You Can Have My Lego Gun When You Pry It from My Cold, Dead Fingers

Hi Folks! Here’s my piece that ran in today’s NY Daily News, the paper where I worked for 14 years. – L.

FUN CONTROL

Guns Guns and children don’t go together, right?

Well, actually, often they do. Chances are if you have a kid or ever were one (especially if there was a Y chromosome involved), at some point you played cops vs. robbers, aliens vs. predators, SEALs vs. Osama — some good guy/bad guy confrontation.

Often it involved a toy gun made out of anything: sticks, Play-Doh, pizza. And it was pretty obvious to everyone that there was nothing lethal going on.

Unfortunately, that point is no longer obvious to many of the people in charge of our schools.

Over just the past few weeks, around the country, children as young as 5 have been reprimanded and even suspended for a Hello Kitty bubble gun, a Legos gun and a gun made out of a sheet of paper with one quarter cut out, so it resembled a very chunky “L.”

The Hello Kitty gun was a particularly bizarre case, in that it not only involved bubbles — how terrifying — but also hearsay. The girl, age 5, didn’t actually bring the “weapon” to her Pennsylvania kindergarten. She simply told another girl there that she owned a bubble gun and was going to shoot her with it.

For this she received a suspension of 10 days, later reduced to two, thanks, I guess, to the lawyer her parents engaged. This lawyer was quoted as reassuring the school that the girl “had never fired a real gun.”

Which is sort of like having to reassure the school that although a kindergartner was spotted pretending to drive, she had never actually hot-wired a car.

The Legos drama, which unfolded about a week ago in Massachusetts, concerned yet another 5-year-old (what an out-of-control generation!) who made the blocks into what he called a gun. Looked pretty lame to me.

His parents were told that if he ever does this again, he will be given the apparently standard 10-day suspension for imaginary weapons possession. As the principal explained, “While someone might think making a Lego gun is just an action of a 5-year-old” — gee, who could possibly think that? — “to other 5-year-olds, that might be a scary experience.”

Seeing your friend disappear for 10 days because he was playing “wrong” might be a scary experience, too. But no matter. We must keep our children safe! Which explains (if that’s the right word) the third incident, involving a fifth grader who brought that L-shaped piece of paper to school. According to a report in the Daily News last week, “A classmate saw the ‘gun’ and reported it to the school official.”

Now, it’s pretty rotten for a kid to report another kid for a piece of paper. But the fact that the school official didn’t send the snitch straight back to class is evidence that deliberate obtuseness is now the default position of school administrators.

How on earth can you treat a piece of paper as if it were truly dangerous? It’s easy once you have been trained to ignore your common sense and overreact to even the most minuscule, laughable threats.

Which is exactly what our society has decided is prudent.

If you’ve seen old ladies being patted down at the airport, you’ve watched this obtuseness in action: TSA workers are not allowed to use their brains to consider the incredible unlikelihood that a diabetic grandma in a wheelchair is a terrorist. But that doesn’t matter: brains off, fear on.

And when, in the wake of Sandy Hook, schools implemented new “safety” rules like parents having to call 24 hours in advance of a visit, or drop off their car keys in the office upon entering — those don’t really make anyone safer, either.

In panic mode, people overreact. Stay in panic mode every day since Columbine, or 9/11, or Sandy Hook, and overreaction becomes a way of life. And the home of the brave becomes the home of, well, “Yikes! An L-shaped piece of paper!” – L.S.

 

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78 Responses to You Can Have My Lego Gun When You Pry It from My Cold, Dead Fingers

  1. hineata February 1, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

    It’s absolutely fascinating that the Second Amendment supposedly guarantees the right to arms, but kids in the same country are not allowed to even make or handle something that might vaguely resemble a gun. Is the Second Amendment not for children?

    You’d expect this kind of nonsense (suspensions etc) in countries like mine or Australia (or actually, most of the Western world), where there are no such ‘rights’ to guns, but thankfully, we don’t appear yet to have reached ‘critical mass’ when it comes to this particular form of insanity.

    Why is that? Why is it one rule when it comes to objects that are actually (and without much effort) capable of maiming/killing, and another when one is faced with toys and bits of paper?

  2. Gina February 1, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

    Let me be the first to comment.

    I am actually at the point with all this that I find no comment to be strong or sane enough to prove the point.

    The school administrators and parents of this country have finally, collectively gone insane.

  3. hineata February 1, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    Had to laugh about the Little old lady thing, too, Lenore. It’s not always a bad thing. My seventy-plus year old mum was surprised to be given special ‘treatment’ at the US/Canadian border by a ‘huge guard’, but she reports it was rather fun, as it’s been many years since such as handsome young man paid her so much attention! And the first time she’d met an African American ‘in the flesh’…..

  4. Derek February 1, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    And people say that the terrorists lost. Yeah right. Look at what everyday life has become. I bet all of al-Qaeda are sitting back laughing now that the American Government has taken over their job of making everyday life difficult, annoying and inconvenient.

    Right. Now that I’ve said that I’m going to grab my Nerf gun and go run around the house with my 2 girls. It’s war time. :D

  5. James February 1, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    I’m normally with you on cases like this, but I think you’re off the mark regarding the 5 year old with the lego gun. I agree that giving him the standard “weapons suspension” is the wrong thing to do, it’s not that outrageous of a case.

    The more details I read about the 5 year old’s case, the more I side with the school. He sounds like a classic 5-year-old bully, intimidating the other kids and disregarding the teachers’ instructions when they try to get him to cut it out. Calling it a “weapons suspension” is wrong, but the kid was acting like a brat. He shouldn’t be treated like a martyr.

