This Is My Pencil. This Is My Pencil Pretending To Be A Gun. One Is For Writing. One Is For Mandatory Suspensions.
from the school-admins-looking-to-shutter-known-arms-dealer-OfficeMax dept
A majority of human beings would look at two 7-year-old boys pretending their pencils are guns and say something about “boys being boys” or “someone’s going to poke their eye out” and leave it at that. Those who craft and enforce zero tolerance policies see something more sinister. They see “threatening behavior” that must be dealt with swiftly and with as little thought as possible.
The end result? Two 7-year-old boys with otherwise clean records were handed two-day suspensions for pointing their pencils at each other and making shooting noises. This ridiculous punishment was (of course) defended at length by school administration.
Suffolk Public Schools spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw said a pencil is considered a weapon when it’s pointed at someone in a threatening way and gun noises are made.
Really? Administration thinks a pencil becomes a weapon when “gun noises are made.” (They don’t actually think this, of course. They’ve just crafted a policy that states this, thus preventing administration members from “erroneously” coming to independent conclusions.) I can see a pencil being considered a weapon if it’s being “pointed” (in a stabbing motion) at a sensitive area like an eyeball or a neck. Then a pencil is a weapon.
When two boys point pencils at each other and make shooting noises, a pencil is still a pencil and their imagination is doing all the heavy lifting. All it would take to “disarm” these kids is asking them to stop. Which is what a teacher did.
On the suspension note, the teacher noted that the boy stopped when she told him to do so.
Problem solved. No one is harmed and the perpetrators were left with nothing but non-threatening pencils. Why this was written on a suspension note, rather than on a simple concerned note to the parents or better yet, on NOTHING AT ALL, is beyond me. But Bradshaw has an answer for every question and a terrible excuse for every idiotic zero tolerance policy.
“Some children would consider it threatening, who are scared about shootings in schools or shootings in the community,” Bradshaw said. “Kids don’t think about ‘Cowboys and Indians’ anymore, they think about drive-by shootings and murders and everything they see on television news every day.”
Do they? My kids don’t think about that kind of stuff. Then again, they rarely watch the news. Would my boys be “threatened” by a pencil gun? I doubt it. They’re probably packing a pencil or two themselves during the school day. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that these hypothetical, hypersensitive children who bruise whenever the wind changes direction do not actually exist, at least not outside of statements like Bradshaw’s. They’re straw children.
Bradshaw also defended the moronic policy using this gem:
Bradshaw said the policy has been in place for at least two decades.
So… you’re saying the administration has been stupidly overreacting since back when MTV still played music videos and no one has once thought that maybe a few policies might need to be updated or relaxed or given a good once over with a dose of context or common sense? Rules can be changed, even big, important ones. (See also: Amendments 1-27 to the Constitution, but pay close attention to nos. 18 and 21.) Nothing’s so inflexible that anyone should be reduced to the rhetorical level Bradshaw is, fending off irritated parents with “Yeah, it’s a shitty policy but what are you going to do. It has tenure.”
Bradshaw doubles down on the importance and inflexibility of “rules” as well.
“It’s an effort to try to get kids not to bring any form of violence, even if it’s violent play, into the classroom,” Bradshaw said. “There has to be a consequence because it’s a rule.”
Yeah, I get it. A rule is a rule. And enforcers like Bradshaw are throwing stuff on kids’ permanent records that wouldn’t pass the laugh test in the real world. Will this file note that the two boys “pointed pencils at each other and made shooting noises?” Or will it state something to the effect that the boys broke the school’s policy on violence and threatening behavior? My guess is the latter, which will allow anyone perusing the record to imagine the worst.
We can only hope that having these stories reported widely might push a few administrators to consider loosening or removing these so-called “zero tolerance” policies. Unfortunately, to date most administrators (and their policies) seem impervious to public ridicule, and every school-related tragedy just results in a newer, more rigid set of unbreakable rules. Until the day comes when kids can be kids without being suspended for pretending pencils are guns, parents might want to sit their kids down and have a long talk about safe pencil handling and the requirements and responsibilities that come with the “conceal-and-carry” permit they’ll be needing before being allowed to start the next school year.