Suspended for a Keychain

You read that right, readers (thanks to the Coventry Patch website). Here’s what  got a Rhode Island 7th grader suspended for three days:

toy gun

My favorite part of this perfect tale of a society gone wild with fear and irrationality is that the kid will now miss the class field trip to — you’re going to think I’m making this up — SALEM, MASS!

I do hope school administrators see the irony of visiting a place we look back on now with disbelief, wondering how could people have been so cruel and crazy as to believe in witches?

Some day students will visit the Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School in Coventry, RI, and wonder: How could people have been so cruel and crazy as to believe a toy the size of a quarter posed any threat whatsoever?

And when they wonder that, I think they will also wonder when and why we outsourced our functioning brains to worst-first rules that deem almost everything a threat to kids. Yes, almost everything. – L

, , , , ,

52 Responses to Suspended for a Keychain

  1. Anonymous October 1, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    Oh, I think others will look back ruefully at ALL of our wretched excesses, including this gauche, irreverent and delusional behaviour around “protecting” kids.

  2. Jenna K. October 1, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    What I don’t understand is who supports this? If everyone is outraged, how can the schools continue to do this? It makes no sense!

  3. Buffy October 1, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    I do not understand this country. “We” (and I don’t mean everyone) fight and fight and fight for the right to own as many guns as we want of every size and type and caliber, because Second Amendment and Get the Government Out of My Life, but we make our kids pay every single day for anything that might have the remote resemblance to a gun (including a pop tart).

  4. Orange Roughy October 1, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    Why can’t they just ask the child to not bring it to school and if they see it again confiscate it? Everything is over done to the point of ridiculousness

  5. RyanE October 1, 2013 at 11:35 am #

    I had that *exact* keychain gun. It fired the individual plastic caps.

    Obviously a dangerous, dangerous item.

    :|

    I took mine to school all the time, it was my main keychain until high school.

    RyanE

  6. Sarah October 1, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    I’m going to take a “devil’s advocate” on this one and wonder who thought it was appropriate to give a 7th grader a gun keychain in the first place? I don’t live in the US, so I don’t really understand the whole gun culture and the desire to fight tooth-and-nail to be allowed to carry a gun to the grocery store.

    I think suspension is probably over-kill for sure, and there are definitely better ways to handle those kinds of issues. But given that some schools in the US won’t even allow students to wear a University sweatshirt or sports team shirt to school, I’m not really surprised that was the outcome?

  7. Ben October 1, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    The article says that an excerpt from the school’s official handbook entitled “Serious Disciplinary Infractions” states: “Possession/carrying/use of/threat of use of a firearm or replica shall result in a recommendation for expulsion for a period of time up to one full calendar year.”

    How can a keychain of a size smaller than your hand actually fall under these rules? If they don’t, the kid should not be reprimanded, if they do, the rule is clearly badly written. We need some common sense. The keychain might have the shape of a gun, but this is not a firearm or a replica that poses any serious or perceived threats to any normal people.

  8. lollipoplover October 1, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    Sarah, I doubt anyone “gave” him the keychain. You can get these trinkets in gumball machines or as prizes at family fun center arcades. No straw gun keychain purchase, just a made in China crappy keychain.

    This is what bothered me most:
    “12-year-old Joseph Lyssikatos explained that the quarter-sized keychain fell out of his backpack and was picked up by a classmate who proceeded to display it to other students before it was confiscated by a teacher.”

    So the kid that took his property without his permission isn’t even mentioned (or disciplined) but Joseph gets punished for owning a crappy toy?

    The lack of using teachable moments (first being don’t touch things that don’t belong to you) to educate children on minor issues and turning them into zero tolerance abuses is maddening.

  9. Gary October 1, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    “I’m going to take a “devil’s advocate” on this one and wonder who thought it was appropriate to give a 7th grader a gun keychain in the first place?”