  6. Eliza February 1, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    In Adelaide, Australia, a lady started a face book page to impliment a “buy back toy gun programme. “(This is basically a kids version of what the Australian Government implemented for real guns, where people could sell their guns back to the government). If you google toy gun buy back Australia, you should be able to find the page for more info. When I read the page, I had a laugh as I had my nephews over that day and because I do not have toy guns, due to the fact that I have a teenage daughter who has no intrest in these types of toys, the boys were using sicks to play thier war games. They had rules such as, you could only kill the imaginary enamies and were not allowed to kill the imaginary unarmed civilians. If this did happen the person was arrested and sent to me in the kitchen for “punishment.” I guess kids are going to find anything to turn not only into guns, but other things they need to play there games.

  7. Krista February 1, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

    I disagree about the patting-down-Grandma thing. If we’re going to check some people we need to check everyone. I do, feel however, that the present airport security measures do not actually make us any safer, even if they were patting down everyone.

    With that out of the way, if I was the kid that talked about my bubble gun at school I would be screwed. My dad would take us shooting with his handguns when we were 5 so we would be sure to appreciate and respect the power of a firearm. SO our lawyer would not be able to make the defense, “Well, she’s never actually fired a gun.”

  8. WendyW February 1, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    “It’s absolutely fascinating that the Second Amendment supposedly guarantees the right to arms, but kids in the same country are not allowed to even make or handle something that might vaguely resemble a gun. Is the Second Amendment not for children?”

    One conspiracy-theorist speculated that it’s intentional, to drive into the next generation the belief that guns are a VERY BAD THING, so that when they are the adults, they won’t fight for their rights.

  9. CrazyCatLady February 1, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    The lawyer actually had to say that the girl had never fired a real gun? Well, suspend my kids right now! Because, yes, in safe location (shooting range) my kids, with proper instruction have shot guns. Black powder, but still guns.

    Oh, and guess what a teacher gave my son today? A gun! A toy gun that shoots bright orange rubber rings! It was bought as a firing mechanism for my daughter’s Future City model. The shooter part was rigged up to fire a space ship into the air. My son, as honorary youngest member of the group, worked really hard to make the space ship the right weight so that it would go up in the air some, but not high enough to hit the ceiling. Everyone else got t-shirts at the competition, but the teacher thought my son should get the gun. And he has been using it to shoot invaders off a castle that he made all afternoon!

    In my other son’s class, Destination Imagination, the parent coach asked me to help out today. The kids will be doing a nonverbal skit. The rules say that the whole thing MUST be done entirely by the kids, and if the rules do not specifically say they can’t do something, then they can do it. Their skit involves one group of explorers (or such, I wasn’t totally clear) fighting with a group of Native Americans. They spent most of the day today making spears, slingshots, arrows and swords from a cardboard box. The Principal stepped in for a moment, asked what they were doing and smiled at it all.

    I love our school.

  10. Andrea February 1, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    Spot on, Lenore.

    This reminds me of a recent experience in my son’s hockey locker room when the boys were changing (it’s a 7-8 year old group that still needs help getting their extensive hockey gear on and off, so parents are still in there). A little brother who was probably 3 walked up to me, my son, and the boy changing next to us and brandished a miniature hockey stick like it was a rifle. He demanded, very seriously, that we put our hands up. We kind of laughed it off, and he walked away to very seriously demand the same of somebody else. I looked at my son and the kid beside us, and their eyes were sparkling. This kid and his hockey stick rifle sparked something in their minds, and in a few minutes several boys were brandishing their sticks like rifles. I hate to admit it, but I told my son to stop when he tried to get in on it, not because it was a gun but because we had to get going and I can’t get his gear off if he doesn’t pay attention and help me. But I kind of wish I had let him play, because here’s the thing — these boys weren’t shooting. They were standing their ground in some imaginary situation, protecting themselves and perhaps, in their mind, their families or friends. It was very interesting to me, and kind of positive. I don’t know how much these kids know about Sandy Hook, or gun control, or anything in the contemporary media. What I can tell you, though, is that here in Alaska, it’s likely that many of these kids’ parents own guns. Their role models are not TV or video game violence, they are older family members who hunt, or take their guns along in the wilderness as protection against bears.

  11. Donna February 1, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    hineata – If most American’s views on the Constitution made sense, we might actually be the great country we claim to be. However, instead we have a very loose affection for the Constitutional Amendments (and actually the Constitution as a whole). We like to cite them when it suits our purpose but we really only want them to apply when it suits our purpose.

    If I ever meet a proponent of the 2nd Amendment who also strongly believes in the sanctity of the other 26 Amendments, I would actually listen to what s/he has to say. Until that time, all the 2nd Amendment talk is just dead air to me. In my almost 43 years, I have yet to meet that individual.

  12. Jenna K. February 1, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

    Well, now, I don’t know. I’ve gotten some pretty painful paper cuts before. Maybe that’s why the paper gun was dangerous?

  13. hineata February 1, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    @Donna – refreshing! That sounds far saner than is reported.

    You all sound far more like the rest of us….Using the law, Treaties etc. as it suits us…Maybe there’s hope for you all yet, LOL! :-)

  14. Tim B February 1, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    @Donna – Seriously?

    You’ve never met a libertarian?

  15. Brian February 1, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

    Your best column in a long time. Spot on Lenore.

    There is also an element of authority figures living boring lives seeing something and making these cases simply because it gives them some excitement. I never have problem with security in NY or Chicago, but Appleton, WI can be a pain because those TSA folks are standing there all day with nothing to do. The busy ones are just trying to get people through.

    Likewise, good teachers and good administrators are way too busy teaching, coaching, etc. to waste time with such crap.

  16. Decemberbaby February 1, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

    Lenore, what do you mean paper can’t hurt anybody? Haven’t you ever heard of a papercut? Or the dreaded “death by a thousand papercuts”? I, for one, am glad that school administrators are ever vigilant against that scourge of paper-shufflers everywhere ;-)

  17. Gina February 1, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

    @James–As a teacher, I agree that a child should be listening to a teacher. BUT as a parent and a teacher and an intelligent person, I say, I don’t want to HAVE to enforce an inane rule like this. The people who MAKE these rules have no clue what the NORMAL behavior of a 5-year-old boy is. It is unfair for me to have to enforce stupid rules on a playground where children are playing normally and to have to tell a child over and over again that s/he should stop doing something that comes SO naturally. It is an exercise in futility; kids play weapons, wild animals and other domination games. It’s how they learn to negotiate the world, And the kids who are permitted to act like victims in this scenario are being done a great disservice.
    The best response to a child who is scared of another child’s normal behavior is to empower the “victim” to say “I don’t want to play that game”…and if I, as a teacher, have to get involved, my direction to the perpetrator would be the s/he needed to play that game elsewhere..not to STOP it altogether or to allow the “victim” to decide that gun play is too scary.

