service

So every cable-TV customer in Houston is pumped, because Time Warner has left the building. Time Warner, whose customer-service reputation was lower than that of the guards at Gitmo.

Surely Comcast would be better, right?

Maybe not. We called over the weekend to get the NFL Network added to our service. This apparently simple task was rendered impossible by the fact that the name on our cable account is the business my wife runs out of the house.

We first got put on hold for ten minutes, then called back to navigate the options until once more we reached a live person.

Hair Balls: Yeah, I just want to get the NFL Network. (Gives the account number and name on the account.)

Comcast: Is that a business?

HB: Well, my wife has a business, but it's in our residence. This is for our TVs at home.

Comcast: Oh, we can't do anything about that now. You'll have to call back on Monday during business hours.

HB: But I'm at my residence.

Comcast: Yes, but it's a business account. We can't do anything about it until Monday. That office is closed.

HB: But I'm just asking you to flip a switch. First I get put on hold for ten minutes, now you're saying that if it was my name on the account, you could flip that switch and I'd have the NFL Network, but because my wife's business is the name on the account you can't do anything.

Comcast: That's probably why you were put on hold for ten minutes, because that office is closed...

HB: Yeah. Well, let me ask you this: Is customer service going to be any better with Comcast as compared to Time Warner?

Comcast: Oh, yes.

HB: Because the Time Warner customer service really sucked.

Comcast: Well, everything is different.

HB: Different? They hired all new people?

Comcast: No, it's the same people.

HB: So what's different?

Comcast: Everything — the channels we offer, the lineup, the choices.

HB: What about customer service?

Comcast: That's going to be a lot better.

HB: How?

Comcast: It's just going to be better.

HB: So you agree, Time Warner sucked.

Comcast: No, we never had any problems with Time Warner helping the customers.

HB: Really?

Comcast: Yes.

HB: And yet I'm just asking you to flip a switch and you can't do it. How is that better customer service?

Comcast: Sir, I can just tell you everything will be better.

HB: But you're saying it wasn't bad before.

Comcast: No, it wasn't.

HB: Oookay, then. Thanks much.

Further Adventures, Part Deux

We've heard from a woman who, for some reason, liked participating in the comments section of the Houston Chronicle's many, many blogs. Until she got banned.

She wrote to Chronicle "reader representative" James Campbell to find out why. In response she got an e-mail Campbell sent to Chron blog guru Dwight Silverman with the heading "Question from a Bozo regarding comments to articles."

Way to rep those readers, Campbell.

Campbell wouldn't reply to our e-mails (what, are we somehow ranked below "a Bozo"?); Silverman referred us to Chron.com vice-president Scott Clark, who said the woman's comments had violated the Chron's guidelines.

How, he wouldn't say. She sent us copies of her comments, but obviously may not have included any really offensive ones.

"I can't get into a discussion on how...we made a decision on an individual user," Clark says.

He added, "What we want to do in the public areas of the site is maintain a relatively friendly space for people to exchange ideas and to do that, we impose...some guidelines for discussion."

Here are a couple of current comments on Chronicle blogs that apparently do not violate any guidelines: "One gang member dies, the other might go to jail. This is a WIN/WIN for society." And "my heart goes out to the family of this soldier, not all immigrants want to freeload like the majority of them."

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