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Going Postal / February 23, 2010
By Mark Ames

alexa gonzalez

File this under “Seriously Fucked Up”: While most of America has been hiding under the covers afraid they might have to confront the ghost of Joe Stack, shooing him away by pretending he was something else–“He was a Tea Bagger!”/”He was a liberal!”/”No he was a psychopath!”–anything to avoid seriously talking about how profound and how widely popular his suicide-dive-bombing was…here’s a story that’s a little easier to chew on. It comes to you live from Kiddie Land, where there’s a war on pitting thousands of police and the full force of the law Surging against pre-pubescent doodlers, food-throwers, and tardy students.

Earlier this month, at a New York junior high school, a 12-year-old girl named Alexa Gonzalez pulled out a green magic marker during class, and doodled, “I love my friends Abby and Faith.” The teacher sent her to the principal, who promptly called the “Zero Tolerance” police. The next thing Alexa knew, New York City’s finest burst into the principal’s office, pulled the girl’s arms behind her back, cuffed her, and frog-marched across the quad, so that all her fellow students and teachers could see her bawling her eyes out on her way to the police station. That’ll teach her.

Alexa is a much better person for it, as reported on CNN:

“They put the handcuffs on me, and I couldn’t believe it,” Alexa recalled. “I didn’t want them to see me being handcuffed, thinking I’m a bad person.”Alexa Gonzalez missed three days of school because of her arrest.

She spent those days throwing up, and it was a challenge to catch up on her homework when she returned to school, she said. Her mother says she had never been in trouble before the doodling incident.

Throwing up and traumatized–sounds kind of like what you’d expect from a Guantanamo Bay inmate who’s not cooperating. But America isn’t in its most imaginative–or smart–mood these days, so I guess the thinking is, “Works well in Abu Ghraib, why fix somethin’ that ain’t broke.”

For New York City’s school system, that translates into Surging with an additional 5,000 truancy cops whose job is to root out doodlerists and truants and the like. Unfortunately, with all the budget problems, paying all those cops–poorly trained cops, I might add–means no money left for school counselors, who number just 3,000, or almost half the number of these new counter-doodling cops.

Alexa isn’t the first doodler-terrorist they’ve neutralized. In 2007, NYC cops arrested a 13-year-old girl, Chelsea Fraser, for doodling “Okay” on her desk. Within minutes, Operation Zero Tolerance swung into action:

Fraser was arrested at the Dyker Heights Intermediate School on March 30 along with three other male students. She says she was made to empty her pockets and take off her belt. Then she was handcuffed and led out of the school in front of her classmates and placed in the back of a police car.

“It was really embarrassing because some of the kids, they talk, and they’re going to label me as a bad kid. But I’m really not,” Fraser said. “I didn’t know writing ‘Okay’ would get me arrested.”

“All the kids were … watching these three boys and my daughter being marched out with four — they had four police officers — walking them out, handcuffed,” [her mother] Silva said. “She goes to me, ‘Mommy, these hurt!'”

[She was] taken to the 68th Precinct station house where Silva says they were separated for three hours. “My child is 13-years-old — doesn’t it stand that I’m supposed to be present for any questioning?” Silva said. “I’m watching my daughter, she’s handcuffed to the pole. I ask the officer has she been there the entire time? She says, ‘Yes.'”

The ACLU told CNN about several other doodling-arrests which they are now fighting with a class-action lawsuit. Almost as shocking is the story of a school teacher who was arrested while trying to help one of his students whom the teacher thought was being far too roughly handled. Police arrested the teacher and charged him with assault, although they later dropped those charges.

That’s fine for teachers. But kids can’t be shown any mercy, whether we’re talking about doodling, or food fights. A couple weeks ago in Chicago, police mass-arrested 25 students aged 11-15 following a school cafeteria food fight:

More than two dozen students were slapped with criminal charges in connection with a food fight in the cafeteria at a Chicago charter school. 

“The next thing you know I saw a tray fly up in the air, and then I saw an orange fly,” student Jordan Grevious said. ‘Then, I heard the words ‘food fight.'”

But instead of Animal House, these kids are facing the Hot House. And they know it:

They fear some of the kids will have a tough time getting a job or applying for college until their misdemeanor reckless-conduct charge disappears from their records. They’ll appear in court Nov. 30. 

