Zero Tolerance, Puppy Scams and Strange Bedfellows

No outside liquids for Hightower High

We don't have a Drudge Report siren, but if we did it'd be blaring now. BREAKING NEWS (MUST CREDIT HOUSTON PRESS): High school kids can act up as the end of the school year nears.

Or at least some of them can. And now 3,000 students at Fort Bend ISD's High­tower High School are paying the price.

On May 2 — a Friday, of course — the unthinkable happened. We'll let principal Patricia Paquin describe the horrific scene, as relayed in a letter to parents: "During the passing of classes, students gathered on the second-floor catwalk and hall areas overlooking the main hallway. Bottles and/or containers of liquids were thrown on the students below. Students in the main hallway area also threw bottles/containers of liquids."

And...and...and surely there was something else, right? No. Paquin's solution: Ban all "drinks or containers containing liquids." Students and backpacks are searched as they enter the building. At least one kid had his container of deodorant taken away. (Question: Which would you rather experience, possibly having to dodge a thrown deodorant container, or sitting next to someone who just finished PE but couldn't use deodorant?)

The result of all this is not only long lines at the beginning of the school day, it's long lines for the few vending machines selling drinks at lunch. And for those at the end of those lines, a dispiriting selection of the dregs of the machines.

The school district isn't commenting. The principal's letter noted that items that were tossed included containers filled with urine (Kids!), but there's been no official word yet that the district plans to ban all urine at Hightower. Although making it so difficult to get drinks could accomplish that goal, we suppose.

Not all parents are happy. "My son brings a thermos with soup, SpaghettiOs and sometimes yogurt. Are these going to qualify as liquids and be confiscated?" one parent wrote to a school board member. ("Do the SpaghettiOs include urine?" the school board member didn't reply.)

Paquin told parents, "It is extremely disheartening to see our students behave this way," and she "stressed" that the increased security will be in place for the rest of the school year.

For which, she gets honored with an installment of our occasional feature Zero Tolerance Unit! (See graphic.) We're sure she's happy with the honor.

Doggie Games

Houston's city pound, cutely named BARC (Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care) has had its share of problems, many of which we've written about.

Now there's apparently a new one: Animal-support groups are accusing each other of dirty pool in an effort to get the cutest dogs cheaply.

BARC normally charges registered rescue organizations $45 for a dog. In an effort to move stock, though, the price gets cut to $10 if the animal is at BARC more than 15 days.

One member of such a group, who wants anonymity, says she overheard a member of Friends of BARC tell a colleague how to game the system: Take a dog who's been there less than 15 days, but don't come back to complete the paperwork until the 15 days are up. That way you can get the best dogs (which can sell, in some cases, for nice prices) and you save yourself 35 bucks.

BARC director Kent Robertson says he's unaware of such schemes, but doesn't entirely insist they could never happen.

"There's no law that tells us, other than common sense and good humane practices, what we do with the animals after 72 hours," he says. "Friends of BARC, those guys have been trying to help BARC for many, many years. We know them real well. That's where the advantage is. I can't control that."

Friends of BARC wouldn't respond to our requests for comment.

And if some people get pissed at the gamesmanship, Robertson doesn't sound too upset.

"It's all good, we just have some folks fussing about the cute little dogs. They're not fussing about the big dogs that are hard to adopt," he says. "I know we have some folks upset when they come in and a dog they wanted was gone."

Hey, what are Friends for?

Strange Bedfellows

The Houston Chronicle had a peppy, upbeat news story May 6 on the front of the Metro section.

Boldly headlined "Financial Predators Put On Notice," the story outlined a new plan by City Controller Annise Parker to offer banking services to those (mostly poor) people who don't use financial ­institutions.

Heavily quoted in approval of the plan was a regional manager for Wachovia, who said she was passionate about the idea of getting people into the banking system.

Not mentioned at all: The Associated Press story from a little more than a week earlier, which began "WASHINGTON — Wachovia Corp. has agreed to pay an estimated $144 million to settle federal allegations that it failed to stop telemarketers charged with taking advantage of thousands of elderly consumers."

Oops. On the bright side, at least we can be sure the city's new effort will have a well-tested outreach program.

Zero Tolerance Unit:
ZTU Fort Bend

Back in the days before ZTUs existed all over Texas, students were sometimes able to engage in what experts called “pranks” or “harmless fooling around.” The Legislature, working with school-district bureaucrats, saw the threat to democracy if such actions were allowed to continue. Thus was born the Zero Tolerance Unit, a brave group of men and women determined to teach kids that the world makes no sense. See the first column item for the background to this week's episode.

 
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