  18. Donna February 1, 2013 at 10:51 pm #

    Tim B – I know several libertarians. My previous statement is still true.

  19. Warren February 1, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

    I encourage all parents to go to the local dollar store, buy as many of the neon green, see thru, fake space blaster water pistols they can. Then on the same day send every kid to school with one. Loaded of course.

    Please oh please make it filtered, and distilled water, as to accomodate the allery crowd, and the safety moms. Don’t want any heavy metal in the water to take out an eye lash or something.

  20. AW13 February 1, 2013 at 11:47 pm #

    @Donna – I agree. I find that most of the people I know who are incredibly vocal about the first amendment are not supportive of the second (and vice versa). There is also a large group of people who howled when Bush passed the Patriot Act and a large group of people who are howling about the NDAA. Unfortunately, they are not the same groups, which is ironic, because the constitutional issues with both of those pieces of legislation are the same. It’s frustrating.

  21. Warren February 1, 2013 at 11:54 pm #

    Until parents start to stand up, as a group, and takes on these administrators head on, it is only going to get worse.

    It is one thing to just blindly go along with a rule, or whatever when it is aimed at you. But if you cannot gather up the courage and strength to fight for your kids, then you have no one to blame.

    I am not speaking to any one person, this is directed at all parents.

    Everyone thinks that confrontation is bad…..I say what is bad is not getting worked up, and fighting for the kids.

    Everytime one school gets away with something like this, it allows another, and another…………….so for all those that think it won’t happen to their kid? Be careful.

  22. BETSY MALONEY February 2, 2013 at 12:56 am #

    Good point, Warren.

    I am reminded of the 80’s with the hysteria around the nursery or day care centers. The high profile cases about sex abuse with day care operators and the kids.
    Having a daycare became a liablity. No one wanted to take their kid to the ER if they fell down the steps, accusations, etc.
    Child abuse was everywhere.
    Now it seems directed at the children themselves in public school settings. Seems like an adult fad, group think thing.
    This is just so bizarre.

  23. Sandy Grant February 2, 2013 at 1:03 am #

    A friend of mines child was reprimanded for a poster he drew. The assignment was to draw a picture depicting a multiplication fact. ” His math facts were 7 went to war with 9 (7×9) and shot it with 63 bullets. His teacher told him that she couldn’t have it in her classroom, she was taking it to the principal, and he had to do another one.” I think that this Zero Tolerance thing is getting really out of control when even a picture is seen as a threat.

  24. Donna February 2, 2013 at 1:59 am #

    @Warren – I have yet to see a parent sit still or a large outcry in favor of the school when these things happen. In fact, public sentiment is universally against the schools and the suspensions usually reversed or substantially shortened. And yet schools keep doing it. Obviously confrontation helps each individual situation, but I fail to see that it is having any effect on overall school policy, which is where we want change, so kids don’t get reprimanded at all.

  25. Warren February 2, 2013 at 2:52 am #

    @Donna,
    And as soon as the one child’s suspension is lifted. Everyone just claps their hands, and that’s were it ends. Untill the next time. So until the parents band together, and fight for their kids, it will just keep happening.

    In the case where the young girl with the paper gun, was searched and questioned. The parents should not stop until the teacher in question and that teacher’s direct supervisor have been suspended, and I would prefer dismissed. They violated the young girls rights, and are at this time the best ones to be made an example of.

    If these so called authority figures were to learn that their actions do have reprecussions, they may think twice about over reacting.

  26. ShadowL February 2, 2013 at 3:36 am #

    PLEASE tell me I am not the only one who thought “a Lego on the floor at 2am is FAR more dangerous than a kid holding a stack of them and saying BANG BANG!” I mean, have any of you ever stepped on a Lego in the dark? That is far worse than a make believe gun ANY DAY!

  27. Betsy February 2, 2013 at 4:44 am #

    Suspending a child over a toy gun is cheap thinking.

    They keep doing it because they are not challenged.
    No one says no to them.

    Suspend zero tolerance.

  28. Donna February 2, 2013 at 6:48 am #

    @ Warren – The problem is that once the initial threat is over most lose interest. Let’s be honest we only have so much time in the day to deal with such issues. Just like I have to pick my battles with my kid, I have to pick my battles with school (actually my kid’s school is fine and sits on a rock in the South Pacific removed from much of this).

    For example, I think the prescription drug must be checked into the office thing is stupid. My kid takes prescription drugs once every 5 years or so. As stupid as I think it is, it is not something that effects me in any way so not something I feel motivated to expend much energy on. For the one time during each school my child has a prescription, she can take around school or at the office. If I had a child with a chronic illness, I may feel differently but now I have more pressing life issues.

    That is the problem with most of these issues. The world is full of busy people who need to put out the fires burning in their lives at that time and not some fire that may occur in the future.

    Which is why I think the in-your-face model ultimately fails most of the time. You may get what you want right that second, but that is because you’re being annoying and not because you convince anyone you’re right. It solves the immediate problem but does nothing in the long term. To win long term, you need to convince school administrators that they are wrong and not just bully them into doing what you want on a case-by-case basis by being annoying.

  29. Warren February 2, 2013 at 7:34 am #

    @Donna
    How do you think the zero tolerance for anything gunlike came into effect? Do you honestly think it was a group of well funded parents with years of research, that approached the schools, and calmly debated it for years board meetings?

    Or did some over bearing parents confront the school, get in their face, until they came up with this crap?

