A Kindergartener, A Cap Gun and a Principal. Can You Guess What Comes Next?

Readers, at some point I will stop posting what I have started calling Zero Tolerunce (so it rhymes with dunce!) incidents. But I couldn’t resist ihnrysknis
this one
, as a Sunday evening sheesh:  Last week a kindergartener who showed his cowboy-type cap gun to his friend on the school bus was hauled off to the principal’s office and interrogated for SO LONG (2+ hours), that he ended up peeing in his pants. Or so says The Daily Caller.

As for the 10 day sentence…er…detention he received? He’s just lucky there were no caps in the gun, said the principal, or it would have been treated like an explosive device and she would have called the police.

Of course. What else do you do when confronted with a kindergartener and a classic toy?  – L.

Stop him before he brags about his cool toy again!


89 Responses to A Kindergartener, A Cap Gun and a Principal. Can You Guess What Comes Next?

  1. SKL June 2, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    I still say, zero tolerance for idiot principals like this.

  2. Chihiro June 2, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    I’m pretty sure that principal can’t keep a kid in his office and deny him bathroom breaks long enough for him to pee his pants. I’m usually against bringing lawyers and crap into situations like this, but the parents should take action against the school. You’re not allowed to deny bathroom privileges to adults in the workplace, much less a five-year-old in kindergarten.

  3. lollipoplover June 2, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    “…the principal — Jennifer L. Young, according to Dowell Elementary’s website — told the kindergartener’s mother that things would have been even worse had the toy gun been loaded with caps. In that case, the school would have regarded the plaything as an explosive and called the police.”

    And any child who was found in possession of Mentos (if there was a Diet Coke bottle nearby) would also be in possession of explosives. How ANYONE can say anything so absurd, especially a principal, is beyond comprehension.

    A 14 yo at our middle school received a 1 day suspension for sucker punching another student (all caught on video tape) who suffered a scratched cornea, broken nose, and other injuries. The student spent more time out of school from injuries than the thug did. Yet 5 year olds are being questioned for toys and getting 10 day suspensions. I hope the stench of pee lingers in her office for years. What an asshole.

  4. Christina June 2, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    My godson got suspended for a week for punching another kid. This is a kid who had never been in trouble before and not exactly the kind of kid who would haul off and hit someone for no reason. Needless to say, when his mom asked whether he had been punched first and was maybe just defending himself, no one had any idea because no one had bothered to stop and ask why a kid with no record of physical aggression would hit someone.

  5. anonymous this time June 2, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

    This is what I say to my kids at the end of the day sometimes as I make my fingers into the shape of a gun:

    “Bang, bang! You’re dead
    Brush your teeth and go to bed.”

    Time to call in CPS, clearly I’m making terroristic threats and am unfit to be a mother.

  6. Earth.W June 2, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

    Can you imagine the amount of people he could have killed with those caps? :O

  7. Earth.W June 2, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

    @Christina, one of my daughters when in Grade 3, once found herself fronted by a boy in Grade 6 or such who throw a punch at her. She blocked him and right hooked him the ear. At first the school denied they punished her but they did.

  8. mongolberry June 2, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    I love that you point out the idiocy that results from these zero tolerance policies but I feel like we should do something productive about them, a letter writing campaign to the schools perhaps?

  9. Emily June 2, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

    1. A toy gun isn’t a weapon; it’s a toy. I think it was during my youth that they started putting the fluorescent orange tips on cap guns, so they’d be more distinguishable from real guns, because there were stories in the newspaper of kids picking up and shooting their parents’ real guns, thinking that they were toys. I saw this as perfectly reasonable, but then later, toy manufacturers started making toy guns that were entirely made of fluorescent plastic, and sometimes had sparkles, etc. I think the orange tip is enough–it allows the child to have the fantasy of pretending to be a cowboy or whatever, but nobody’s going to get it mixed up with a real gun.

    2. Cap gun caps aren’t an “explosive.” They make a popping sound, and give off a bit of white powder, and that’s it. If the principal was really going to call the police over that, I don’t think they would have even bothered.

    3. If the police were called (whether it was over the toy gun itself, or “explosives” if it had had caps in it), I think they’d probably be more concerned with the fact that the principal had detained a five-or-six-year-old child for two hours, without a bathroom break, to the point that he had an accident.

    4. The problem with “zero tolerance” is, if you go for the big guns of suspension and expulsion with minor infractions, like a little boy bringing his cap gun to school, or a teenage girl slipping her friend an Advil, then what do you do when someone does something really bad? In fact, if you suspend and expel students over every little thing, then pretty soon, there won’t be any more students left.

