7-Year-Old Student Suspended For Waving Around A 'Gun' Made From A Pastry

from the 'always-be-a-good-boy/don't-ever-play-with-buns' dept

So, it's come to this. Oh, wait. I've already used that opening, back when I thought the pinnacle of guns-n-schools overreaction had been approached, if not actually surmounted. Let's start again.

So, NOW it's come to this. A seven-year-old suspended from school for crudely fashioning his breakfast pastry into a gun-like shape and brandishing it in the most menacing fashion a gun-shaped pastry can be wielded.

A 7-year-old Anne Arundel County boy was suspended for two days for chewing a breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun and saying, “Bang, bang”— an offense the school described as a threat to other students, according to his family.

The pastry “gun” was a rectangular strawberry-filled bar, akin to a Pop-Tart, that the second-grader had tried to nibble into the shape of a mountain Friday morning, but then found it looked more like a gun, said his father, William “B.J.” Welch.
Yes. A Pop Tart knockoff makes a handy makeshift weapon, perhaps explaining why pastries are no longer served in prisons. When I say "it's come to this," it really has, but it's been a long time coming and there's plenty of precedent.
- Feb. 5, 2013 - A ten-year-old Virginia student was suspended for bringing an orange-tipped toy gun on a bus.

- Feb. 1, 2013 - A 9-year-old student was suspended for bringing a 2-inch toy gun on a key fob to school.

- Jan. 29, 2013 - A 5-year-old student could be suspended for crafting a Lego gun during an after-school program. Not only that, but he'd crafted his fingers into a gun mere weeks earlier.

- Jan. 22, 2013 - A 5-year-old is suspended for discussing her Hello Kitty bubble gun, saying, "I'll shoot you, you'll shoot me and we'll all play together."

- Jan. 2, 2013 - A 6-year-old in a Washington D.C. school was suspended for making a gun gesture with his hands.

- August 28, 2012 - A deaf 3-year-old preschooler is asked to change the sign he uses for his name -- Hunter -- which he signs by forming a gun with his hands. Apparently, "saying" his name violates the school's weapon policy.

- Feb. 24, 2012 - A drawing of a gun by a four-year-old resulted in the arrest of her father when he came to pick her up from school. He was detained by police and strip-searched while his children were questioned by social services. The gun his child depicted? A plastic toy that belonged to his kids.
That's just a sampling. There are many more stories like these out there. There are many that are underreported or never reported, where parents just deal with the ridiculous outcome of zero-tolerance policies. For some reason, many schools still labor under the delusion that "zero tolerance" equals "tough, but fair." It's neither, and utilizing zero tolerance policies simply prunes the whole process back to a disfigured stump devoid of logic, perspective or context.

So, a child eats something and starts playing with his food because it resembles something other than the RDA-approved Pop Tart knockoff. And his school responds by twisting its own weapons policy into a parody of itself. The actual wording pertaining to prohibited items, courtesy of Lowering the Bar, reads like this:
Any gun of any kind, loaded or unloaded, operable or inoperable, including any object other than a firearm which is a look-a-like of a gun. This shall include, but is not limited to, pellet gun, paintball gun, stun gun, taser, BB gun, flare gun, nail gun, and air soft gun.
How does this policy apply to the pastry? That's a great question, and Lowering the Bar doesn't have an answer:
Josh's gun was not a firearm, because it was a pastry, and it seems highly unlikely that it qualified as a gun "look-a-like," again because it was a pastry. It certainly is nothing like any of the "look-a-like" items set forth in the list, largely because those items are not pastries.
The school's logic apparently is that if it vaguely resembles a gun and someone is pretending it's a gun, then it's a gun look-a-like. Case closed.

This, in and of itself, would be pathetic enough. But it gets worse. The school sent home a letter regarding the (non) incident, which hilariously offers the assistance of staff counselors for anyone "troubled" by the weaponized pastry.
Dear Parents and Guardians:

I am writing to let you know about an incident that occurred this morning in one of our classrooms and encourage you to discuss this matter with your child in a manner you deem most appropriate.

During breakfast this morning, one of our students used food to make inappropriate gestures that disrupted the class. While no physical threats were made and no one [was] harmed, the student had to be removed from the classroom.

* * *

As you are aware, the ... Code of Student Conduct and appropriate consequences related to violations of the code are clearly spelled out in the Student Handbook, which was sent home during the first week of school and can be found on our website, www.aacps.org....
If your children express that they are troubled by today's incident, please talk with them and help them share their feelings. Our school counselor is available to meet with any students who have the need to do so next week. In general, please remind them of the importance of making good choices.
Kevin Underhill at LTB adds:
Pretty sure that if your children are "troubled" by another kid biting a pastry into something that looks sort of like a gun and waving said pastry around, you have already failed as a parent.
And I'd add that if you've done even a merely passable job as a parent, the only "feeling" your children might want to "share" is that their school is run by officious asshats, even if they haven't quite developed the vocabulary to say that in so many words. (Don't kid yourselves, parents: they're quite capable of swearing well above their grade level.)

This is the nadir of the education system's zero tolerance weapon policies. Zero tolerance does nothing more than relieve the administrative staff from the possibility of having blood on their hands. No situtation is too ridiculous to be taken seriously -- and punished harshly. Reducing every incident to binary ensures that no school employee can ever be held responsible for overreacting to any perceived "threat," no matter how innocuous. In many ways, the education system is a reflection of our current "homeland security" ecosystem where the endless pursuit of "safety" has become the impetus for thousands of terrible policies, all enforced inflexibly.

There's a way to pull out of this nosedive but it involves many, many people being willing to make judgement calls on the fly and able to face the heat should their judgement falter. Unfortunately for many in the system, the risk is much higher than the reward. For many in these positions, the possibility of being wrong is incapacitating and zero tolerance policies relieve this pressure. Trying to steer the system back towards a greater reliance on common sense won't be easy, but continuing to let it drift in its current direction will do nothing to improve the safety and security of our schools, much less our country.

Filed Under: children, guns, overreaction, pastries, schools, zero tolerance

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2013 @ 2:08pm

    This is the problem with common sense. It's not as common as you think.

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