Florida Lawmakers Aim To Restore Childrens' Rights To Openly Carry Pop Tart 'Guns' On Campus

from the 2nd-(grade)-Amendment dept

It seems to me that if it takes a new law to force school policies to more closely resemble common sense, then there's definitely a problem with those policies. The question remains as to why this couldn't be changed at a school administration level. Zero tolerance weapons policies are somewhat mandatory, seeing as they're tied to school funding. But there's nothing in that stipulating that situations not involving actual weapons need to be handled in the most asinine fashion possible.

Since the story broke about the suspension of a 7-year-old student for biting his breakfast pastry (a Pop-Tart, for all intents and purposes) into a gun-like shape and making gun-like motions, legislation has been introduced twice to address this incredibly stupid problem.

The first bill was passed in Maryland, the state in which the dangerous Pop-Tart gun was first brandished. Florida is now the second state attempting to step up and reaffirm its schoolchildren's right to carry (and deploy) non-functioning, non-weapons that may or may not resemble actual weapons, depending on your level of paranoiac imagination and/or adherence to zero tolerance policies. Its unofficial name is the "Pop-Tart bill," and it aims to ensure that the Anne Arundel, MD school will never live down its brush with deadly pastries.

Here's the text that specifies exactly what administrators won't be allowed to portray as policy-violating weapons in the future.

Simulating a firearm or weapon while playing or wearing clothing or accessories that depict a firearm or weapon or express an opinion regarding a right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is not grounds for disciplinary action or referral to the criminal justice or juvenile justice system under this section or s. 1006.13. Simulating a firearm or weapon while playing includes, but is not limited to:

1. Brandishing a partially consumed pastry or other food item to simulate a firearm or weapon.

2. Possessing a toy firearm or weapon that is 2 inches or less in overall length.

3. Possessing a toy firearm or weapon made of plastic snap-together building blocks.

4. Using a finger or hand to simulate a firearm or weapon.

5. Vocalizing an imaginary firearm or weapon.

6. Drawing a picture, or possessing an image, of a firearm or weapon.

7. Using a pencil, pen, or other writing or drawing utensil to simulate a firearm or weapon.
This would seem to cover a majority of incidents covered here and elsewhere. It still gives the schools leeway to make dumb decisions if they feel "learning" has been "disrupted" enough, and it also allows them to implement school uniform policies if the thought of screenprinted guns wandering the campus is too terrible to contemplate.

As for the kid who originally drew the suspension for his Pop-Tart gun, he's still dealing with the outcome of that school's suspension decision, as Katherine Mangu-Ward at Reason points out.
But the boy at the center of that controversy is still caught in the zero tolerance web. The Washington Post reports that school officials in that case are saying the suspension was really about general disciplinary problems, despite the fact that the brief citation includes the word gun four times and the parents say administrators made no mention of other concerns at the time of the suspension:

For more than a year, the Anne Arundel boy’s family has been asking school officials to clear the episode from his boy’s records, saying that it unfairly tarnishes his file with a gun-related offense....

At Tuesday’s hearing, school officials said the boy also had nibbled his pastry into a gun shape a day earlier. But his teacher, Jessica Fultz, testified that on that day he was more compliant when admonished. On the day he was suspended, she said, he was not responsive when she told him to stop.
The policies are not only bad, but they're enforced inconsistently. So, a kid who defiantly chews a Pop-Tart into a gun shape is treated as just as much of a problem as someone with an actual weapon in their possession. The school has yet to back down from its decision, proving it's still trying to portray itself as the real victim.

Oh, and it has a real problem with the media's inaccurate portrayal of this event.
Laurie Pritchard, Anne Arundel’s director of legal services, said that the object central to the case had been misportrayed, as well as the reason for the discipline.

“First of all, it wasn’t a Pop-Tart,” she said. “It was a breakfast pastry."
Well, that's what happens when you blow the budget on legal assistance rather than food. You can't afford name-brand goods. And shame on all of us for believing that the object cited the most in the suspension report was the actionable cause, rather than the barely-mentioned and overly vague "general disciplinary problems" the writeup couldn't even be bothered to enumerate.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    silverscarcat (profile), May 14th, 2014 @ 7:05am

    Breakfast pastry?

    They mean pop tart, right?

    Unless it was something like a toaster strudel, but I doubt that would have lasted to snack time.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 9:18am

    That such a law would be necessary in the first place is extremely depressing. Sometimes I wish I had been born as a different species on a different planet.

     

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    Bt Garner (profile), May 14th, 2014 @ 9:23am

    They'll have to pry my pop tart gun out of my cold, sweaty, type 1 diabetes induced coma frozen hands.