    He won it at a carnival…

    It’s a f%&!@#$ KEYCHAIN

    That 70mi. wide asteroid cannot slam into this planet fast enough.

  10. Gary October 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    “I don’t live in the US, so I don’t really understand the whole gun culture and the desire to fight tooth-and-nail to be allowed to carry a gun to the grocery store. ”

    There is no “gun culture” unless of course you listen to the media and to be quite honest the way you worded this shows you have no desire to “understand” anyways.

  11. Linda Wightman October 1, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    Buffy, I doubt very much that the people who are fighting for the right to own guns are the same ones prohibiting Pop-Tarts and keychains.

  12. Beatosu Goblu October 1, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Teachers and administrators, in addition to bureaucrats of all stripes, support Zero Intelligence policies because it lets them have the advantages of being in a position of responsibility without the disadvantage of actually being responsible.

  13. Michelle October 1, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

    Why are the kids still allowed to have pencils, pens and scissors in school. Oh, wait, I shouldn’t have mentioned that, tomorrow those will be banned too, they will be doing all their schoolwork in crayon. What has happened to common sense and good judgement – clearly it is out the window…

  14. lollipoplover October 1, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    I’m surprised the school still allows them to carry backpacks. Everybody knows they can carry bombs in backpacks.
    Only clear ziplock bags for middle schoolers.

  15. Katie October 1, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

    It’s amazing that we are banning tiny key chains from schools…yet at the same time giant gas guzzlers are allowed on school grounds! Ironically we allow the harmful and ban the harmless.

  16. CLamb October 1, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

    Wow! I wonder what they would’ve done if he’d had a tiny replica thermonuclear weapon on his keychain?

  17. marie October 1, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    Wow! I wonder what they would’ve done if he’d had a tiny replica thermonuclear weapon on his keychain?

    Or a replica of a Chevy Tahoe?!

  18. Nicole October 1, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    I lived in a small town (population 800) and we had one small grocery store (about half the size of a Trader Joes). In the front they had some of those quarter machines, and around the time I was in middle school they started selling rubber band guns. It caused a really big issue at school (this was shortly after Columbine) so the principal actually got them to stop selling them. But no one was suspended, just yelled at, heh.

  19. Sarah October 1, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    Please tell me this principle gets fired.

  20. steve October 1, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    I’ve typed and deleted several comments about this story.

    Stories like this reinforce what our society has become, and it’s not a pretty picture.

    But one good thing about these Zero Tolerance decisions is you can know for sure that YOU are operating on a higher-thinking plain than certain school administrators. And you don’t even need a college degree. In fact, students at this school probably feel much better about themselves already, knowing they would never make decisions this silly and laughable.

    Yes, that’s it!
    This is part of a secret National Education Initiative: Force Public School administrators to make stupid mindless decisions in order to raise the self-esteem of the students in their schools. Perfect!

  21. Papilio October 1, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    “Wow! I wonder what they would’ve done if he’d had a tiny replica thermonuclear weapon on his keychain?”

    “Or a replica of a Chevy Tahoe?!”

    Or a replica of this wooden device the Romans used to hang people from so that they’d die a slow and painful death over the next couple days!

    Oh wait.

  22. Gina October 1, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    @KATIE: I think I speak for many of us when I say that this site is called

    “FREE RANGE KIDS”

    NOT

    “Use every chance you get to push your personal agenda”

  23. Donna October 1, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    The world has simply gone stark-raving mad.

  24. bmjj2k October 1, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

    The rule says:
    “Possession/carrying/use of/threat of use of a firearm or replica shall result in a recommendation for expulsion for a period of time up to one full calendar year.”

    What kind of country is this where carrying a replica of a weapon is the same as brandishing a weapon?

  25. CrazyCatLady October 1, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

    Lollipoplover, when I lived in Bozeman, MT a number of years ago, there were a bunch of bomb threats (right after Columbine.) So, though no actual bomb was ever discovered, the high school banned all back packs, purses and anything that might hold anything. Book straps were issued to the kids.