“These kids are going to have records for things that they potentially did not even do,” parent Monique Greene complained. “Twenty-seven children up here for a food fight.”

Even the innocent students will face lasting consequences. If the charges are dropped, juvenile records can’t be expunged until the accused becomes 17. Parents are worried this could affect future jobs and college applications.

It’s all part of a meatheaded Zero Tolerance campaign used to terrorize school kids all over the country, part of what’s making this country a meaner place to grow up in. Zero Tolerance doesn’t work, of course. The school shootings in middle-class schools still go on with clockwork regularity, fueled in part by the Zero Tolerance mentality.

Zero Tolerance is worse than a failure; it’s taking a bad situation and making worse, locking both students into what two studies are calling a “Schoolhouse-To-Jailhouse pipeline“:

zero-tolerance policies “are derailing students from an academic track in schools to a future in the juvenile justice system”

this schoolhouse-to-jailhouse track has damaged a generation of children, particularly children of color, by criminalizing trivial offenses and pushing children out of the school system into the juvenile justice system and introducing prison-like secure environments, with drug-sniffing dogs, metal detectors and uniformed law enforcement personnel, thus turning schools into prisons.

And of course, if you feed more and more doodlers and tater-tot tossers into the prison pipeline, that means you produce more and more criminals; and if you create more criminals, well, you gotta do something about all those criminals hitting the streets. Which means: hiring more cops, and training them to attack and pacify any school that’s threatened–like this exercise recently held in Avoca, New York:

Authorities say with school violence on the rise, being prepared for any situation is key.

On Friday, Steuben County law enforcement officers took part of a mock school shooting drill at Avoca High School.  The purpose: in case of an emergency, local law enforcement officials in Steuben County want to make sure they are prepared.

“When we get there and have an active shooter we can’t wait for a SWAT team to come. We can’t.  We have to go in then and have to know who is going in right or left and how we are going to contain the situation,” says Steuben County Sheriff Joel Ordway.

It’s so insanely counter-intuitive that it borders on black comedy. Or just bad comedy. But that’s how we like doin’ things ’round here these days. The more something fails, the more it will be favored–whether it’s a bank, a pundit, or a policy on doodling and food fights.

Mark Ames is the author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion from Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine.

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Add your own

  • 1. Wenjo  |  February 23rd, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Arresting children for trivia tells me we are undeniably in a police state now. I tried to deny it but arresting for doodling puts me over the top.

  • 2. DrKiwano  |  February 23rd, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Now just a sec there. Before you go calling these policies a failure, how about you look a little deeper into the situation. I mean you mentioned that one of these incidents was at a charter school, and the girl in that picture up there doesn’t look entirely white.

    I’d be willing to give good odds that these heavy handed policies are coming up in school districts where there’s enough social mobility for the entrenched middle class to feel threatened by the possibility that kids from lower classes getting into their schools might *ahem* create a disruptive influence.

    I’m guessing that along with charges being pressed, these kids are getting expelled from their charter schools and sent back to the ghetto. Since that was the real (if unstated) goal behind these policies, I’d say that they’re successful beyond measure. I mean hell, these stories even get enough news coverage that the ghetto parents might think twice before even trying to send their kids to invade the “good” schools.

  • 3. Jim Buck  |  February 23rd, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Come off it, Mark! If she had doodled: ‘Real men marry women’you would be taking the piss out of her egregious facial features. a

  • 4. tazio  |  February 23rd, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    I spent some time volunteering in a public middle school in NYC last year and I have to say… Where the fuck were those truancy ‘cops’ when I told a dean that one student had ripped another kid’s arm open with the blade of a pencil sharpener? The crazy little fuck didn’t even get pulled out of class, which really sends a good message: if you don’t want to be punished, break all the more serious rules.

  • 5. Bill Danner  |  February 23rd, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Since when does a 12 year old wear makeup?
    I would be willing to bet there’s more backstory to that little skank-in-training that has been released in the media. Longstanding rule is, when a teacher is sick of your crap, one excuse is as good as another.

  • 6. Plamen Petkov  |  February 24th, 2010 at 1:52 am

    Rules are good. It’s good to have rules. I used to be a school teacher and I can tell you kids today have zero respect. They think they know it all and as I said they have zero respect for their elders. At least when we were kids we KNEW our place and when somebody told us the rules we obeyed them.
    The little brat had it coming, duddling on a desk like its her home.