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), May 14th, 2014 @ 9:25am

    Not a pop-tart?

    Oh, well, they should have said so in the first place. That changes everything! (For values of "everything" that equal "nothing").

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 9:27am

    Sooo some places in America it's legal to open carry guns, but not for children to play with pretend guns?

     

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    doubledeej (profile), May 14th, 2014 @ 9:33am

    Common Sense

    When was it that common sense was outlawed? Did I miss something somewhere along the way?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 9:42am

    This is the kind of thing that belongs in an absurdist comedy, not in the real world.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 9:46am

    Another Retarded political effort

    Instead of addressing the actual root problem, they just legislate a solution in need of a problem yet again.

    Someone gets to look good while the idiots smile upon this.

     

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      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 10:16am

      Re: Another Retarded political effort

      Curious, what do you identify as the root problem? What legislation would you produce that might mitigate that root issue, and what would its other impact and unintended consequences be?

       

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        Quiet Lurcker, May 14th, 2014 @ 10:47am

        Re: Re: Another Retarded political effort

        The answer to that is very, very, simple. We enact a single law, rule, whatever you care to call it. Heck, make it an amendment to the constitution, for all I care.

        My new, proposed law is as follows in its entirety:

        Any person who
        a) wishes to hold elective office or
        b) wishes to be appointed to office by any person who holds elective office
        of any nature whatsoever,

        shall demonstrate to not less than five persons in any election district a predetermined capacity for rational thought and common sense, such determination not to be made by any of
        a) teachers or educators
        b) psychologists or mental health practitioners, notwithstanding the nature or type of license held by such practitioner
        c) current or former employees of government with the exception of current or former members of the armed services
        d) current or former holders of elective office
        e) current or former holders of office as appointed to such office by holders of elective office
        and not to use any intelligence test currently in existence or yet to be developed.

        You enforce that, and there ya go. Problem solved.

         

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          Anonymous Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 11:23am

          Re: Re: Re: Another Retarded political effort

          Your solution, while interesting, does not address the pervasiveness of money in the political arena. Until we change the way money impacts elections, to the point that it does not, no amount of common sense will overcome the influences of outside money.

          Where does outside money flow here? Well, federal funding for schools seems to depend upon a zero tolerance rule. How did that rule get into the fed's playbook. The answer would probably be satisfied by following the money on the folks who pushed for and implemented this idiocy.

           

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          Pragmatic, May 15th, 2014 @ 6:16am

          Re: Re: Re: Another Retarded political effort

          How would you do that? *Curious*

          The fact is, many members of the public are utter retards. How would you determine whether or not the five decision-makers were qualified to decide whether the individual in question possessed a predetermined capacity for rational thought and common sense?

          A Sovereign Citizen need only ask five other Sovereign Citizens, and he's through. A flat earther need only ask five other flat earthers, and he's through.

          Sorry, I can't see this working.

           

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        Vel the Enigmatic, May 14th, 2014 @ 10:51am

        Re: Re: Another Retarded political effort

        I think you misunderstand. There doesn't need to be any state legislation to fix this, and there shouldn't be to begin with.

        The root of the problem is in the school system and people / staff within it who apparently never learned or were never taught the difference between fantasy and reality. As a child, I used to pretend to use guns on the playground all the time. That was only a mere 16-17 years ago or so, and I have no criminal record as a result, how about that?

        Now they're presuming all children who play Cowboys & Indians on the playground to be future criminals? That's the epitome of stupidity.

        They're confusing correlation and causation to the highest extreme here. Simply playing pretend isn't going to make a kid bring an actual gun to school and shoot someone.

         

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          John Fenderson (profile), May 14th, 2014 @ 11:13am

          Re: Re: Re: Another Retarded political effort

          Actually, I don't think this is the result of confusing correlation and causation (or any other logical fallacy). I think this kind of policy is the result of being lazy. Zero-tolerance policies mean that no adult has to make a judgement call or pay attention to nuances like context. It means the grownups don't have to engage in any sort of rational thought.

           

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            Vel the Enigmatic, May 14th, 2014 @ 11:19am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Another Retarded political effort

            What about the creation of the policy itself? Is that not exactly a confusion of correlation with causation?

             

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              John Fenderson (profile), May 14th, 2014 @ 11:27am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Another Retarded political effort

              I believe that laziness is the reason behind the creation of the policy.

               

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              Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 12:37pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Another Retarded political effort

              The root cause for creating such policies is hysteria when something bad happens,

               

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            Brazenly Anonymous, May 14th, 2014 @ 11:33am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Another Retarded political effort

            Not laziness, fear of responsibility.