    I’ll bet you a month’s pay, that it was scenario two.

  30. Warren February 2, 2013 at 7:36 am #

    @Donna

    By the way, that is a pretty lame ass excuse to let our kids schools and childhood go for a crap. “We are too busy.”

  31. lollipoplover February 2, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    I am BAFFLED by the doublespeak of our goverment leaders and school administrations. In Pennsylvania (where the bubble gun and paper gun incidents happened), we have news stories such as “Give Teachers, Administrators Guns in Schools, Pa. Lawmakers Say”. Yet when the CHILDREN talk about guns innocently, they get punished?

    Honestly, I’d like to suspend the Pa. Lawmaker who is proposing arming teachers with guns.

  32. Andy February 2, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    @lollipoplover I think that the issue is not primary about guns. That is just a smoke. If it would be about guns, you would see such overreactions also in gun restricted countries (European for example). They have very strict gun laws are ok with not being allowed to have guns and do not get scared of toy guns.

    It is more about the culture which treats minor and major infraction the same. It is more about attitude of people that does not really believe in punishment proportional to the crime, but think it is ok it hit you with biggest punishment available whenever you acted in less then perfect way.

    At least to me, it seems very consistent. Toy guns are treated as threat whenever rules allow. Pills against menstruation cramps in school are treated as cocaine. Criminal sentences for real crimes are usually huge, especially drug possession. Minor computer infractions can land you in prison for decades. Sentences for copyright infractions are life destroying. Liability payouts can be incredibly high and so are results of patent suits.

    And everytime it starts being discussed, you hear the same: “He jaywalked, that means he broke the law. He has only himself to blame, lock him up for at least few years”.

  33. Elzo February 2, 2013 at 10:08 am #

    I think that a national toy gun show and tell day might be the answer.

    http://www.dailypaul.com/272922/national-elementary-school-toy-gun-show-and-tell-day

  34. Allison February 2, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    I am not much of a fan of guns or the second amendment, but I agree these incidents are overreactions. We actually had a related type of incident happen regarding my daughter that I felt was handled well. She is in a private school which uses play in many ways. Last year, when my daughter was nearly 5, I arrived at pickup time to find my daughter waiting at the pickup area for older students with the head of school. Uh oh.. I thought. He walked her over to me and explained that she was not in trouble but that a classmate (also 5) had told her that he was going to bring a gun to school and shoot her. He told me that while he was fairly sure this was imaginary play, it needed to be taken seriously, he explained that the child and his parents were in the classroom talking to the teacher at the time. The child was not suspended, but was given a clear message that threatening other kids in this manner was not ok. I found this a measured response, and I appreciated the attention to the needs of both children.

  35. Warren February 2, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    We can try to make these administrators motives high and lofty. We can look for the complicated answer to this problem with society. Or we can face the truth.

    These zero tolerance rules are the results of overprotective, out spoken moms. Sorry, in my experience, most of them tend to be moms.

    It is the moms that are anti gun, that scream and bitch at the schools, until they create a zero tolerance ruling.

    We are talking about toy guns, but these moms are responsible for more of our headaches, than just toy guns.

    They are the moms that awhile ago saw little Johnny chasing little Sarah with a toy gun, in the school yard. Then proceeded to lecture the principal, or teacher about how completely inappropriate that is. How little Johnny is going to grow up to be a bell tower sniper. And like any good pitbull, once these moms had a cause, or bone, they wouldn’t let go. I have seen it before, basically beating the school into submission. And now in the wake of Sandy Hook and others, things are just exaggerated.

    We as parents have ourselves to blame, for letting this happen. It is time we took our schools back, for our kids.
    And yes Donna, that means getting in the school’s face, and the morally indignant hyper protective mom’s faces to.
    Or we can attend meeting after meeting after meeting and hopefully our great grandchildren will not get suspended for making a stick phaser. They just have to keep it on stun, not kill.

  36. Andy February 2, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    Short history of zero tolerance policies in schools: http://www.indiana.edu/~safeschl/ztze.pdf

    General history of such policies out of school can be found also here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero_tolerance#History

    According that those sources, zero tolerance policies come from the same mindset as drug war or “broken window” theory. It steams more from “be tough on them – it will teach them” attitude then from “make little angels fear free”.

    But of course, mothers are to blame. Mothers are always to blame, they are either too soft and bleeding hearth, or demand too tough policies. Not politicians that use lack of such policies to kick political opponents out of positions.

    If the entire district changes policy because of one complaining mother, then the district is already guilty of overreaction.

  37. Puzzled February 2, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    I have two minor disagreements. First, while I appreciate a jab at the TSA as much as anyone, the logic of “don’t check old, white women” leads directly to “do check people who don’t look right – you know, brown people, people with funny names…” I reject all of it. If we institute a dehumanizing system, and then exempt old white women – who vote more than any other group – all we’re doing is protecting that system from meaningful objection.

    Second, I don’t think that the reassurance that the child never fired a gun is like assuring them that a child didn’t hot-wire a car. Firing a gun, unlike stealing a car, is not bad in itself.

    @Donna – I’ve, personally, usually considered libertarianism a clearing-house for individual freedoms. I don’t worry about the 2nd amendment crowd being outspoken, for instance, in favor of wars and attacks on privacy. I ally with the 2nd amendment group on guns, and other groups on privacy and war. What I do worry about is how outspoken the 2nd amendment groups have become about mental illness. What they’re trying to do is offer up other people’s (more fundamental) rights, as a bribe to keep their own. Sure, go ahead – imprison those people without due process, force chemicals into those people without consent – just leave my guns alone.

  38. Krista February 2, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    Puzzled, all great points.

  39. Betsy February 2, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    Making examples out of kids to further adult agendas will not be tolerated.

    Why can’t you parents make a few examples of them?

  40. LTMG February 2, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    At worst, the punishment for kids with imaginary guns should be imaginary suspensions.

