The Edmond Sun


December 13, 2013

Bringing fairness to both children and felons

EDMOND — Let me go out on a limb here and make a statement that is categorically true in all places, at all times. Life is not fair. Any person, even the least compassionate among us, must agree it isn’t “fair” for children to be born with disabilities. Those encumbered at birth with physical or psychological burdens play absolutely no role in causing the difficulties they’ll encounter during the course of their lives. No matter how we may rage against this unfairness, it is a fact we have to face and learn to cope with. We may do our best to lighten the load, that unfairness will always be theirs to bear.

Every day, innocent people are injured by the intentional or negligent acts of others or by the heedless operation of natural forces. Each time this occurs, we may rush to the support of the injured parties and protest against the unfairness of the situation. But what’s done can’t be undone. It isn’t fair, but it happened.

Unfortunately, Americans seem to be growing more accepting of certain kinds of unfairness where our children are concerned. At the same time, we stand by while employers are forced to bend over backwards to be sure there is no unfairness where convicted felons are concerned. Recent news items illustrate what I mean.

We’re all aware that in many of our schools, there’s a “no question asked, no explanation accepted, zero-tolerance” policy where sexual harassment and violence are concerned. Under these policies, a 6-year-old boy playfully kissing the hand of a schoolmate must be singled out for extraordinary discipline. Failure to mete out this discipline might draw the wrath of the federal government who could, pursuant to non-legislatively imposed guidelines, withdraw federal funding from the whole school. This, of course, is tantamount to punishing every student in the place. Naturally, this would be grossly unfair. But when it comes to schoolchildren, this type of unfairness seems to be perfectly acceptable.

In addition, any time there’s a fight on school grounds, many districts suspend both students involved, regardless of which one was the aggressor; no explanations, no tolerance, no exceptions. Even if an innocent student is simply defending himself/herself, suspension is imposed. To punish people for defending themselves against violent aggression is patently unfair. But when it comes to schoolchildren, again, taxpayers are expected to tolerate this unfairness. Every day there are examples of schoolchildren being stigmatized and punished for profoundly innocuous behaviors like shaping a pop tart, displaying a charm-sized futuristic ray gun or pointing a finger. These oppressive, hyper-technical rules produce many examples of unfair punishments imposed on children. But unfairness of this type, when forced on children, is expected to be overlooked and endured, if not supported. You get the picture. In the view of bureaucrats and social engineers, it’s OK to be unfair to the kids.

Now consider this. Some employers are as rigid about background checks as schools are about harassment and violence. Whereas the burden of rigid school rules falls on schoolchildren, the burden of rigid application of background checks falls on convicted felons. But, unlike schoolchildren, when unfairness falls on convicted felons, the government won’t tolerate it.

Last April, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission determined that automatic exclusion of applicants with criminal records was unfair. Consequently, employers who have a zero tolerance position concerning the hiring of convicted felons run the risk of expensive burdensome enforcement action by the EEOC.

Recently, Greg Abbott, Texas attorney general, sued the EEOC claiming the commission was overreaching its authority. According to Attorney General Abbott’s lawsuit, the EEOC went too far when it tried to bully employers into dropping the “no tolerance” policy concerning hiring convicted felons.

What is the moral, legal and rational justification for being tougher on school kids than we are on criminals? Probably, opponents of strictly enforced “zero tolerance” policies have the better argument. There are compelling exceptions to every rule and the more fair decisions are based on the facts of the case. But it’s grossly unfair to approve zero-tolerance policies applied to children and bully employers into redrafting their hiring guidelines to avoid unfairness to felons.

Let’s acknowledge there will be instances where application of “zero tolerance” concerning the hiring of felons is unfair. People can change. A convicted felon may be rehabilitated and transformed into a very capable employee. But it makes more sense to expect adult criminals to live with the consequences of their decisions than to impose lifelong stigmata on little boys and girls for school yard pranks that really don’t hurt anyone. I’d like to have someone explain. I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.

MIKE HINKLE is a retired attorney and Edmond resident.

Text Only
  • Bangladesh’s sweatshops — a boycott is not the answer

    One year ago this week, the eight-story Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh’s capital city of Dhaka, killing 1,129 people. The building’s top floors had been added illegally, and their weight caused the lower stories to buckle. Many of the victims were young women who had been sewing low-priced clothes for Western brands, earning a minimum wage of about $9 a week. It was the worst disaster in garment industry history.

