Student Points Finger Like Gun, Gets Suspended Under Zero Tolerance Rules

from the zero-intelligence dept

If one were looking to find a singular, widespread example of the American people’s abdication of common sense, the best of the available examples would have to be zero tolerance policies in schools. Think about it for a moment. Here we have a population consisting entirely of incomplete members of society, those that are still undergoing the learning and growth required to become fully functional members of our union. To treat that still-learning population with any measure of “zero tolerance” is antithetical in the extreme. These are the very people you would expect to make mistakes, to lack a full understanding of their surroundings and situations. They’re the people in our culture most in need of tolerant learning opportunities, rather than the iron fist of bullshit justice.

Take the story reader kenichi tanaka writes us about, in which a youngster making the universal gun-symbol with one hand has ended up suspended from school. Keep in mind that Nathan Entingh is ten years old, was playing around with one of his friends, and that roughly every kid on the planet everywhere has done this exact same damned thing.

“He was pointing it at a friend’s head and he said ‘boom.’ The kid didn’t see it. No other kids saw it. But the teacher saw it,” he said. “It wasn’t threatening. It wasn’t hostile. It was a 10-year-old kid playing.”

The next morning Paul Entingh escorted his son Nathan to the principal’s office, where they met with Devonshire Alternative Elementary School Principal Patricia Price.

“She said if it happened again the suspension would be longer, if not permanent,” said Entingh, who also received a letter explaining the reason for Nathan’s suspension as a “level 2 look alike firearm.”

A level 2 look alike firearm? What the sweet hell does that mean? I’m just saying, I can make up nonsense levels about stuff, too, such as the policy on display here is a level 30 kind of stupid, with no save rolls for intelligence.

Look, I think the American people have been pretty patient with this kind of BS, but enough is enough. To take a common pantomime like this and use it to suspend a confused ten year old for three days from his place of education doesn’t make a lick of sense. Worse, what could have been a learning moment about why we might not want to see kids doing that kind of thing in school was instead turned into a learning moment about the injustice of zero tolerance laws. Well done all around, Ohio educational system!

When asked what has Nathan learned from this incident, Entingh paused, then scoffed: “He’s learned never to make his fingers like a gun a school again. I don’t know if you consider that a life lesson.”

In other words, no reason or context was taught, only uninformed respect for the power of authority. Yup, sounds about right.

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Comments on “Student Points Finger Like Gun, Gets Suspended Under Zero Tolerance Rules”

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104 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

Re: If it were me...

When asked what has Nathan learned from this incident, Entingh paused, then scoffed: “He’s learned never to make his fingers like a gun a school again. I don’t know if you consider that a life lesson.”

You are not dealing with functioning adults. If you were, as I said in a reply to another reader this wouldn’t have escalated. His dad is a functioning adult. He just need to take it to the courts for a full win.

MrWilson says:

Re: Zero tolerance policies = Zero thought required

I’m hoping to read a story in the near future in which some overly officious principal calls 911 because a student points their finger like a gun and the officer who responds arrests the principal for abusing 911.

This makes me feel so old (when I’m not, relatively) to have to say that when I was this kid’s age, if I had done the same thing (and my friends and I did, probably about everyday), my teacher would have told me to get back to my schoolwork or wait until it was recess to play war games.

David says:

Re: Re: Zero tolerance policies = Zero thought required

I’m hoping to read a story in the near future in which some overly officious principal calls 911 because a student points their finger like a gun and the officer who responds arrests the principal for abusing 911.

Well, “zero tolerance” certainly take hold not just when a weapon or weapon lookalike gets actually pointed at a victim. It should be enough to carry one to school.

So how long before a student will get arrested because he brought two level 2 lookalike firearms (namely, his hands) to school?

Of course, the actually dangerous body part is a brain, but sightings of those have become rare in the U.S.A.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

And once again the people wonder why we don’t have Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance policies, and some talking head will list all of the mythical dangers that will suddenly become all to real if we don’t have these.

This teaches children to accept the unacceptable, that just because someone has power you have to respect and listen to them no matter what, it is the rule. Children like this grow up to believe the lies media tells them, and accept what the government does to them to balance the budget while giving handouts to corporations.

This needs to end, if you care about your kids make them stop… unless you want your child to listen to the lies they tell about why your arm was broken while you were in the nursing home without question.

Rekrul says:

An easy way to stop this sort of crap would be to get all the students to do the same thing. Let’s see the school try to suspend or expel every single student. If they were stupid enough to try, the parents would be out for blood and the politicians would quickly abolish that law.

Never underestimate the effects of widespread civil disobedience.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I believe you severely overestimate their rationality and sanity, and especially their ability to admit to being wrong, more likely they’d call in the national guard and/or the FBI to deal with the ‘massive outbreak of terrorism threatening the school’.