    To Bill Danner: I seen 7 yo wear make up so a 12 yo wearing make up is nothing. Where have YOU been? 12 yos have been wearing make up for years and having sex too.

  • 7. Dwayne Chandler  |  February 24th, 2010 at 2:51 am

    Fuck off, Plamen, you ass sucking, brown
    nosing coward.
    Go spend your days in the nearest police state prison; working out your jawbone in
    the cell block glory holes.
    I’m certain you’ll have no lack of enthusiastic courage there.

    Most sincerely, Dwayne Chandler.

  • 8. Philip Pilkington  |  February 24th, 2010 at 4:49 am

    @Bill Danner

    Ever occur to you that they may have put make-up on her before taking her photo?

    Not that I really care if 12 year olds are wearing make-up… or kissing boys for that matter. The archaic pre-Freudian notion of childhood innocence I can live without – certainly doesn’t compute with my childhood memories…

  • 9. DERP  |  February 24th, 2010 at 5:56 am

    Thank god the boys in blue are there to protect us from cute little latina girls. Imagine, a world where you could just doodle without getting thrown in jail. Is that the kind of world YOU want to live in? Didn’t think so.

  • 10. Carlito  |  February 24th, 2010 at 6:39 am

    Petkov, that must have been because you are a cocksucker. Kids can sense one from a mile away.

  • 11. DarthFurious  |  February 24th, 2010 at 8:35 am

    As is usual in the last days of this fading republic, tales of out-of-control cop fascism bring the closet fascists slithering into the daylight to masturbate to their favorite pornography: cops brutalizing civilians. And the fact that in these particular cases it’s children, well, that’s just icing on the cake.
    Personally, if it were up to me, when a story like this runs, anybody who came out to blow the horn for the cops would be stripped of their voting rights and barred from ever holding a public sector job of any kind. I wouldn’t even let the fascist pricks drive garbage trucks.
    Of course the real problem behind all of this is the rampant spread of the fascism virus among the US population. Unfortunately for the US, there’s only one cure for the disease of fascism:

    A bullet in the brain.

  • 12. Your friend  |  February 24th, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Dear Mr. Ames
    your writings are always such a relief. It is true, that Americans have long overstayed their welcome, but the good news are that now, with a economy melting down, no society to speak of and no money anymore to patch it all up, you finally have all the necessary ingredients for many more reports like this. So please keep us updated, must be fun.

  • 13. Jeanne  |  February 24th, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Somewhere Thomas Bernhard is laughing his ass off.

  • 14. kalevi kilkki  |  February 24th, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Usually, you will find principle written principal. First time I am seeing the reverse.

  • 15. Hon Kee Mufo  |  February 24th, 2010 at 11:29 am

    the worst part is going to the news story and reading all the comments from the protofascist “rules are rules!” crowd

  • 16. Connors  |  February 24th, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    What if a student draws a swastika on her desk? As a teacher, that happened to me. Is that reportable?

  • 17. carl the druid  |  February 24th, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Police are useless nowadays so they are over reacting to justify their jobs existence and make it look like we need them while Democrats are gonna try hard to take away guns. Should have not passed the stimulus bill and let them and the useless teacher’s union loose their jobs. Don’t bailout sh8t. They are using stimulus funds to hire more human pigs and put ariel drones in the air to watch over us and to purchase body scanners at airports that can see you naked. Don’t bail out sh8t. Why everything worth bailing out anyways? that’s why you just let sh8t collapse so it can start anew. Democrats expanded the police state and government WAAYY more.

  • 18. John  |  February 24th, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    You have to admit this story is hilarious on all fronts

  • 19. stacked  |  February 24th, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    The government is providing inadequate solutions to problems it helps create? Say it ain’t so!

  • 20. De_la_Rapier  |  February 24th, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Public education is a waste of money and time.

    Make it optional.


  • 21. bartleby  |  February 24th, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Totally different situation here in Florida. Especially among the middle and lower academically achieving classrooms. Often very permissive, disruptive, low-structure environments. I’d be happy if they handcuffed some of the human debris that sets foot in these schools.