    April 24, 2014

  • Loosening constraints on campaign donations and spending doesn’t destroy democracy

    Campaign finance reformers are worried about the future. They contend that two Supreme Court rulings — the McCutcheon decision in March and the 2010 Citizens United decision — will magnify inequality in U.S. politics.
    In both cases, the court majority relaxed constraints on how money can be spent on or donated to political campaigns. By allowing more private money to flow to campaigns, the critics maintain, the court has allowed the rich an unfair advantage in shaping political outcomes and made “one dollar, one vote” (in one formulation) the measure of our corrupted democracy.
    This argument misses the mark for at least four reasons.

    April 23, 2014

  • The top 12 government programs ever

    Which federal programs and policies succeed in being cost-effective and targeting those who need them most? These two tests are obvious: After all, why would we spend taxpayers' money on a program that isn't worth what it costs or helps those who do not need help?

    April 23, 2014

  • Free trade on steroids: The threat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

    Many supporters of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, trade agreement are arguing that its fate rests on President Obama’s bilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan this week. If Japan and the United States can sort out market access issues for agriculture and automobiles, the wisdom goes, this huge deal — in effect, a North American Free Trade Agreement on steroids — can at last be concluded.

    April 22, 2014

  • Can Hillary Clinton rock the cradle and the world?

    What's most interesting to contemplate is the effect becoming a grandmother will have on Hillary's ambition. It's one of life's unfairnesses that a woman's peak career years often coincide with her peak childbearing years.

    April 22, 2014

  • Chicago Tribune: If Walgreen Co. moves its HQ to Europe, blame Washington’s tax failure

    The Walgreen Co. drugstore chain got its start nearly a century ago in downstate Dixon, Ill., before moving its corporate headquarters to Chicago and eventually to north suburban Deerfield, Ill.
    Next stop? Could be Bern, Switzerland.
    A group of shareholders reportedly is pressuring the giant retail chain for a move to the land of cuckoo clocks. The reason: lower taxes. Much lower taxes.
    If Walgreen changes its legal domicile to Switzerland, where it recently acquired a stake in European drugstore chain Alliance Boots, the company could save big bucks on its corporate income-tax bill. The effective U.S. income-tax rate for Walgreen, according to analysts at Swiss Bank UBS: 37 percent. For Alliance Boots: about 20 percent.

    April 21, 2014

  • Sulphur a future major tourist destination?

    Greta Garbo says, “I want to be alone,” in the 1932 film “Grand Hotel.” That MGM film starred Garbo, John and Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery and a young actress from Lawton named Joan Crawford. It told the stories of several different people who were staying at an exclusive hotel of that name in Berlin Germany.
    It was critically well received and it inspired more recent films such as “Gosford Park” and television shows such as “Downton Abbey” in that it detailed the relationship between powerful and wealthy people and those who served them. The film opened amidst much fanfare and it received the Oscar for best picture in the year of its release.

    April 21, 2014

  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Why poverty across the world matters to Americans

    A child starving in South Sudan should matter to Americans. That was the message delivered last week by Nancy Lindborg, whose job at the U.S. Agency for International Development is to lead a federal bureau spreading democracy and humanitarian assistance across the world.
    That world has reached a critical danger zone, with three high-level crises combining military conflict with humanitarian catastrophes affecting millions of innocents in Syria, the South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
    But back to that child.

    April 18, 2014

  • Government leadership complicit in overfilling prisons

    One of the thorniest problems facing any society is the question of what to do with transgressors. Obviously, the more complicated a culture becomes, the more factors come into play in trying to figure out what to do with those who choose not to “play by the rules.”

    April 18, 2014

  • My best days are ones normal people take for granted

    It is a weekend for working around the house. My fiancee, Erin, and I have the baby’s room to paint and some IKEA furniture to assemble. I roll out of bed early — 10:30 — and get into my wheelchair. Erin is already making coffee in the kitchen.
    “I started the first wall,” she says. “I love that gray.” Erin never bugs me about sleeping late. For a few months after I was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, I often slept 15 hours a day. The doctors said my body needed to heal. It must still be healing because I hardly ever see 8 a.m. anymore.

    April 18, 2014


Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

     View Results