    School administrators over-reacting to these kinds of “threats” need to be given imaginary jobs with imaginary salaries.

  41. bmj2k February 2, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    If my child were suspended from kindergarten over a bubble gun comment, I’d bring her to school every day of that suspension and then send every media outlet in the country pictures of them barring my 5-year from entering school.

  42. Donna February 2, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    @ Warren – Busy may be crap but such is life. Let’s see I am a single mother trying to balance a career, home and a child. I also have to deal with major personal and professional issues not of my making but a result of government changing hands and some man-made disasters. I am also a contract worker near the end of my contract who needs to spend considerable time networking and generating leads to other work. In addition, I have my causes that I expend a lot of energy and free time working on and have for years. My current issues will end and new ones will come along. Such is life.

    I am more than willing to deal with MY child’s issues. I simply don’t have the time or emotional wherewithal right now to deal with YOUR child’s issues in a consuming fashion. That is the problem. Everyone has their own crap to deal with. We can get outraged when it happens but our own lives get in the way when it comes to dealing with it long term – and changing the policy is going to take long term action to convince schools they are wrong, not just once of them conceding because you are annoying them. It would be nice if we all had nice smooth lives so that we could personally take on all the problems of the world but we don’t. We have to pick and choose.

    Now this may be something that you want to take on as a cause. You can’t expect everyone else in the world to view it as as important. It may be important to me but less important than other things on my plate. Or it may be like the prescription drug thing, something I think is stupid but not worth any effort besides signing a petition if placed in front of my face to change because it really seems like much ado about nothing unless you are talking about asthma inhalers or epi pens.

    You are correct that some of these policies came as a reaction from parents getting in their face. That is not exactly a ringing endorsement for changing policy by getting in people’s faces. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t to solve your immediate problem. If my kid was suspended over legos, I’d be in everyone’s face until the suspension was lifted. I just realize that I would have won the battle but not the war. My kid’s suspension would be lifted but the policy would remain until I could get the school to see that the policy is wrong. That takes calm rational action and not emotional in your face. You never offer anything beyond emotional in your face and expect that to come to some good long term solution and I have yet to see an example of that happening. Emotions just lead to knee jerk reactions. We have enough knee jerk reaction policies. We need some well-thoughtout policies.

  43. Jules February 2, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    Since we can point our fingers like a gun, I declare that from this day forward, all children should wear mittens while on school grounds! Someone needs to contact Congress about better imaginary gun control!

  44. Gina February 2, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    @ShadowL
    ROFLMAO!!! Been there, done that…too many times than I care to admit…!

  45. lollipoplover February 2, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    @andy- You are very right- the line between minor and major infractions is completely dull these days, thanks to stupid adults.

    My son has attended the same school for 7 years and never any problems with behavior. I got a call from a mom of one of his friends last month. She wanted to know what I was planning on doing about my 11yo and the “problems” he caused during lunch. I had no idea what she was talking about. She said my son gave her son a cookie at lunch and they all got in trouble for the “no sharing food” rule and had to meet with the principal. She went on to say her son is on a “strict” diet so my son should have never given him a cookie and also she doesn’t want her son to have any marks on his record because she felt it would reflect in his grades as his behavior would get back to the teacher.
    I had to stop her and ask if we were talking about a cookie.
    The boys did go to the principal, who said it was really stupid that they were there, talking about a cookie. They did not get in trouble, but what a waste of energy and time on…a cookie.

  46. hineata February 2, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    @Lollipoplover – might I humbly suggest that next time your son takes cookies to school, that he bites them into pistol shapes before offering them to his friend? At least then this mother might have something to complain about? (Or not, in a sane dimension :-) ).

  47. Evan February 2, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    Love the column, but I have to take exception to the bit about the TSA and the grannies. If we believe the TSA is worthwhile in the first place (which is worthy but different question) then it *has* to search everybody, even if they look like grannies, because dressing up to look like Mrs. Doubtfire isn’t actually all that difficult and we don’t want to have an exploitable blind spot.

    Your point is totally valid, but you picked a bad example of it, is all I’m saying.

  48. CrazyCatLady February 2, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    Lolliepoplover….okay, I guess I understand about not offering food, especially with the very youngest kids. But…if the kids are 11, the other child should be old enough to understand what he is and is not supposed to eat. Why did the boy take the cookie? If he didn’t take the cookie, how was that “sharing food”? I agree with the principal…what a waste of time.

  49. CrazyCatLady February 2, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    Warren, the problem with all of this, and trying to stop these stupid events, is twofold.

    First, we don’t know they actually have a “policy” about talking about guns or making paper guns or finger guns, until the event happens and the child is suspended. Sure, the policy says no weapons, but does it say no pretend weapons, no talking about weapons and such? I have not seen that in any student handbook yet.

    The second part of the problem is, we have talked to these principals and teachers, and in general they seem pretty levelheaded. Until something like this happens and they totally go nutty with power and overreact to the supposed “threat.”

    So yes, we can all be proactive and look at the school policies, but to get the schools to put in an addendum that say that paper guns, talking about guns or making finger guns are allowed would be a waste of time. Every administrator would say that such was allowed – until it actually happened. Then they would use the latest event and give that as the reason behind what they were going to do.

  50. Kelly February 2, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    This reminds me of “Raising Cain”, an excellent documentary about boys that has a section about how it’s prob NOT best to reprimand or stop them from play violence at school recess or if they put death-type stuff in stories. You can get it on Netflix, it was pretty enlightening.

  51. Stacey February 2, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

    hey administrators, maybe pretend guns wouldn’t be “scary” to kids if YOU didn’t make such a big deal about them.

    Whether the girl with the bubble gun has ever shot a real gun was in question? i’m surpprised they’re not questioning kindergarteners on whether they really saw aliens or are keeping monsters under their beds!!!!!

    what are parents expected to do with these kids for ten days? They can’t leave ‘em home alone! Take ten days off work? Send them smewhere else to play with toy guns?