Mind you, would make for a very public protest against the idiocy that is ‘zero tolerance’, so that alone would probably be worth it.

Alien Rebel (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“An easy way to stop this sort of crap would be to get all the students to do the same thing.”

I like it; though a foolish doubling down by the so-called adults would of course be a distinct possibility.

The nice thing about this idea is that while morons can easily disregard the opinions of other adults (a big reason they’re morons more than likely), there’s no escaping the humiliation when even children recognize what dopes they are. I can’t imagine many things inflicting more hurt to the ego than a school full of kids snickering, “that’s the stoopid teacher!!!” And then with fingers drawn, blast away- “Pew, . . Pew-Pew!!!”

Alien Rebel (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

FYI- I did write “so called adults.”

Anyhow, I grew up watching lots of John Wayne war movies, and drew plenty of graphic battle scenes during class-time. One of my teachers did get to see my notebook, chock-full of violence and gore. (Leaky, smeary red ballpoint pens made for some awesome blood!) She just commented that I had talent.

If I was a kid now I’d be doing hard time.

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I agree. What would happen if every student in this teacher’s class made the gun symbol with their hands? Would he/ she send all of them to the principal? Would the school really suspect all 20-30 kids in the class?

I also agree that it’s past time that policy-makers learn the difference between the threat of a real gun and the non-threat of fingers, pop tarts, and whatever else.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

When I submitted the article to Techdirt, I actually couldn’t believe the audacity of the teacher in this incident. Rather than turn this into a teaching moment by trying to educate the student and trying to explain to him why it was wrong to do what he did, he gets suspended instead.

It doesn’t do any good to penalize a student for doing nothing wrong and the “teacher” obviously forgot what being a “teacher” is about. You’re supposed to educate your students. Explaining to them what is right from what is wrong.

Instead, this teacher made the wrong decision and the student was suspended. Last time I checked, bullets don’t magically shoot from your fingers.

FarSide (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I call “bullshit” on this.

I have a number of acquaintances who teach and they say the same thing – they HAVE to report it.

Here’s how it works: teacher sees it, immediately turns away and pretends she didn’t see it. Then… nothing else happens.

Teachers are just as guilty as the admins for hiding behind the whole ‘I have no choice” crap.

My wife’s friend said she heard a kid make some joke about his dad “beating him if he did that” – she said she knew it was obviously just a joke. And yet… she reported it anyway. Because she “had” to.

No brains. No judgement. No backbone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Confusion

That is the problem. Many of these people who seek positions of authority simply do not understand what the word “respect” actually means. the word describes something that is earned, not given or demanded. What they call respect is what everyone else calls reverence as in worship. It is no wonder they have problems with children.

Brazenly Anonymous says:

Re: Re: Re: Confusion

Those two are not inherently contradictory. They can be harmonized if one merely assumes that respect is an objective measure, in which case they are demanding the respect they’ve earned.

That that assumption is deeply flawed must be pointed out if those demanding respect are to understand their error. Otherwise, those they don’t think are worthy of respect will be dismissed as not being aware of the need to earn it, leading to arguments with each side accusing the other of entitlement while demanding respect for themselves.

btrussell (profile) says:

Re: Re: Confusion

“the word describes something that is earned, not given or demanded.”

I disagree. Unless it can be earned just by being born a human being.

Do you walk around all day without any respect for anyone unless they have specifically earned it? You sound like my mother in-law.

I am going to teach her that I can demand respect as well. One phone call to the police is all it will take to prove it.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Confusion

Respect indeed must be earned, and no, it cannot be earned just by being born a human being.

Everyone deserves courtesy until they show they don’t deserve it, but no one deserves respect until they show they do deserve it.

More than that: Just because you’ve earned the respect of one person, that doesn’t mean you’ve earned the respect of anyone else. If you want to be respected by multiple people, you have to earn the respect of each of those people individually – and each person’s criteria and/or thresholds for what they consider worthy of respect can be different.

I suspect this is a disagreement about what the word “respect” actually means, but unfortunately, in this case I don’t have a good attempt at a definition of what I understand it to mean. If anyone wants to offer one, I can try to explain what I disagree with about it, and we might be able to narrow down our positions by going back and forth that way…

Anonymous Coward says:

Sometimes the kid who does this sort of stuff actually has a massive history of issues.

Having worked in schools and seen this behavior, many times it is just kids joking around, but I have also seen VERY troubled kids who have histories of violence, theft, bullying, assault, etc… make these sort of motions and it usually gives administration finally an excuse to get the kid out of their school and usually into some type of school that can deal with their emotional problems.

