Adrionna Harris, a sixth-grade student, came across a student at her school who was cutting his arm. She intervened, took the razor from the student and threw it away, then reported the incident to school authorities. For which action she was suspended and recommended for expulsion for violating the school’s zero tolerance policy on having weapons at school (a decision since reconsidered in the wake of the reaction against it).
Ajax was a Greek hero in the Trojan War. When Achilles dies, his armor is to be given to the worthiest soldier. Ajax, loyal and hard-working, behind whose broad shoulders many soldiers gathered during the battles, believes he deserves the armor. Odysseus, wily and articulate, is his rival for the armor. Agamemnon, the king, in an attempt to be just and fair and create a decision about which there can be no reproach, has a panel of soldiers decide; they choose Odysseus. Ajax explodes in anger, attempts to kill the king, and commits suicide. Paul Woodruff muses on the situation in The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness, and Rewards. Even more than the title implies, he talks about leadership. Life is messy, particularly when human beings are involved, and a leader can never be sure what the right response must be. Good leaders have a knack for understanding their subjects; they take charge and know how to respond. But Agamemnon is not a good leader, and his attempts at an institutional decision via the panel of soldiers backfires.
The school’s rules subjected Adrionna Harris to punishment for transgressing them. The school administrators were remiss in their duties; rather than lead, they let the institution and its rules dictate the outcome. They hid behind the legalities of the rules rather than being the leaders they are tasked with being. And instead of justice and fairness, they sowed discord by improperly punishing an individual who was, instead, worthy of praise and adulation.