Guns and Grade-School Panic

The specter of school shootings has brought a too-typical staple to local newspaper sections: the boys disciplined at (or suspended from) grade school for bringing a toy gun or anything resembling a gun.

The Washington Post just found the latest wild overreaction, from Calvert County, Md., a blue state that’s cracked down on gun rights. “A kindergartner who brought a cowboy-style cap gun onto his Calvert County school bus was suspended for 10 days after showing a friend the orange-tipped toy, which he had tucked inside his backpack on his way to school,” according to the family.

Post reporter Donna St. George relayed, “The child was questioned for more than two hours before his mother was called, she said, adding that he uncharacteristically wet his pants during the episode. The boy is 5 – ‘all bugs and frogs and cowboys,’ his mother said.”

After an uproar stoked by local talk radio hosts erupted the next day, the district held a conference with the parents and reduced the suspension to two days (or “time served”).

Your dictionary word here is “hoplophobia” — an irrational fear of firearms, even toy guns or … pointed fingers.

This isn’t the first time St. George and the Post have reported wrong-headed overreaction since the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary. In February, an 8-year-old boy in Prince William County, Va., was suspended after he “pointed his finger like a gun in a school hallway after a friend pretended to shoot him with a bow and arrow. The class had been studying Native American culture and had just learned a deer-hunting song.”

The boy served an in-school suspension for the day, charged with “threatening to harm self or others,” on par with bringing an actual weapon to school. The boy’s father was understandably stunned: “There was no threat, which is the part I can’t fathom,” he stated. “(My) son is going to have this in his file for playing.”

This kind of nonsense does indeed go on a youngster’s permanent record.” Prince William County also suspended a 10-year-old for showing off an orange-tipped cap gun from a dollar store.

Here’s another story demonstrating how amazingly stupid educators can be. In March, a school district in Anne Arundel Country in Maryland suspended a 7-year-old boy after school officials charged him with — ready? — chewing a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun. The boy, Josh Welch, said he was actually trying to shape his toaster pastry like a mountain, which figured prominently in a recent drawing he made.

In an appeal, lawyer Robin Ficker included pictures of the states of Idaho and Florida because “they look more like guns than Josh’s Pop-Tart.” Yes, a boy 7 years of age needed a lawyer.

But he isn’t the only dangerous 7-year-old lurking out there. Two 7-year-old boys were suspended from school in Suffolk County, Va. for pointing pencils at each other while making shooting sounds. One boy was pretending to be a Marine and the other a bad guy. One of the boy’s fathers is a former Marine.

This can even happen to girls, too. In Mount Carmel, Pa., A 5-year-old girl was suspended from school in January after she made what the school called a “terrorist threat.” What weapon was she packing? A “small, Hello Kitty automatic bubble blower.”

But maybe the silliest panic came in Grand Island, Neb., where school officials wanted deaf 3-year-old Hunter Spanjer to find a different sign for his first name, since in American Sign Language, you make a gesture resembling a gun for “Hunter.” Under pressure, school officials quickly insisted they weren’t going to make any deaf child change the sign language for their name.

Even teacher permission won’t protect you. In breaking news, several grade-school students in Edmonds, Wash., were just suspended for a day for shooting Nerf gun darts before class — after parents say a teacher asked students to bring in Nerf guns for use in a probability study.

One parent protested: “If the teacher and the school staff don’t even know their own rules, how are the children supposed to know them?”

When, oh, when, are we going to start firing these idiots running these schools?

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