  52. Stacey February 2, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

    and what good does suspending the kids do? is temprarily isolating them socially going to make them LESS likely to grow up to hurt people?

  53. Warren February 3, 2013 at 12:09 am #

    Again, this is the problem.

    Everyone is caught up in their own little world, and to hell with everyone else.

    I keep hearing you have to pick your battles. Yet I do not hear of anyone actually picking a battle. The whole pick your battles is nothing more than an excuse to not get involved.

    Ok, you fought your kids suspension and won, but did nothing to actually change the rule. That is basically passing the buck.

    All these people in here, that are outraged at what is happening, will relate personal stories and tales, tell us how they feel for the kids and parents going thru this crap…………yet will do absolutely nothing.

    There is an old saying, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” That is so true.

    Here is one way to look at it…….
    You fight for your kid, and get the 2 week suspension reduced to time served, the two days it took to fight it. But did nothing further to solve the problem. Years down the road, your son or daughter calls you and tells you that your grandchild is in trouble for the exact same thing.

    These are not differences in opinion about which football team stands a better chance of winning the SuperBowl. These are real life issues, that affect our kids, and generations of kids to come.

    Right now in the so called “land of the free and home of the brave”, you have kids being suspended for natural, healthy play. Illegally searched and questioned. Being taught by those we trust with their education, that they should be afraid for their safety, if not their lives. Children are being robbed of their childhood by irrational fears, unreasonable expectations, and a society that is basically telling them to be on high alert all the time, rat out their friends, and that they are bad, immoral and insensitive for having a healthy imagination.

    “Land of the free and home of the brave”, my ass. “Land of the restricted, and home of the paranoid.”

    Yet these issues are not worth taking time out of your busy lives to address, fight and rectify. If you cannot see that without immediate resistance and revolution, that it is getting worse, at what is more than likely an exponential rate, then I feel sorry for you, and the children of this and future generations.

    “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, yes the children have these rights, but only in ways that lawyers, administrators, insurance companies, judges, politicians, overprotective parents and lobbyists say is proper.

    Rules, policies, and laws were created to protect people from other’s. They have now grown to point where the people that make them figure they have the right to impose their values, as to protect people from themselves.
    This used to happen after someone was deemed unfit to adequately care for themselves. Now it is accepted to be told noone is capable of caring for themselves. So from the time one is born, they are deemed incompetent, and must be cared for.

    If that isn’t worth fighting, if that isn’t a battle worth picking, then what is?

    I know that when I face issues like this, I am not just fighting for my kids, I am fighting for her friends, my newphews, neices, future grandkids, and the kids down the block. I think it is worth it.

  54. hineata February 3, 2013 at 12:41 am #

    Okay, Warren, go for it! Seriously. I will sign any Internet protest etc. You are obviously passionate about it, so you are a natural to lead it.

    I am a bit the same about gifted education, and the rights of children to actually get an education that challenges them, which is why my ‘job’ is partially voluntary. It was the only way to get a ‘leg up’ for the programme.

    So, follow your passion, and get something happening. I am happy to write a blurb, letter, whatever..

  55. Warren February 3, 2013 at 6:07 am #

    Thank you, hineata.

    I have led the charge against my township, on the issues of personal safety equipment for sports, remaining personal choice. On both instances the rules were changed.

    I am continuing to spear head the move to regain the rights of our kids, to get wet, muddy, cold, hot and wind blown at recess. Our schools are backing down slowly, on their stance of poor weather recess.

    We do not have any issues with toy guns in our school, as their is not a zero tolerance ruling here. I am more than happy to lend whatever assistance I can to those in the states, should they wish to take up the cause..

    Here in our part of Ontario, healthy imaginative play is still just that.

    In all hosnesty, I do not know why alot of these restrictive rulings, are not challenged on a Constitutional basis.

  56. tdr February 3, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    I love the ambiguity of the phrase “imaginary weapons possession” — yours or theirs, Lenore?

  57. lollipoplover February 3, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    @hineata- a cookie gun! Oh, the humanity.
    He actually didn’t even bring the cookie, another friend brought it and passed it to him. He didn’t want it and passed it on to diet boy.
    Cookie mom also called this week because her son(who’s 12) forgot his math homework. My boy was out checking his traps (he’s trying to help a neighbor catch a fox who lunged at neighbor’s dog) and had finished his homework on his own, as he always does. I told her the boy would call back her son when he got in and tell him the assignment. I got the third degree that I didn’t know what the homework was. I gave it right back to her, asking her when she was going to put the responsibility of the homework square on her son’s shoulders and if he forgot something, HE should call, not get a parent to do it.
    The boy called back and asked for her son, but the mom wouldn’t let him talk, she wanted the assignment told to her. How I fear for this generation with parents like this.

  58. Andy February 3, 2013 at 9:45 am #

    @lollipoplover No food sharing rule that includes cookie? Kids here are taught to share food, especially treats. If you have bag of chips, you are sort of expected to offer them to closest friends (you do not have to give out to whole class and you are not expected to do it with “real food”).

    Wasting food is still considered not a good thing, so if you do not want to eat something, you are supposed to offer it to somebody who do (instead of throwing it away).

    Cultural differences :))

  59. Betsy February 3, 2013 at 11:40 am #

    Just a thought…
    I was watching kids play in their backyard and thinking, you know, kids are kids everywhere in the world. They are the same. It was true in ancient times and today.
    Its adults that get caught up in fads and moods of the moment listening to every so-called expert swinging this way and that and up and down.
    Is popping pills to kids and ADD prevelent in other cultures, say India or South America? Do their schools adopt inhuman policies such as Zero Tolerance? Do they fingerprint their kids? Do they run background checks against their parents?
    And what are the test scores of other countries compared to ours? I don’t think US is number one.
    Its a big wide world out there.

  60. Puzzled February 3, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Wait, a no sharing policy? Is the stated purpose turning out anti-social adults, or is that just a side effect?

  61. hineata February 3, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    @lollipoplover, with you all the way. When did it become normal for parents to act like this woman, rather than a sign of mild insanity? Is the friend embarrassed by his mum’s antics? My son would kill me….

