School overreactions over false gun-scares getting out of hand
On Monday, The Huffington Post reported 2013’s six cases of students aged five to 14 who were expelled from their schools for possession of a firearm. No shootings resulted from the minors’ possession of guns. One possible reason for that is the guns were not real. One, in fact, was a Pop-Tart.
With the horrendous shootings traumatizing the country, especially that of Sandy Hook Elementary School last December, it is understandable that having even a joke gun on a campus should be censured; however, suspension is going too far.
In the article, two of the children who were suspended did not even have the supposed “weapon” on campus. One of the children, a five-year-old kindergarten student from Pennsylvania, was simply telling her buddies about her pink “Hello Kitty” bubble gun back at home.
In another case, a middle school in Virginia suspended two students for playing with air soft guns in one of the kids’ front yard. Of his house. Not the campus. Not the school bus, not even the bus stop. Unless something is done with respect to this, their school’s permanent record will forever say that these students were in possession of a firearm.
Admittedly, not all of the cases in the article may be as innocent. One student, a seven-year-old with ADHD, was suspended for two days for “nibbling his breakfast pastry in the shape of a gun.” Upon biting his strawberry Pop-Tart into a pistol, the student allegedly pointed the “gun” at classmates and said “bang, bang.”
Though it is doubtful that he meant any actual harm by this, it is better to be safe than sorry. Maybe if teachers had a paid more attention to Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza’s behavior when he was younger, something could have been done to prevent his psychotic break, which led to the death of 26 people. Then again, perhaps not — but it is a possibility. Even in this case, suspension is still not the answer.
In cases such as these, children need to be educated about the implications of what they are doing at a level that they can understand. A better way to have handled these situations would have been to take the child aside and calmly explain the dangers of real guns to him or her.
Of course, guns are a complex topic, as illustrated by the nation’s ongoing debate over gun laws, but for small children, a basic analogy relating guns to scissors or knives would probably be enough — since they are both relatively harmless and useful tools but potentially dangerous.
The older the children are, the more apt they are to be able to understand the severity of a real gun on campus and to comprehend why their behavior with the gun was inappropriate. Kidshealth.org has parent, teen and child sections talking about guns and how to explain their dangers to children.
As for the case of the Virginian middle schoolers, that one is just ridiculous.