    Two things promptly happened. First, half of the population of the school (the female half) protested loudly that they didn’t want to carry personal monthly supplies with a book strap where everyone could see and that would indicate that it was there time of the month.

    The second was that the other half of the population, (the male half) took the straps and started whipping them like kids do with towels at each other. In the hallways between classes.

    The backpack ban lasted about a week – if that. Later it was discovered that the bomb threats were made by a student who wanted to get home before his parents so that he could get his report card out of the mailbox before they got home. Unfortunately, there was a delay in it getting mailed (maybe due to staff sent home early?) so he made several threats.

  26. BL October 2, 2013 at 12:00 am #

    Could be a blessing in disguise. Just spend the three days homeschooling and learn more than in three years of pubblik skool.

  27. Jenny Islander October 2, 2013 at 12:16 am #

    @Orange Roughy: Yes, when kids brought (eeeeeeee) sharp knives to school in my school days, they were taken away as distracting nuisances and returned at the end of the day. If they kept bringing them and fiddling with them, their parents were called.

    @BL: Actually the problem I have with public school is that they push kids to learn too much. The things most kids were expected to learn by the end of Kindergarten are now the things all kids have to know before they even start Kindergarten. It isn’t right.

  28. Reziac October 2, 2013 at 12:22 am #

    Someone says,

    “Wow! I wonder what they would’ve done if he’d had a tiny replica thermonuclear weapon on his keychain?”

    Okay, now I want one! :D

    Meanwhile, someone else nailed it. This isn’t about safety; it’s about authority without responsibility.

  29. Warren October 2, 2013 at 1:01 am #

    I am really jealous. Why weren’t the rules this stupid when I was in school? How easy are they making it to get time off these days, just way to easy.

  30. hineata October 2, 2013 at 5:50 am #

    What I don’t get about this particular case is how this boy can be ‘sent to Coventry’ by the school. He’s already there!

    Seriously, I want one of those keychains…..so cute. And Lenore, you really should check out the comment about halfway down the page on the link, about scenarios, 1957 vs. today. Classic! Funny, and rather sad.

    @Gary – I’m not entirely sure anyone outside the US could understand the ‘gun culture’ there – it definitely comes across as ‘passionate’ to say the least. Many of us down here prefer to reserve such passions for rugby, beer and discussing the weather….each to his own, I guess.

  31. J.T. Wenting October 2, 2013 at 7:24 am #

    The people organising the trip, and the kids, probably think they’re visiting the site of that Stephen King novel, Salem’s Lot, blissfully unaware that that’s set in Salem, Oregon, on the other side of the country.

  32. NJ Mom October 2, 2013 at 8:28 am #

    I think it’s about time that, in cases like this, parents sue the school for preventing their children from being educated (for however long the suspension may be).

  33. Donna October 2, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    hineata – Many of us INSIDE America don’t understand the gun obsession either – in either direction. In fact, it appears that about half of us in American don’t understand the other half at all and nobody is even trying to do so anymore.

  34. lollipoplover October 2, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    @crazycatlady- Our middle school doesn’t allow backpacks in school. They must stow them in their lockers, along with cell phones, and only carry what they need for class. At first I thought this was ridiculous but then I heard there was a real problem (mainly with the cell phones) with kids texting their parents because they weren’t feeling well and telling mom to pick them up from school NOW without even going to the nurse first. Ah, technology.

    Gosh, I remember trying to heat up the old mercury thermometers on a lamp to get out of a test and using red markers for suspicious rashes to add a symptom.

  35. Lisa October 2, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    Wow, just when you think things can’t get any more ridiculous! It’s a KEYCHAIN.