    Kids never change, Betsy, you’re right. And the
    US isn’t top education wise, though neither is NZ.

    Still, as we see all the time (the Holocaust, the lost boys of the Sudan, Cambodia, abuse victims etc.) the human spirit can triumph over all sorts of stuff, so I’m sure this generation will get over parental nonsense and lead useful lives!

  62. Suze February 3, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    @ Warren (way upthread)

    When my son was in high school, he was suspended for 4 days (they threatened expulsion, plus did a background check on us to see if we had weapons in our home) My son and his friends were joking around in class and my son made an off-handed comment about “what kind of weapons he would like to use”… It had nothing to do with violence against anyone, but because a girl in his class who didn’t like him overheard this, she reported it to the principal and said she felt “threatened”. His locker was searched for WEAPONS of which he had none…. the other students stuck up for him and said he wasn’t serious (or was the type) and his own TEACHERS said he wasn’t the violent type and begged the principal not to suspend him as this was ridiculous and he certainly wasn’t the type to need suspension. BUT…. because of good old “Zero Tolerance”… I guess he was some sort of sacrificial lamb to the other kids. So yes, this is all NUTS. We spoke loud as parents to try to get the suspension overturned but they wouldn’t budge… about the best they did was let him go in the school in the morning and pick up or find out what work he would be missing for the 4 days he was on suspension. Honestly, it all still makes me angry … so I can’t even imagine what these poor folks of this five year old are going through… :(

  63. Captain America February 3, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    Warren: good note above. I make my son go to the bus in cold and inclement weather to toughen him up, so he doesn’t grow up to be a fat, spoiled whiner (I’ve seen this in my family) or a prima donna. The “toughing up” stuff works.

    When he complains, I tell him that whenever it’s bitterly cold out, and I’m cold, that I remember George Washington and Valley Forge. . . and that what I am experiencing isn’t as bad as that was. I’m hoping that when he’s very cold, he’ll be able to handle it.

  64. hineata February 3, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    @@puzzled,, I think the no sharing might be more to prevent bullying. Where I work anyway kids aren’t allowed to share because prior to the rule being made those without lunch would use standover tactics on the gentler kids who did have a lunch, and then claim everyone was ‘sharing’. Same at a previous low defile school I worked in. By enforcing a strict no share policy, and moving lunches into the classroom so they couldn’t be stolen, it was much easier to keep a check on who was without lunch, who was just eating all their food at morning tea etc. And to provide a decent lunch to those who need it as the standover tactics usually resulted in the kids getting lots of chippies and other rubbish, rather than sandwiches.

    Very counter culture, but in our case a necessary evil. I do still let my kids share if I am there and it is obviously not coerced.

  65. Betsy February 3, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    Parents and educators need to define a goal and seize it.
    What GOAL is there?

    I remember reading the newspaper when I was a preteen and reading about the busing issue (the mood at the time) which was very big, and everyone was upset over it and I read one editorial that was so visionary I still remember it.
    This person said why stop at busing? Lets build a high speed rail for kids to interact with other kids and educators in other far away districts maybe even other states. I know it sounds like pie in the sky but it was the seventies afterall, but really, who has this kind of vision today?

  66. Krista February 4, 2013 at 12:25 am #

    @Betsy-

    ADD is still being figured out. Recently it’s been studied and confirmed that there is a high correlation between child abuse and ADD-type behavior.

    http://www.pediatricsconsultantlive.com/is-it-child-abuse/content/article/1803329/1963892

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1934403/

    http://www.minnesotamedicine.com/Default.aspx?tabid=2369

    I know for myself that I’ve been diagnose with Adult ADD and I strongly suspect it’s due to my tumultuous childhood. So, please, don’t be so quick to equate ADD with helicopter parenting. There are usually several other factors involved.

  67. Paula February 4, 2013 at 4:33 am #

    Okay, it IS a bit disturbing that a five year old would threaten to shoot another child. Culture is reflected in children’s behavior. Shooting someone as a solution to a problem is clearly becoming a real option.

    On the other hand, context is everything. Was a pretend game afoot? I threatened to shoot various neighbors at least ten times a day when we played Star Trek, cops ‘n’ robbers, etc. (And yes, I have 2 X chromosomes.)

    If real weapons and real gun violence were pursued as diligently as bubble and Lego guns, maybe I would be able to tell my new neighbors in Germany that people in the U.S. are really sane and that they don’t need to wear bulletproof vests when leaving the airport when they visit my home country.

  68. Andy February 4, 2013 at 5:08 am #

    @Betsy Very low ADD rates may mean that those kids are written off as “bad kids”. Attempts to control their behavior consist of a spanking almost every other day. Attempts to make them perform in school consists of denying them sport activities “so they have more time for learning”.

    That is how it quite often used to be before diagnoses. They did not really grep up into well adjusted citizens.

  69. Betsy February 4, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    Andy
    I’m a healthy skeptic about ADD.
    They try so many experiments on kids, attitudes like zero tolerance that become infectious, whims.
    Why hasn’t let the money follow the kid experiment been tried?
    They could go to any school they want.
    Don’t they do that in Europe? Don’t they test higher there?

  70. Andy February 4, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    @Betsy Which European country do you mean and what exactly do you ask if they do? Europe does not have uniform education system, they are very different across different countries.

    Also, what counts as ADD is different across countries. They may attribute different disorders names or no disorder at all for the same behavior. They may also use different treatment.

    Difficult kids with inability to focus and difficulty to stay calm can be found everywhere I guess.

  71. TM February 4, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    @Suze

    Unfortunately, stuff like that is far more common than it should be because of a combination of zero tolerance, media hysteria, paranoid school officials and helicopter parents with no perspective of how a normal kid acts or behaves. Story time, and unlike my last story, this one is for real.

    When I was in school, post columbine, I was brought into the office and held under suspicion of being a threat to the school. The school administrators had compiled a series of 3 pieces of evidence that I was a disturbed individual bent on causing death and destruction.

