Let’s Address School Suspensions for Toy Guns Now

TIME reporter, Christina Hoff Sommers has written up a surprisingly lucid piece for a CNN subsidiary regarding the ridiculous way schools have responded to innocent behavior by students, mostly boys, who play with toy guns, or objects imitating guns. Hoff Sommers writes:

As school begins in the coming weeks, parents of boys should ask themselves a question: Is my son really welcome? A flurry of incidents last spring suggests that the answer is no. In May, Christopher Marshall, age 7, was suspended from his Virginia school for picking up a pencil and using it to “shoot” a “bad guy” — his friend, who was also suspended. A few months earlier, Josh Welch, also 7, was sent home from his Maryland school for nibbling off the corners of a strawberry Pop-Tart to shape it into a gun. At about the same time, Colorado’s Alex Evans, age 7, was suspended for throwing an imaginary hand grenade at “bad guys” in order to “save the world.”

In all these cases, school officials found the children to be in violation of the school’s zero-tolerance policies for firearms, which is clearly a ludicrous application of the rule. But common sense isn’t the only thing at stake here. In the name of zero tolerance, our schools are becoming hostile environments for young boys.

pop tart tacticalNow, we’ve all heard of these incidents and shaken our heads. Why would a school punish a student for behavior many of them probably don’t even know is prohibited? Why would a school prohibit the use of a toy gun fashioned out of a Pop Tart? The level of overreaction is a way of showing parents that schools are serious about “zero tolerance” policies towards guns. They surely show a lack of tolerance, but I find them to be anything but serious when it comes to protecting students at schools.

Schools need to implement policies that actually protect students from bad guys that may want to harm them. Policies that punish students for innocent behavior sends the wrong message at a time when kids are most vulnerable to embarrassment. Armed guards are one way of actually protecting kids, but more secure doors and windows are another way to fortify the most important building in town.