    @lollipoplover – “Our middle school doesn’t allow backpacks in school. They must stow them in their lockers, along with cell phones, and only carry what they need for class.”
    I don’t think my daughter’s school allows them to carry their backpacks around either, but honestly I can’t see why they’d want to. We certainly never did when I was in school – we went to our lockers in the morning, got what we needed, and went to class. Many girls did carry a small purse, but never their whole bookbag. My daughter brings her stuff for her morning classes with her, then goes to her locker before lunch and switches for the stuff she needs for the second half of the day. I don’t see this as a big deal.

  36. Donna October 2, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    We never carried around backpacks either and this was back in the dark ages of the 70s and 80s. I can’t say that it was prohibited, but just that it wasn’t done. I don’t recall having a backpack for school until college.

  37. Papilio October 2, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    @Hineata, Donna: I saw an interview with Karin Slaughter the other day, who said a majority of Americans actually do want stricter gun policies/access (or whatever the exact phrasing). Don’t know what her source was though.
    On this side of the Atlantic we were shaking our heads when we learned that even 26 dead 6-year-olds didn’t change a darn thing.

    Re backpacks in school: they were allowed in my secondary school, you’d use the 11.00 and 14.00 breaks to put only the books in your backpacks you’d need for the next classes, and mobile phones were to be switched off.

  38. Snow October 2, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    Papillo, you must be very young! Mobile phones? We didn’t have mobile phones – who would have wanted one of these? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MCrfXDiQWs

  39. Silver Fang October 2, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    Not even surprising anymore, which is sad.

  40. Donna October 2, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    Papillo – I don’t have any trouble believing that the majority of Americans do want stricter gun laws. Very few Americans are truly interested in owning assault rifles and being able to take them into grocery stores. However, a better focus of our efforts would be on improving mental health care, but nobody wants to put any time or money into that either. So we will continue to have mentally ill people get no help, but get plenty of guns, and kill people.

  41. Papilio October 2, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

    @Snow: I know I know, I’m an annoying under-30 know-it-all :D

    @Donna: I also understood gun stores are even prohibited from keeping records on who buys which (type of) gun…!
    And re mental health care: there are several more problems that don’t exist in other countries, or to a (much) lesser extent. (Not claiming there is a ‘one size fits all’ solution to everything.)
    It all makes the USA basically sound like Dystopia.

  42. Papilio October 2, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    (…although, know-it-all? Make that a wannabe :P)

  43. Donna October 2, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

    Papillo – You do have to remember that your population is incredibly tiny compared to ours. It would fit in a very small portion of our country, so while it may seem like there is less mental illness in your country, percentage-wise that is probably not true. Serious mental illness is a medical condition, no more or less likely to be found in one country over another than cystic fibrosis or juvenile diabetes. The way that the mentally ill choose to act – ie. shooting up schools – may be different from country to country though.

  44. hineata October 3, 2013 at 12:12 am #

    @Donna – and in some countries, the mentally ill are presumed to be possessed by spirits, or to be eating the wrong foods for their dispositions, so they don’t even get to access to the little mental health care that does exist…..

    Sorry, nothing to do with the topic, just a little bugbear of mine currently :-(

    Shame about the ‘sides’ not listening to each other where you are, but I guess the country must be incredibly diverse. We’re diverse enough, with about a hundredth of the population…..sort-of glad we don’t have gun debates to throw into the mix.

  45. solinox October 3, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    Maybe they were afraid it might turn out to be a “noisy cricket” model as seen in MIB? /snerk

  46. Suzanne October 3, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    I think the parents should argue that by definition the key-chain is not a “firearm or ‘replica'” as replica is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. The quote from the student handbook in the article linked above says that is the rule he was suspended under. A replica is an exact copy and that key-chain obviously will not function as a gun. One thing that really bothers me about all of the worst-first/zero-tolerance that we are reading about is the lack of ability to fight back with a reasonable argument. If the rule like the one in the handbook does not apply properly to the situation how are these bureaucracies getting away with enforcing it and why do we have no recourse against it. I really thought that the very thing that made America “the land of the free” was the ability we had to argue or fight against unfair rulings by authorities and all of the suspensions and the like that are being handed out over situations like this (like the Poptart gun) are just wrong and that is NOT what the rule genuinely encompasses in the first place and there is nothing the “guilty” party can do to fight it effectively.

