LEGO, Bubble, & Pop Tart Guns, NRA T-Shirts… and School Suspensions??
My seven- and six-year-old boys take great delight when one of their McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets comes in the shape of a gun. There also have been instances in which my six-year-old has taken a bite out of his Pop Tart and has taken aim at his seven-year-old brother with his Pop Tart gun. This doesn’t bother me. I don’t think they will grow up to become gun-toting hoodlums or terrorists because of it.
But do you remember hearing of the Massachusetts five-year-old who faced school suspension after having built a gun out of LEGO building blocks? Or the young boy from Maryland who, in trying to form a mountain out of his strawberry breakfast pastry, was suspended from school for two days when a teacher instead thought the pastry looked like a gun? There also was the young girl from Pennsylvania suspended after talking about her “Hello Kitty” bubble gun, and the West Virginia eighth-grader who was arrested after refusing to take off his National Rifle Association t-shirt while at school.
Of course, it is essential that our students have a safe learning environment. However, the strict application of some schools’ “zero tolerance” policies in situations where there is no viable threat to safety may needlessly stifle children’s creativity and deter harmless play. Old fashioned common sense shouldn’t be completely discarded.
After hearing from constituents on this issue, I have reviewed and cosponsored H.R. 2625, the Student Protection Act, which would withhold federal funding from schools that punish a student for “brandishing a pastry or other food which is partially consumed in such a way that the remnant resembles a gun; possession of a toy gun which is two inches or less; possession of a toy gun made of plastic snap together building blocks; using a finger or hand to simulate a gun; vocalizing imaginary firearms or munitions; wearing a T-shirt that supports Second Amendment rights; drawing a picture of, or possessing an image of, a firearm; or using a pencil, pen or other writing utensil to simulate a firearm.”
In this country, instead of spending our energy being upset about children playing, we need to focus on real hoodlums, real bad guys, and terrorists. That includes going after those who would attack our citizens in such cowardly attacks as that on the Washington Navy Yard. It doesn’t mean we should give away our constitutional freedoms such as the First and Second Amendments. But it does mean we should spend our time and our resources thwarting real evil like random shooters, and stop worrying about children being children.
As this column is being written, we do not know the full extent of the injuries and deaths at the Navy Yard. But like you, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families."