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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