  • 22. janorcutt  |  February 24th, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    ok, ppl i’m from the good old United Kingdom, and a kid caught drawing on the desk over here. they get a cloth, some cleaning fluid and are made to scrub it off there and then. Our police have more important thing to do than arrest kids for doodling, i dont know what they are…..

  • 23. Bester  |  February 25th, 2010 at 3:38 am

    Oh America, you really make me happy sometimes. Like the times when I watch Haiti and think how great it is I’m in Russia.

  • 24. Necronomic.Justice  |  February 25th, 2010 at 9:53 am

    rulz iz rulz dammit! one day they duddlez the next day they goddless commiez!

    Police escort student out of class after refusal to recite Pledge of Allegiance Wednesday, February 24th, 2010 — 3:04 pm

  • 25. aleke  |  February 25th, 2010 at 10:41 am

    The only reason kids don’t have discipline is because of the total breakdown of socialization due to mass consumerism and media manipulation. NATCH

  • 26. mydick  |  February 25th, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    If we had prayer in school and if the do-nothing congress would pass one-gun-one-child then this sort of thing wouldn’t be a problem

  • 27. Necronomic.Justice  |  February 25th, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    @26, are you suggesting if school children could shoot back at the cops, they wouldn’t be getting arrested for doodling on desks? I am all for it, even if it has to be packaged with some prayer, I think.

  • 28. Necronomic.Justice  |  February 25th, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Is there anyway to get rid of that video that auto plays every time this page is loaded? (Besides the obvious solution of just not opening this page again.)

  • 29. jim  |  February 27th, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    It’s official: DoodleArt* is a gateway drug!

    *Incredibly dated 1970s cultural reference

  • 30. FrankMcG  |  February 28th, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    “Rules are rules”

    You know, rules that result in arrest when broken are usually called “laws”. The whole zero tolerance trend is the worst thing to every happen to education. It completely flies in the face of what the legal system stands for. There is a REASON that human discretion is a part of the process, both in charging and sentencing.

    What I’m worried about, beyond the ridiculous harshness of this system, is how it’s going to affect the kids and their idea of how rules work. These generations are going to grow up thinking that draconian rules and heavy handed police tactics are the norm and should be accepted.

  • 31. FrankMcG  |  March 2nd, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Here’s one:

    Girl suspended for touching pill (it counts as possession!)

  • 32. FrankMcG  |  March 2nd, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Of course, all this stems from massive lawsuits leveled against already under budget schools for various things. We’d probably all institute these rules too if we were faced with that kind of possibility.

    Because I’m too lazy to look it up, I wonder how often schools were sued for big big money back in the day.

    A big help in combating this kind of trend would be measures to cover schools’ asses for those kind of thing. Reserve the lawsuits only for the most blatant of offenses (child abuse, etc.).

  • 33. Kathy  |  March 12th, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    The U.S. is the only country in the world that does not apply parole system to minors. Detentions of juveniles have increased 44 percent from 1985 to 2002. Many children only committed only minor crimes but could not get assistance from lawyers. Many procurators and judges turned a blind eye on abuse in juvenile prisons

  • 34. acabaca  |  March 14th, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    The news clip is unclear: what was she drawing on? If she was drawing on her desk, that’s vandalism of public property and should be penalized without exception. If she was drawing on a notebook or something, that’s her business.

  • 35. TexTyrael  |  March 26th, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    Plamen, we live in a different time where kids have more of a voice as they should because we cannot see things most times through their perspective. Doodling is not a crime and I know the ACLU will slam the shit out of them for what they did.

  • 36. Lock  |  March 27th, 2010 at 10:56 am

    A good riot usually lets those in power know that were pissed off. Stand up for your rights and stand up to your government.

  • 37. Charles Mercer  |  March 28th, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Sure kids today generally have little respect for their elders. I have to ask, should they? If I had as many rules shoved down my throat as these kids do, I’d have no respect for them. It would be a point of pride to rebel.

  • 38. MaryJane  |  April 8th, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    This is ridiculous. I mean arrested for drawing??? Really, is this what are country has come to? Arresting a girl for drawing during class…I mean I agree with the fact that schools should be able to administer some sort of punishment for not paying attention during class, but that’s what detention is for, isn’t it? I mean what’s next arresting kids when they pass notes in class, wake the hell up people, this is out of control.

