Perspectives: Pop-Tart guns are real, just ask a 7-year-old

OPINION – Just so we’re clear, guns made out of food are real, but G.I. Joe is not. Automatic suspension will be administered to kids who don’t know the difference faster than you can say “Pop-Tart.”

A 7-year-old Maryland student incurred a two-day suspension from school for crafting his strawberry-filled Pop-Tart into a gun, complete with shooting sound effects. The school even set up counseling for the students affected by this “egregious” behavior of brandishing a weapon-shaped pastry.

In Tennessee, a boy was suspended for altering a slice of pizza at his school’s pizza party into a gun shape. He was sent to the “silent table” for six consecutive days for violating the code of student conduct. It was apparently a “Level 3“ violation, though it did not harm anyone.

And who could forget Rylee MacKay, the student at our own Hurricane Middle School who was suspended until she dyed her hair to a “less distracting” color.

I have zero tolerance for zero-tolerance.

Remember the good old days, when a teacher could laugh a little when a first grader made shooting sounds while gripping his munched-upon piece of toast as he played cops and robbers? Remember when we taught our kids that Monopoly money could buy them Park Place, that Barbie and Ken were more fun to play with when we gave them voices and dialogue and that a fort made out of blankets could double as a pretend miniature house during play time? I remember a time when kids were encouraged to believe that Halloween costumes could make them a princess or a pirate for a day and that Legos could be transformed into real cities.

We must have a truckload of evidence that substantiates the fact that our imaginations did, in fact, make us all hardened criminals that would likely kill each other, if given the chance. I suppose the reason we have violence today is because of our childlike curiosity and creative, imaginative play as children. Was it “gunlike pizza shapes” designed by kindergartners that gave us the infamous Columbine and Sandy Hook school shootings? Why else would we have zero-tolerance policies against imaginative play?

The ridiculousness of school administrators who cannot seem to use a shred of common sense is shocking. After all, these individuals are educating our kids, sometimes up to eight hours a day.

The straight-A student sporting the beautiful, bright hair color wasn’t the distraction, school administrators were the distraction.  I have zero tolerance for the administrators. Yes, you can have a school dress code and enforce it, but if you have to go out into the sunlight with a magnifying glass to determine if a hair color shines too brightly, how can this be a distraction to others?  A distraction is blatant and easily determined. That’s why they call it a distraction. And making that punishment a suspension for a nonviolent offense? Really?

The American Psychological Association Zero Tolerance Task Force recently conducted a study, which found that zero-tolerance policies with predetermined consequences “may negatively affect the relationship of education with juvenile justice and appear to conflict to some degree with current best knowledge concerning adolescent development. … Rather than reducing the likelihood of disruption, however, school suspension in general appears to predict higher future rates of misbehavior and suspension among those students who are suspended.”

Are administrators trying to stake a claim on the career ladder by demonstrating their overzealous leadership skills? Do they think that I feel safer having my child in a school where common sense is not present?  Zero-tolerance policies do not make me feel safer or more confident; they make me more nervous. School administrators can easily excuse themselves from accountability when “strictly adhering to policy” can undermine an educator’s ability to access a situation responsibly.

Let teachers use their common sense in assessing the situation since they are closest to the students; let them do their jobs. Teachers and parents can communicate with one another. Toss out one-size-fits-all punishments. Even in our judicial system, we give the accused an opportunity to “state their case” with due process because circumstances can alter the intention of a crime. We demand justice as adults but tolerate “guilty before proven guilty” for our kids?

Zero-tolerance policies toss out the notion of due process for our kids, and even innocent situations can easily be deemed violations of policy with harsh punishments for our kids.

We should be interviewing our administrators and asking them if they ever dyed their hair or made a gun out of toast.  They were kids once, right? But I guess we should give them a pass because they grew up to be upstanding individuals and school educators, while everyone else is a deviant in the making.

I want common sense to make a comeback.  When common sense prevailed, we treated our kids like kids, instead of juvenile offenders. Ah, the good old days…

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On the EDge: Teacher, leave them kids alone

Kate Dalley is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are hers and not representative of St. George News.