  47. Papilio October 5, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    Oh! Donna – I never meant to say that there are relatively less mentally ill people in my country, I was talking about
    (my impression of) several other things!
    If anything, the mental health care and gun control here are better so the mentally ill cause trouble to a lesser extent.
    Of course comparing our countries in absolute numbers is pointless!

  48. Steve S October 5, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    @Papilio, gun stores are required to keep records of every single gun purchase. This includes name, address, SSN, type of gun, and several other things. In addition, these records are to be kept for as long as they are in business and are subject to gov’t inspection whenever the BATFE wants to stop by. If the shop closes or otherwise goes out of business, they have to turn all these records over to the BATFE.

  49. Papilio October 6, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    @Steve S: But what was it then that they weren’t allowed to keep a record of? There was something very basic – or were they allowed to like, write it down, but not put it in the computer for police etc to check?

    (Using abbreviations really isn’t very helpful with all these foreigners reading this blog…)

  50. Kay October 7, 2013 at 2:40 am #

    How is this ever going to get better?

    I’m going to copy someone’s comment on that article. It might be from a chain mail but it’s not completely out of line with what’s happening.

    The Dumbing Down of America…By today’s standards , none of us were supposed to ever make it past High School . HIGH SCHOOL — 1957 vs. 2013 **************************************************
    Scenario 1: Jack goes quail hunting before school and then pulls into the school parking lot with his shotgun in his truck’s gun rack. 1957 – Vice Principal comes over, looks at Jack’s shotgun, goes to his car and gets his shotgun to show Jack. 2013 – School goes into lock down, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers. *************************************************
    Scenario 2: Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school. 1957 – Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies. 2013 – Police called and SWAT team arrives — they arrest both Johnny and Mark. They are both charged with assault and both expelled even though Johnny started it . **************************************************
    Scenario 3: Jeffrey will not be still in class, he disrupts other students. 1957 – Jeffrey sent to the Principal’s office and given a good paddling by the Principal. He then returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again. 2013 – Jeffrey is given huge doses of Ritalin. He becomes a zombie. He is then tested for ADD. The family gets extra money (SSI) from the government because Jeffrey has a disability. **************************************************
    Scenario 4: Billy breaks a window in his neighbor’s car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt. 1957 – Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college and becomes a successful businessman. 2013 – Billy’s dad is arrested for child abuse, Billy is removed to foster care and joins a gang. The state psychologist is told by Billy’s sister that she remembers being abused (spanked) herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy’s mom has an affair with the psychologist. **************************************************
    Scenario 5: Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school. 1957 – Mark shares his aspirin with the Principal out on the smoking dock . 2013 – The police are called and Mark is expelled from school for drug violations. His car is then searched for drugs and weapons **************************************************
    Scenario 6: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from the Fourth of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle and blows up a red ant bed. 1957 – Ants die. 2013 – ATF, Homeland Security and the FBI are all called. Johnny is charged with domestic terrorism. The FBI investigates his parents – and all siblings are removed from their home and all computers are confiscated. Johnny’s dad is placed on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again. **************************************************
    Scenario 7: Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. Mary hugs him to comfort him. 1957 – In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing. 2013- Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison. Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy. **************************************************

  51. Steve S October 10, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    @Papilio

    Sorry for the abbreviations. The BATFE is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. They oversee the licensing and operations of people that have a FFL (Federal Firearms License). These people are able to sell (and in some cases, manufacture) firearms.

    For ever sale, a buyer has to fill out a Form 4473 (google it if you want to see what it looks like). They also log this information in a bound book or a computer database. There is no central registry, but the BATFE can (and does) access a FFLs records at any time. Police can also request a trace and the BATFE will track where the firearm has been for them.