             

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            Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2014 @ 5:46am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Another Retarded political effort

            Zero tolerance is a kind of lame protectionism teachers and other school officials feel they need to have against lawsuits which could arise if they still had any room for making common sense decisions.
            Blame lawyers...
            Or congratulate yourself for not living in the USA =)

             

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          Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 12:27pm

          Re: Re: Re: Another Retarded political effort

          --Now they're presuming all children who play Cowboys & Indians on the playground to be future criminals?

          They might think such play is racist.
          Also, they simply fear things they know little about.

          Some people only know:
          1. Guns are dangerous and scarry

          They have no idea how to:
          1. Safely use a gun
          2. remove the ammo
          3. to aim it
          4. determine where the bullet exits the gun
          5. Tell difference between real and fake(toy/pop tart) gun
          6. Protect themselves from someone with a gun

          Really the problem is mostly that, fear of the unknown.
          How do you fix that?
          Education! Maybe teaching people about guns would lead to better gun safety.

           

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            Anonymous Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 12:43pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Another Retarded political effort

            Where is the NRA? Such an opportunity. Marksmanship classes in elementary school. No more fear of the unknown, and guns on school property under the control of the school. What could possibly go wrong?

             

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              Anonymous, May 14th, 2014 @ 4:11pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Another Retarded political effort

              Where is the NRA? They're busy taking money from suckers while selling them out.

               

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    tomczerniawski, May 14th, 2014 @ 9:47am

    For god's sake, the warning...

    ... is right there on the package!

    "Once you pop, you can't stop!"

    Gentlemen, we are witnessing the beginning of a terrible new pastry arms-race. We laugh now, because pop tart pistols do not threaten us... but soon, children will be forced to equip themselves with high-capacity assault pastries, baguette-warheads and sticky-bun-bombs!

     

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      Michael, May 14th, 2014 @ 10:11am

      Re: For god's sake, the warning...

      "Once you pop, you can't stop!"

      That's Pringles. You know, the chips that come in a bazooka-shaped contai...wait...crap! We need to stop the Pringles...for the children!!!

       

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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 9:56am

    Clearly, Kellogg's needs to respond

    I suggest that they satisfy the need for weapon-shaped pastries by issuing a line of products PRE-CUT into the shapes of guns, missiles, bullets, tanks, etc.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 10:03am

    “First of all, it wasn’t a Pop-Tart,” she said. “It was a breakfast pastry."
    Those are call Poverty Tarts and the serial numbers have been filed off.

     

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      Michael, May 14th, 2014 @ 10:16am

      Re:

      The only reason to file off the 'cereal' number from your breakfast pastery is so you can resell it on the black market - which takes money away from the original creator that lost a sale. These black markets for breakfast pastery are havens for terrorist activity and child pornography and need to be stopped.

       

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        John Fenderson (profile), May 14th, 2014 @ 10:50am

        Re: Re:

        You might want to file off the cereal numbers in order to maintain your privacy. Lots of people don't want their pastry use tracked.

        And don't even get me started on cookies.

         

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    Michael, May 14th, 2014 @ 10:06am

    wearing clothing or accessories that depict a firearm or weapon or express an opinion regarding a right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution

    This seems to confirm their stance that wearing clothing regarding first amendment rights is punishable.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 10:09am

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 10:13am

    “First of all, it wasn’t a Pop-Tart,” she said. “It was a breakfast pastry."

    Perhaps Laurie should grab a tissue, not a Kleenex.

     

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      Zonker, May 14th, 2014 @ 2:01pm

      Re:

      And it wasn't bitten into the shape of a gun, it was masticated into an actual AK-47 with a 100 round magazine... or an iPhone, I can't tell the difference.

       

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    Coyne Tibbets (profile), May 14th, 2014 @ 10:16am

    Conflicted

    This is one of those mixed-feelings things. On the one hand, it is yet another NRA "we haz rights to be trigger happy" laws. But I am conflicted because anything that reigns in Zero Tolerance senselessness has got to be a plus.

     

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      Michael, May 14th, 2014 @ 10:20am

      Re: Conflicted

      Zero tolerance?

      Jessica Fultz, testified that on that day he was more compliant when admonished. On the day he was suspended, she said, he was not responsive when she told him to stop

      That does not sound like zero tolerance for gun-shaped pastery, it sounds more like zero tolerance for not listening.

      We should blame the school for stupid policies, but we should also aim the internet a**hole label maker directly at Jessica Fultz who clearly decided to make this a zero-tolerance for guns issue AFTER TOLERATING IT once before.