99% of kids are good who make mistakes, 1% are little Dahmers who would just as soon shoot you as go to detention.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Communists like you should be deported

Wait, what? Communists?

There is a communist party in America, but they don’t get much airplay and therefore few votes.

Unless you’re trying to make “communist” into a catch-all insult the way some people use “gay.”

While getting the kid out of their school and into some type of school that can deal with their emotional problems sounds like a good idea in principle, the anecdotal evidence suggests that these are normal kids who have fallen foul of an over-zealous disciplinary regime.

I’d be interested to learn where “those school that can deal with their emotional problems” are, as they’re not widely reported on. Do they even exist?

Brazenly Anonymous says:

Re: Sometimes the kid who does this sort of stuff actually has a massive history of issues.

99% of kids are good who make mistakes, 1% are little Dahmers who would just as soon shoot you as go to detention.

So your solution is to undermine the principal of having rules so you can apply your subjective judgment and dish out punishment to the students you don’t like. Do you not see the problem here?

Anonymous Coward says:

Confused

As I read the first paragraph I was thinking this was about the faculty.

“Think about it for a moment. Here we have a population consisting entirely of incomplete members of society, those that are still undergoing the learning and growth required to become fully functional members of our union.”

After all, they have never left school.

Zos (profile) says:

i’ll be damned, my kids school made techdirt.
about two weeks ago my kindergartener got in trouble for precisely the same thing, sent to the in school detention room. I’m pissed, and pretty much have no avenue of doing anything about it, since the zero tolerance bullshit is mandated from much higher than local level.

best i can do is go get thrown out of a school board meeting.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

” state run monopoly on education”

I’m not sure where you get this tidbit, but you are wrong.
There are plenty of alternatives to public schools if they do not meet your needs. Have you tried attending school board meetings, PTA meetings or gone to parent teacher conferences?

Yeah – I didn’t think so.

DogBreath says:

You think that's bad,,,

Good thing he didn’t have a rubber band in between his thumb and index finger or he would have been suspended for a “loaded level 2 look alike firearm”.

We should just paint all of our childrens fingertips orange so the morons in charge don’t call out the SWAT teams to “deal with the problem” and get them “accidentally shot” because “their fingers could be guns“.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You think that's bad,,,

I tracked down the “Behavior Guide” for the Columbus School District, and it says that possession of a “look-alike firearm” is a Level 2 offense, placing it on the same level as bullying, sexual misconduct, and theft. It turns out that a look-alike firearm is defined as:

Any item that resembles a firearm but does not have the explosive characteristics of a firearm but may use a spring loaded device or air pressure by which to
propel an object or substance (i.e., toy guns, cap guns, bb guns and pellet
guns).

One could technically claim that a rubber band gun that resembled a firearm was a violation of this rule; a finger sans rubber band is not.

Curiously enough, the guide suggests that the preferred behaviors include impulse control, considering the feelings of others, and demonstrating positive social skills. None of these behaviors were exhibited by Ms. Price.

Doug says:

Other punishments

Seriously, let’s just take a face value that this (fake gun pointing) is something the faculty had been trying to stop, and had asked repeatedly that the kids stop doing it. (Ignoring the obvious possibility that story is just a cover story to make the actions seem less idiotic.)

So, the fact that the kid did it again does merit some kind of consequence. How about any of these?

– Write an essay on why the student thinks the teachers care about this so much.

– Write an essay on why fake gun play is disconcerting given the way guns are portrayed in the news and popular culture.

– Do some time doing make-work (cleaning up the playground, cleaning the classroom, washing dishes).

– Sit down with the teacher and parent and discuss what happened and why they don’t like it.

– Do extra homework.

– Write sentences, “I will not make others think bullets can come out of my fingers. I will not make others …”

– Miss recess.

So many options!

Doug says:

{Greater than Zero}-Tolerance

The school doesn’t seem to understand the concept of zero. (I sympathize; I didn’t believe in negative numbers until 4th grade!)

They invoked the zero-tolerance policy, but they admit this wasn’t the first one. The district spokesman said, “Price ‘has been warning the students for some weeks’…”. And then said that Nathan’s “was the first incident after Price gave ‘her final notice last week.'”

So, OK, everyone’s been doing it for weeks and they get warning after warning, none of which stick. Then the principal says, “OK, last warning.” And then a 10-year-old doesn’t believe them. Shocking!

This is quite the example of bad parenting. First, demonstrate that your warnings don’t mean anything. Then when you secretly reach your breaking point, over-react!

RD says:

Level 2 Look-Alike Firearm

“A level 2 look alike firearm? What the sweet hell does that mean?”

