Bureaucracy and Rule-Based Fear in Public Schools

A boy of 7 faces an expulsion hearing after he followed the school district’s rules and reported that a toy gun was accidentally paced into his book bag.

Since he obeyed the rules, why is he being put through this ordeal? Why didn’t the teacher simply thank him and take the gun. It could have then been returned directly to the parents later or given back to the boy when he went home from school.

My guess is this. The teacher didn’t use common sense (or exercise independent judgment) because he or she feared breaking a school rule and being punished for doing so. He or she felt it necessary to report the matter because bureaucracy and bureaucratic rules trump sense and individual initiative. Then the next layer of school officialdom likewise feared being punished by the layer of officials above them for doing anything so reasonable as simply returning the gun and dropping the matter. A report may have been called for, and how would they explain simply returning the gun? Instead, they scheduled a hearing because that’s the only bureaucratic procedure that even remotely fits the special features of this case; and of course it doesn’t fit the case at all.

Everyone in a bureaucratic system wants to cover their ass and not be given a black mark or be sued or end up in some legal entanglement. Everyone is afraid. The bureaucrats cover themselves by having rules, but the rules don’t always fit the cases.


10:38 am on June 6, 2014