    Evidence #1: After an friend of mine did something particularly stupid (even for a high school kid) I said “It’s a shame all the ways of putting you out of your misery would be illegal”. Apparently either the “friend” or someone near by at the time (was never clear on the details) decided to report that, and taken completely out of context it was determined that sentence was a threat of imminent bodily harm.

    Evidence #2: Some months earlier, I was overseen (by some administrator or other) showing a friend of mine a picture of a BB pistol gun on my own personal computer while at school. This apparently was taken to mean that I had purchased a firearm illegally and was plotting mass murder. In reality, I had bought said BB gun on ebay on a whim, and prior to it being delivered (but unfortunately not before I had purchased it) had decided to ask my parents permission to own it. The answer was no, and so I decided I should get rid of it. I was showing the picture to a friend to see if they were interested in buying it, as I knew bringing even a toy gun to school would be a bad idea. I did not realize that this extended to pictures.

    Evidence #3: Sometime between the prior two incidents, there was a copy cat shooting out in California. That shooting and general “safety” had been the hot topic of discussion all about the school for two days when in the middle of the day an announcement was made that all vehicles had to be removed from the school parking lot at the end of the day because a helicopter was going to land there, and no further information was given. As is natural among high school students with no information, the discussion turned to speculation as to why a helicopter would be landing in the school parking lot. We eventually concluded that it might be some sort of first response training exercise for school shootings since that was the issue of the week. Being an analytical sort of person, I made the statement that announcing the arrival of a helicopter and doing such a training event immediately after school might give an interested shooter (if one existed) an opportunity to study the response plan and alter their plans accordingly. This too was overheard by some administrator and was taken to mean that I was plotting a school shooting.

    Bear in mind that these events happened over a 6-8 month period, they were not clustered events.

    In combination, the school administration had decided I was buying illegal guns, plotting a school shooting and had made threats to that effect to other students. Of course, I wasn’t apparently dangerous enough to keep out of the school, but none the less I was summoned to the office early one morning, completely unaware that I had suddenly become a suspect in this witch hunt. I was brought into the principal’s office, with the school “resource officer” standing outside. There I was questioned for a few hours concerning all the details (“Did you say X?”, “Did you buy a gun?”, “Do your parents know you have the gun?” etc) until after some time and my parents getting involved it was decided that I wasn’t really a threat and I could go back to my classes, but they were “watching” me and I had better be on my best behavior or I would be expelled.

    I found out later that the only reason I hadn’t been dragged out of the school in handcuffs that morning was because one of the vice principals (yes, one of, our school was a mess of bureaucrats) knew me and my family from a local church and was convinced this was all a misunderstanding and had convinced the principal (who already disliked me and was more than willing to toss me) to at least bring me in a question me before calling in the SWAT team. They had also decided to bring me in before contacting my parents, who were quite surprised when they got a phone call declaring me a school shooter in the making.

    I did learn some valuable lessons from the whole experience. I learned that pictures of toy guns were as deadly and dangerous as real guns. I learned that questioning the wisdom of administrators is a good way to ensure that you are considered a hostile threat to other people. And I learned that even if you’ve been friends with someone for years, media hysteria and other people can convince them that you’re really a mass murderer in disguise.

    Oh and one last lesson I learned. When they tell you “never talk to the cops, even if you’re innocent”, it applies to anyone in authority, and it’s very good advice. You see, when they were questioning me concerning the BB gun, I explained to them everything that I explained to you (and then some). After that though, someone decided to call my parents and both of my parents received a call which said essentially: “Your son has purchased a gun that you don’t know about, and has threatened other students at the school and may be planning on harming or killing you.” My parents of course had IQs above a warm jar of mayonnaise, but the point still stands. Your words will be twisted and used against you. My children will learn the lesson that if they are ever brought before a person of authority, do not answer any questions until either I or my wife have arrived, or a lawyer has. Our administrators have long since ceased being our friends, and that is a sad lesson to teach.

  72. Highwayman February 5, 2013 at 12:30 am #

    TM,

    “Oh and one last lesson I learned. When they tell you “never talk to the cops, even if you’re innocent”, it applies to anyone in authority, and it’s very good advice. You see, when they were questioning me concerning the BB gun, I explained to them everything that I explained to you (and then some). After that though, someone decided to call my parents and both of my parents received a call which said essentially: “Your son has purchased a gun that you don’t know about, and has threatened other students at the school and may be planning on harming or killing you.” My parents of course had IQs above a warm jar of mayonnaise, but the point still stands. Your words will be twisted and used against you. My children will learn the lesson that if they are ever brought before a person of authority, do not answer any questions until either I or my wife have arrived, or a lawyer has. Our administrators have long since ceased being our friends, and that is a sad lesson to teach.”

    That last paragraph bears repeating; again and again…

  73. MJ Witt February 6, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    Yet another example. These types of stories are becoming so common they hardly stand out anymore. What is it going to take to reverse the trend and get it moving in the more sane direction?

    http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/2nd-grader-suspended-over-imaginary-grenade-224740937.html

  74. Warren February 6, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    What is it going to take?

    It is going to take parents staying the course, even after having the suspension of their child rectified.

    All too often, that is where it ends for parents, and that does nothing about the initial issue. Until parents think past their own little world, and decide to take on the schools, nothing will change, and it will only get worse.

    Yes yes, pick you battles. If I hear that one more time I will puke. Pick your battles is a cop out, and nothing more.

    I have always said..If you are not going to do something about it, then you have no right to complain about it.

  75. Cynthia812 February 6, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    New crazy story on the horizon. How dare a child use his imagination on the playground! http://kdvr.com/2013/02/04/7-year-old-playing-an-imaginary-game-at-school-gets-suspended-for-real/#ooid=Z2a2gzOTrcXIwYrqciZv_BXEuERkhhb0

  76. Cynthia812 February 6, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    Oh, I see that story just got posted above.

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