Are zero-tolerance policies at school targeting harmless kids?

Compiled by Eric Schulzke, Deseret News

Published: Tue, June 11, 2013, 12:05 a.m. MDT

 Kelly Guarna's daughter Madison poses for a portrait. The kindergartner was suspended from school for making a \

Kelly Guarna's daughter Madison poses for a portrait. The kindergartner was suspended from school for making a "terroristic threat" last month after she talked about shooting a Hello Kitty bubble gun.

(Associated Press)

School officials around the country have been reacting to the specter of the Sandy Hook shooting by targeting harmless behavior among some very young students, University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds argued in a USA Today op-ed.

The most recent case Reynolds cites was a Maryland kindergartner suspended for 10 days after being interrogated and wetting his pants because he brought an orange-tipped cap gun on the bus to show a friend.

"The 5-year old was suspended Wednesday after showing the orange-tipped toy to a friend on the morning bus ride to school," The Washinton Post reported. "The child told his mother later that he had tucked the cap gun into his backpack that day because he 'really, really' wanted to show it to his friend. The friend had shown him a water gun on a previous bus ride."

Earlier this year, a kindergartner in South Carolina was banned from school property for the rest of the school year after she brought a clear plastic toy gun for show and tell. And in March, a Maryland 7-year old was suspended for nibbling a pop tart into the shape of a gun. Last week, a school in Hayward, Calif., announced a toy gun buyback, offering a book and a ticket for a bicycle raffle to kids who turn in their toy guns.

"What's up with this?" Reynolds asked in his USA Today piece. "It's not based on any concern with safety. Lego guns, cap guns, bubble guns, nibbled Pop Tarts and fingers are no threat to safety. And the wild overreaction in these cases says there's more going on here than simple school discipline. As I said, who treats a 5-year-old this way? It smacks of fanaticism.

"In fact," Reynolds continued, "it seems like a kind of quasi-religious fanaticism. I think it's about the administrative class — which runs the schools with as little input from parents as possible — doing its best to exterminate the very idea of guns. It's some sort of wacky moral-purity crusade. If a few toddlers have to suffer along the way, that's tough. You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs."

"The case comes at a time of heightened sensitivity about guns in schools across the country," The Washington Post noted of the 5-year-old being suspended for bringing his orange-tipped cap gun to school. "Locally, children in first and second grade have been disciplined for pointing their fingers like guns and for chewing a Pop Tart-like pastry into the shape of a gun. In Pennsylvania, a 5-year-old was suspended for talking about shooting a Hello Kitty bubble gun that blows soap bubbles."

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.

1. Mainly Me
Werribee, 00,
June 11, 2013

"Are zero-tolerance policies at school targeting harmless kids?"

Duh! The "progressive" element in this country have always gone too far, but this is so ridiculous as to be beyond belief. Children suspended simply for talking about guns on a school bus; a boy suspended for fighting because he stopped another student from stabbing someone else; a boy suspended for chewing a Pop Tart into something a teacher thought looked like a gun. The list goes on and on.

It is light years beyond stupid! Too bad common sense can't be legislated,.

Salt Lake City, UT,
June 11, 2013

And Atlas Shrugged...

3. UtahVET1
Sandy, Utah,
June 11, 2013

Why are all these cases targeted at small children? There are high school kids who commit major infractions and nothing happens. I would guess it’s because the administrators are scared to discipline a teenager so they take it out on kids in elementary. How many schools have teens walking around exposing themselves with their pants hanging down below their butts? I agree with the author that this has nothing to do with the kids showing a threat to others, it’s just anti gun fanatics pushing their agenda on small helpless children, and scared to stand up to real problems that they don't want to face.

4. EPJ
Grantsville, UT,
June 11, 2013

I vividly remember my kindergarten show and tell in 1966. I proudly walked to school carrying in both arms my dad's WWII war trophy, . . . a German Sturmgewehr Mp44; the original assault rifle as named by Hitler himself. (No, I am not a neo-nazi, so save your derogatory comments). I related to the class a little about the war and my dad's role as a US Army M.P. in 1944 Germany. It was very well received and even my teacher admired the weapon and was interested in the history associated with it.

Today a child's breakfast pastry nibbled into the shape of a gun warrants insanely harsh repercussions. What has changed in the course of a few decades? Violence. Our youth have been subjected to a steady diet of violent media, and the result is, of course, violence. The resultant psychological disorders nourished by such a diet need to be addressed, along with SOME properly administered regulations to identify mentally unstable individuals and keep weapons out of their reach.

Until we as a society wean ourselves of violent media, nothing will change for the better.

5. samhill
Salt Lake City, UT,
June 11, 2013

The scariest aspect of the blossoming number of these cases of idiotic overreach is knowing that they are being implemented and enforced by people and agencies that are responsible for **educating** our children!

How unnerving and annoying when so many cases of enforcement of these "Zero Tolerance" policies in our education system are such perfect examples of zero **intelligence**!?