       

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    DB (profile), May 14th, 2014 @ 10:19am

    Thanks for the reporting.

    “First of all, it wasn’t a Pop-Tart,” she said. “It was a breakfast pastry."

    If that's your lead-off point, you must not understand the issue.

    This would have OK as
    "A final, irrelevant, trivial note: it wasn't a Pop-Tart (R)(TM)(C). It was another type of breakfast pastry."

    Best followed by "Our change in policy covers all food, regardless of meal, and everything that not actually a weapon. As a new policy, to avoid the clear mistakes made y blindly following the previous flawed policy, we will issue advisory notes for any realistic imitation weapons before taking further action."

     

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      Michael, May 14th, 2014 @ 10:37am

      Re:

      My soup gun didn't work out.

       

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      Brazenly Anonymous, May 14th, 2014 @ 11:45am

      Re:

      “First of all, it wasn’t a Pop-Tart,” she said. “It was a breakfast pastry."


      This bit actually sounds suspiciously like an out-of-context fallacy. I could easily see someone saying "First of all, it wasn't a Pop-Tart, it was a breakfast pastry, but that is a minor point. More importantly (real examples)." I could just as easily see a less than completely honest journalist or editor deciding to use the quote for some sensationalism.

       

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        Anonymous Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 12:01pm

        Re: Re:

        Pop-Tart vs. breakfast pastry is insulting as it fails to consider the wide variety of available subjects.

        Take doughnuts for instance. Could a doughnut be bitten into a believable gun? Would the hole in the middle be the preferred option, or would a jelly filled offer more artistic possibilities?

        How about a croissant? It certainly has possibilities from its starting shape.

        What about eclairs? They might represent something with a larger caliber and longer barrel.

        And, of course toast. How could we forget toast? Toast, as a fairly plane (got that?) surface could be fashioned much like a Pop-Tart (I sure hope I am not starting an IP controversy here) into pretty much any shape one could imagine.

        A curse on breakfast pastry discrimination!

         

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        John Fenderson (profile), May 14th, 2014 @ 3:14pm

        Re: Re:

        "This bit actually sounds suspiciously like an out-of-context fallacy."

        There is no context (within the scope of the topic) that would make the statement less worthy of ridicule.

         

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    Jasmine Charter, May 14th, 2014 @ 10:25am

    It should be...

    Good law... now... add:

    "Those found denying students there rights by violating this law shall be put to death."

    Let's give them a GOOD incentive NOT to try to violate it or worm their way around it.

    A law without teeth is no law at all.

     

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      Vel the Enigmatic, May 14th, 2014 @ 10:56am

      Re: It should be...

      That better be a joke.

      There's giving it teeth, then there's making it a beast it should never be. Putting someone to death just for that is far too extreme, and you should know better. It would be better to put their jobs at risk for it, with no allowance for loopholes.

       

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        OldMugwump (profile), May 14th, 2014 @ 1:53pm

        Re: Re: It should be...

        Your sarcasm detector is broken. Take it in for a maintenance check.

         

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        Anonymous, May 14th, 2014 @ 4:31pm

        Re: Re: It should be...

        Take ancient Israel, for example. She committed adultery. Kill her! He committed blasphemy. Kill him! Death for this, death for that, all the while the religious leaders claimed this was "God's law". Funny, but didn't God's law say "thou shalt not kill"? There was also a certain person a couple of millennia ago who had a little something to say about it.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 10:48am

    great tech story, Techdirt...

     

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    Mike (not that Mike, the other Mike), May 14th, 2014 @ 10:57am

    I understand the spirit of zero tolerance. We all ultimately want a safe place for our kids to be educated. However, like other laws with good intentions, they are abused or implemented in a foolhardy manner. Administrators are lazy and scared. They don't want to be bothered with case by case incidents. They just want to fall back on "well it's policy". They also don't want to be the administration that didn't respond to a potential incident and be the next victim of a school shooting. There has to be a happy medium. Obviously draconian zero tolerance policies are doing great harm. They make felons out out children. Children act up. They're children for crying out loud. On the flip side, some children need help. Some are troubled young minds. So policies need to be in place for this. BUT...children are impressionable and young enough to be helped. And the polices we need are not just Zero Tolerance but also assistance to give the kids that need help the help they need. So maybe some of the funding that goes to zero tolerance should also go to assistance programs. And parents need to be in the loop. Should a school be able to say a kid needs a psych exam before returning after a certain incident that is justified? Yes. Because that person interacts with other students and teachers. Should every rambunctious kid be suspended or hauled away? Of course not. But maybe I'm still hoping for that perfect world to appear.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 11:45am

    Bizzaro World

    Wait, what just happened here? Sanity coming out Florida?