It means the same thing as “semi-automatic weapon” and “assault rifle” and “high-capacity magazine:”

It’s the boogeyman that will come to KILL YOU IN YOUR SLEEP, so you better be terrified by the terminology, for the children!

Wally (profile) says:

I will point out that the school involved is being investigated by the Ohio BOE over the matter. In my state, being Ohio, each school makes their own policies…but rules concerning guns and how to handle gun situations are universal in Ohio…The principle of that school based the suspension as a Level 2 Gun Lookalike…which by Ohio Board of Education standards, is anything that looks real enough to be used in a threatening manner…The school Nathan went to…fucked up royal.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Oh no worries, my scorn and disgust isn’t aimed at you, rather it’s all focused on the morons in this story, who have demonstrated a complete and utter lack of critical thinking ability, and instead rely on ‘guidelines’ and ‘rules’ that are completely incapable of being applied proportionally, instead treating the lightest offense as heavy as the worst.

Anonymous Coward says:

I can see having a policy against pretending to shoot someone’s head with your fingers. But it should result in a detention at worst.

A suspension means the kid isn’t learning. It should only be used when there’s a good reason.

And fingers are not a “gun lookalike”. Tell me, what type of gun did it look like?

David says:

Re: Re:

Actually, you’d be surprised. You seem to assume that ADHD medication would be somewhat akin to tranquilizers. It’s actually more like amphethamines/speed (works on the same kind of receptors and in the same direction but with a different mechanism, sort of like pushing on one side of the door rather than pulling on the other, so it’s somewhat better controllable). If we are actually talking about genuine ADHD rather than incompetent parenting syndrome, the actually working medication is pretty much opposite than what one would think it would be.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is the real lesson of modern public school

only uninformed respect for the power of authority

Public school is abysmal on so many levels. It is really about people control anymore. If you want a real eye opener, look for the quotes by the people 50 and 100 years ago who were over public school in this country. It was never about teaching. This is why there are so many people home schooling now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This is the real lesson of modern public school

You imply this is unique to public schools, it is not.

Private schools are not devoid of overzealous authoritarian self righteous idiots and neither are home schoolers.

Given the average knowledge and experience of the general public, I doubt home schooling is a reasonable alternative for everyone.

Declaring all schools are bad and need to be replaced because of several stories is a knee jerk reaction. The overall percentage remains low and can be addressed if school boards would allow it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This is the real lesson of modern public school

The difference is that if education were a market where multiple schools competed for students there would actually be an incentive to make sure the parents were on board with disciplinary actions rather than a single, over-ridding objective of staying in the good graces of the bureaucrat above you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: This is the real lesson of modern public school

For profit schooling is a very bad idea and there would be little to no competition. It would be rife with corruption, price gouging and mandatory contract terms and conditions. So, exactly what incentive would a for profit school have to include the parent in their disciplinary decisions?

John Cressman (profile) says:

That's what you get...

That’s what you get from a corrupt, union-driven education system. It’s true. My dad was a teacher and I teach at two colleges.

The unions have totally removed any common sense from schools when you literally have to molest a child or shoot one if you’re a teacher or administrator to get fired.

There are NO real performance reviews and while there ARE some good teachers who care, there are far more teachers who just want to pound their philosophy and “morality” into the children they “teach”.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re: That's what you get...

Thanks for pointing out that “the beast” means “Democrats” to them. Am I the only one who gets sick of the constant renaming of things to fit a partisan agenda?

Mr. Cressman, unions don’t set policy for education and running schools. This issue is probably due to fear of lawsuits, as Techdirt readers have pointed out on similar stories.

Dan Tobias (user link) says:

The excellent webcomic Bad Machinery by John Allison put it:

http://scarygoround.com/index.php?date=20130717

“Sorry, but if we investigated every 11-year-old pretending his arm was a gun… we’d never get anything else done.”

And this is in the UK, where they’re much stricter with REAL guns than in the US. (But in the strip, the kid in question turned out to be a time-traveler who was actually worthy of investigation… but that’s the comics for you.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Lack of imagination

The child should be spoken to, though not about violating any bullshit policy. The finger pistol is just lame and lacks imagination. Aren’t there enough action movies and comics out there to give good ideas to kids?

Nathan could have used his palm and shot plasma beams at his target. He could have made a magical casting movement, and flung magic missiles at his target. Or touched his temples and blasted his opponent with a telepathic choke. Call in an orbital cannon blast?

Time Traveller says:

Similar thing happened here in 2024. Fortunately, the kid missed the other kids head with his finger gun and the other kid is receiving counseling for the trauma. We charged finger gun kid as an adult with assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder, otherwise he would likely come back with two finger guns and massacre the whole school. He’s now serving two consecutive life sentences without parole.

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