  • 39. Chaudry  |  June 24th, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    this is stupid u arrest a 12 year old girl for drawing!!!this is ridiculous like u arrest STUDENTS while the draw i mean u can give them detention this is not a good thing to do if students draw on the desk, this even makes me laugh that u call the police for such a small problem like think of it you are drawing your teacher comes to you and says you are getting arrested lets go you ask why she/he says because you were drawing

  • 40. Armed Pissed Veteran  |  July 6th, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    A Nation of cowards is what we have become! The most cowardly amongst us , not only won’t fight to defend themselves or their comunities, they also think you turning over your arms to a increasingly fascist federal govt. Is a good Idea as well! Yet in the same breath talking about the police state! LOL! Got news for you Millions of us are armed and pissed! To the NYPD, Chicago PD, Wash DC etc. You may disarm the victim in your area, But in mine we will shoot to kill! The bill of rights isn’t negotiable. Neither will we “negotiate”, with you in such a situation. Liars,Thieves, and war profiteers? May they hang from the lamp posts and soon! MOLON LABE’! Ready for the 2nd American Revolution?

  • 41. Evil Jebus  |  September 3rd, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    She’s hawt.

  • 42. Chris Abley  |  October 3rd, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    That is just stupid. arresting Kids for drawing or writing? or even a food fight? How is drawing or writing going to be a criminsl offence. food fights just relieve the child stress. they lost information in school. man people who arrest children for stupid reasons need to a lesson or two from me. i ll teach them.

  • 43. Inon  |  October 27th, 2010 at 8:22 am


  • 44. Puppy  |  December 23rd, 2010 at 2:10 am

    I always thought that tolerance was an engineering term. The length of a screw is one 1.00 inches with a tolerance of +-.01 inches. A tolerance of 0 is impossible.

    I would think twice about the potential legal liability associated with arresting 12yo kids. If a kid goes to court, every little dirty secret that exists in the school will come out.

  • 45. BBlair  |  March 29th, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Wow you have got to be joking? How is stupied police state national security BullShix helping against terrorists when they are using it only to fight American Citzens.
    (sounds to me that the terrorists won since little johnny can now get arrested for drawing obama with a tiny p p) Or maybey it is not at all to protect us from terrorists maybey it is to inslave and control all US citzens so the corporations can keep raping us? DUH!

  • 46. BBlair  |  March 29th, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Also we as Americans should be very Angry about our children being arrested and handcuffed and treated like criminals. We sould take no more of this.

  • 47. John  |  June 4th, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    I’m pist that thats called graphitety and the kids at my school draw on tables and what do that do they do nothing the 12year old portireakin being arrested that’s just rasist just as it looks but the thing that pised me off the most that she was handcuffed to a pole for 3 hours

  • 48. Eric a vidales  |  June 6th, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Oh my gosh this is unbelievable….I hate the United States and all its stupid gobvernment.

  • 49. Johnny  |  June 18th, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Thats why you dont send your kids to “school” in the first place. Its time all parents took responsibility for their own kids by homeschooling them.

  • 50. James Smith  |  July 27th, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    It isn’t as if any rational person still believes the USA is a free country. Think about it. No-warrant wire taps, indefinite detention of citizens without charges, approval of rendition of prisoners and torture, stop and frisk without probable cause, search and seizure without a warrant, no-knock entry, confiscation and destruction of cameras that might have been used to film police acting illegally, police brutality, police shootings that go without investigation, managed news, and the civil-rights destroying “Patriot” Act.

    Acts of police behaving illegally, with shootings, Tasers, and unwarranted violence now appear almost daily. Rarely are these offenses punished. Most often “an investigation” is claimed, but soon forgotten.


In addition, the USA, with 5% of the world population, has 25% of all of the prisoners in the world. That means the USA has the most people in prison of any nation in history. Even by percentage of residents incarcerated, not just sheer numbers. USA is # 1!

 Does any of that sound like a free country?

    As Dwight D. Eisenhower said about communism, “It’s like slicing sausage. First they out off a small slice. That isn’t worth fighting over. Then they take another small slice that isn’t worth fighting over. Then another and another. Finally, all you have left is the string and that isn’t worth fighting over, either.

  • 51. angelito  |  January 14th, 2014 at 6:11 am

    police shouldnt arrest innocent kids that doodle pppl get bored sometimes it shouldnt be a crime.but they should get school penalties like detention and so on

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