     

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    Feldie47 (profile), May 14th, 2014 @ 11:46am

    What if it was a canoli?

    “First of all, it wasn’t a Pop-Tart,” she said. “It was a breakfast pastry."

    Thank goodness it wasn't a canoli. They might have mistaken it for a rocket launcher and after labeling him a terrorist, thrown him in a cell at Guantanamo.

    Whew!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 11:52am

    Thank you Laurie!

    Laurie Pritchard, Anne Arundel’s director of legal services, said that the object central to the case had been misportrayed, as well as the reason for the discipline.

    “First of all, it wasn’t a Pop-Tart,” she said. “It was a breakfast pastry."


    Wow - what a powerful sense of observation she has! To point out something that is fundamentally critical to the case as this has changed my mind entirely about the growing problem with "weaponized breakfast pastries!"

    Laurie, you're a credit to your field! Thank you, thank you, thank you for making this world a safer place, by defending such quality school administrators against the growing threat of "breakfast food-related violence."

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 12:32pm

    Aaaaaand ... the "Stop & Hop on Pop-Tart Flaky Cop Award" goes to ...

     

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    DB (profile), May 14th, 2014 @ 12:33pm

    "Where in the US is it illegal to carry guns?"

    I assume that question is a troll.

    Many places.

    In Washington DC it's separately illegal for open carry and concealed carry. One lawsuit challenging this just passed five years without a ruling.

    There are other places where open carry is illegal and concealed carry requires a permit, with no permits actually being granted. Or only being granted to political/government insiders such as retired police officers.

     

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    Mark Noo, May 14th, 2014 @ 1:12pm

    I do not like anyone forcing their values down my throat.

    I live in Portland Oregon, apparently parents here received letters telling them if they disagreed with their black school principal they could be required to attend sensitivity training and possibly inclusion training.
    That was from a radio guy here in Portland. He is usually pretty credible.

    Who do these school board people think they are?

     

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      OldMugwump (profile), May 14th, 2014 @ 1:54pm

      Re:

      What if the school principal is white? Is it OK to disagree then?

       

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        Pragmatic, May 15th, 2014 @ 6:26am

        Re: Re:

        A bit of context is required here. If they merely disagreed with his opinion, that's going too far. If they disagreed that he should be principal on the grounds of his heritage, I can understand the idea of the training. What was the disagreement about?

        As one who can't abide political correctness, I hate the idea of having someone else's views down my throat. OTOH, we all need to learn to get along. Teaching li'l Jimmy to hate the other kids he goes to school with on the grounds of their subcutaneous melanin content is not going to do him any favors, and may cause disciplinary problems down the line. I think that if you want to send your kid to a particular school, you (and they) need to abide by the rules or go elsewhere.

        Damn it, people, this is the 21st century. Why are we still talking about this?

         

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    kenichi tanaka (profile), May 14th, 2014 @ 2:31pm

    Can you imagine Kellog's debveloing new rules regarding the consumption of its foods?

    when eating a Kellog's pop-tart, you may not change its form by eating it into the shape of a real weapon or assault rifle; to do violates the terms of service of this pop-tart and we may sue you for violating our ToS

    lols

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 4:38pm

    If I was one of those school officials, I'd stare at the text of that law for a full minute, and then go hang myself. Then again, if I was one of those officials, I wouldn't call the cops because a kid was holding a half-eaten Pop-Tart!!!

    But I guess the actual officials are too brain-dead to feel even the slightest shame for their actions...
    “ First of all, it wasn’ t a Pop-Tart,” she said. “ It was a breakfast pastry."
    Yup, no need for a suicide watch there. Mind want to have someone follow her around and occasionally remind her to breathe, though. Maybe put a leash on her to keep her from wandering into traffic.

     

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    AMusingFool (profile), May 14th, 2014 @ 8:36pm

    To the FL legislators...

    Stand Your Ground

     

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    me@me.net, May 15th, 2014 @ 5:44am

    Learning my ass....

    School is not education, it's indoctrination. Get the cops out of the schools and abolish zero tolerance bullshit.

     

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    MatBastardson (profile), May 15th, 2014 @ 12:47pm

    Is it really zero tolerance...

    if the punishment for possessing an actual firearm is the same as chewing your pop tart into the shape of a gun? I think the take-away here for kids packing a lunch for school is "take the gun; leave the cannoli"

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2014 @ 5:53am

    try this instead

    1. build gun that look like kid
    2. presents it to the principal
    3. he is now forced to admit all his kids look like guns and are banned from school =D

     

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