Email: kated@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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10 Comments

  • Shayla March 9, 2013 at 7:37 am

    I agree! This is all insane and stupid, to be frank. A SEVEN YEAR OLD got SUSPENDED for making a food gun? Really? What did they think he was going to do, shoot sprinkles at them? Cherry filling bullets? Come on! We have got to let our KIDS BE KIDS, because at this point, we’re trying to teach SEVEN YEAR OLDS how to be adults. They aren’t adults though; they are little kids who should be allowed to have fun, and not worry about always getting in trouble.

  • Dan Lester March 9, 2013 at 9:20 am

    As we sadly know, and as you and many others have also confirmed, common sense isn’t very common any more.

  • Alvin March 9, 2013 at 9:58 am

    So do we have to ban all plastic toy guns sold in stores? Squirt guns? Super soaker guns? If a pastry gun is offensive, where do we stop? Do we eliminate the word “gun” from dictionaries and our vocabulary? Do we ban old John Wayne westerns because of the gun fights? This is ridiculous and really getting out of hand.

    • Dr Andrew White March 10, 2013 at 7:26 am

      Don’t forget Nerf guns. We have daily Nerf battles at my house. I suppose I will need to tell my kids to watch tv instead of running and chasing.

  • Sherry March 9, 2013 at 10:12 am

    The agenda now is to scare the heck out children, so they will believe guns are bad. The schools are getting out of control with this stuff! Recently, my son, who attends the same school as the girl with the hair color issue, wore a pair of pajama’s to school for “spirit day”. He was stopped in the hallway by a teacher and told “Hey you can’t wear that shirt because it has a motorcyle gang symbol on the back and it violates the dress code!” Give me a break!! I bought the PJ’s from Kmart and on the back was some flames and a motorcycle, and the name Joe Boxer.

  • Hatalii March 9, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Are you old enough to remember the Peter Principle? That is what has effected the education system, (as well as the government,) in this country.

    For those of you not familiar with the Peter Principle, it states roughly that “organizations will promote people to their highest level of incompetence. It means that an organization will continue promoting a person until they are no longer able to function effectively in their jobs. Once they reach that level, they will linger there until retirement, resignation or death.

    It is reflected everywhere, business, government etc., but nowhere is it greater, or more damaging to more people than in the education system.

    When you have administrators who are 1) incompetent and 2) total dictators, you have a recipe for disaster in our schools.

    It is not just that they don’t use common sense. They don’t have the fundamental backgrounds to even possess common sense. They are a product of our declining educations system, going back to the ’60’s where students were promoted whether they had learned anything or not, because “we don’t want to hurt their “fragile feelings,” by actually making them learn something before being promoted.

  • No Guns March 9, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    In Utah, kids don’t play make believe, they take the real thing to school. Remember Desert Hills?

  • Dan Lester March 9, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    I’ve spent my life in education. Our mother was a teacher for 44 years. My five siblings all taught, and one was a principal. All of my teaching was in universities. Yes, the Peter Principle applies in education, as in business. Stupid people get into power and spread their stupid ideas, whether in schools or in Salt Lake or Washington DC. Unfortunately, some of them get enough power that they can force them on the rest of us.

    Is it the end of the world? Probably not, but it certainly is frustrating. The biggest bit of nonsense is that we can protect all people from all harm, whether with helmets, silly gun stuff like this, stopping global warming, or anything else. The world just does not work that way, no matter what some of us think.

    • Hatalii March 9, 2013 at 8:16 pm

      AMEN to your last statement, brother! Not only can people not be protected from their own stupidity, they should not be, once they are old enough to learn that actions have consequences. Unfortunately, there seems to be a majority of people now, who have never learned this. They expect to be “taken care of,” from the cradle to the grave.

      Personally, I say, “Hooray for Natural Selection.”

      By the way, I did NOT mean to imply that all educators, or administrators are nit-wits. Just enough are to sometimes make it look like the whole field is. It gives a black eye to everybody else in the education system.

  • sweet jude March 10, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    I remember how up nerve racking it was when I had a zero tolerance principal, much like our own Washington county school district administration. I can understand their dreams of excelling, but going so far as to be in every little detail of our lives takes away the fun. When a new principal came to our school, he was light-hearted, patient, tolerant and everyone loved him parents, teachers, and students alike. everyone else noticed the change in the atmosphere. We could all breathe easier. We could even start to believe the “men are that they might have joy ” sentiment.

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