  10. hineata June 2, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    @Emily – ‘pretty soon, there won’t be any more students left’. Some days, that would seem like a marvellous idea for my colleagues and I, LOL! Teaching has always been a wonderful job – it’s only the students that make it difficult….

    Seriously, I am not in favour of guns that are not used for hunting, culling stock etc., but isn’t it time that the more generally armed US adult population put all those personal firearms to good use and brought them into schools to show principals what guns actually are? I was thinking unloaded, but then there’s nothing like a bullet through an office partition to demonstrate the difference between a cap and said bullet. ….

  11. Kimberly June 2, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    I’m glad that you are standing up for children that are being subjected to this stupidity. At the same time I would like to remind you that things like this happen every day. The toy is taken up and given back at the end of the day or the parent comes and picks it up.

    In the last few years I have had

    1. A child turn himself in for having a pocket knife. He had been camping left it in his backpack. We locked it up. Family handled the punishment. (He had been told to empty the back pack completely and repack for school.

    2. Kid busted another kid’s lip. Kid 1 had been threatened by some bullies that he was going to be jumped in the bathroom. Kid 2 was an imp and startled him.
    Kid 1 – No punishment he was going to counseling due to abuse with his birth parents. Counselor was told what happened.
    Kid 2 – No school punishment, His Dad was not happy with him (Dad insisted that kid1 not be punished)
    Bullies – Had prior history of bad behavior. They received ISS for making the threats.

    3. New kid made ugly remarks about autistic child – entire 4th and 5th grade turned on him told him it wasn’t acceptable to do that and refused to speak to/play with him till he apologized. His parents complained about him being bullied were informed that the other students were standing up for a disabled student.

    4. Kid brought martial art gear/weapons to school. He rode the bus, and was very impulsive. He could totally be egged into showing off how to use it on the bus ride home. I called Mom. She agreed this kid/gear/bus bad idea. I locked it up, and she came by after school to pick it up.

    5.I have a kid this year that brings various not allowed items to school (Last week a horrible perfume, nail polish, remover that spilled and made me sick.) I lock up her stuff and Dad comes by to pick it up each Monday. (Stuff comes from Mom’s house – Mom doesn’t give a flip.)

  12. bmj2k June 2, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    This is not about kids and toy guns, nor is it about over-zealous principals and zero tolerance rules, it is about the indoctrination of the idea that all guns are always bad in anyone’s hands. It does not matter if the offending gun is a cap gun, pop tart, or two fingers, that is simply the opportunity to come down hard with the anti-gun brainwashing. I do not call myself pro-gun, nor am I a member of the NRA, but this is obviously part of a larger agenda.

  13. Brenda June 2, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

    Hmm. Can only imagine what would’ve happened to the boy in my son’s kindergarten class a few years back – his mom used to bring his toy gun to school so he could play with it afterschool at the playground. I was less than impressed, I knew it was a toy, and that there was no real harm, but just didn’t think that this was the most creative use of his time. Being a generation removed from my Mennonite heritage, I am not a big gun lover. I didn’t call the cops, and I didn’t sick the principal on the parent or child, but did mention to the mother that it wasn’t great having my kid being chased by her kid with a toy gun. Similarly, the kids’ teacher caught wind of the situation, and asked the mother to leave the toy at home. Mission accomplished, no suspensions, and no drama. However, we do live in a relatively serene community just east of Toronto, Canada, where people have not completely lost their minds when it comes to “zero tolerance” type situations. Might be different if we lived in a more metropolitan setting?

  14. Peter June 2, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    What will it take before the citizens who hire these morons rise up and start to fire them for these moronic decisions. If anyone is stupid enough to make a decision like this over a cap gun, then they are too stupid to be in charge of a school.

    The principals hide behind the phrase “zero tolerance”. The teachers say “I was just following orders.” (I had to go all Godwin, but it surely applies here.)

    Please, can we just all agree to fire them first, and ask questions later? And when we bring them in to fire them, deny them a bathroom break for the next several hours.

  15. Andy Harris June 2, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    Today cap guns, tomorrow water pistols. Where does it end? Think of the (adults acting like) children!!

  16. Kimberly June 2, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    Oh – I forgot a bull snake was found out the playground last week. Three teachers removed it to a field away from the play area. (It was big. They are non posionious but can still bite).

    An e-mail was sent out to tell teachers
    1. Bull snakes are not posionious
    2. That we needed to watch out when kids were playing in the area around the track – were the grass is higher.
    3. A work order was put in to to cut the taller (ankle high instead of lawn height) to lawn height for the last week of school.

  17. S June 2, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

    At my kids’ old (private classical) school, they brought toy swords and toy knives and toy rifles and the like in for historical dress up days. My son’s first grade class made Mentos / coke rockets in the field during their science unit. Now that we’ve moved and they are going to public school next year, I think they may have a rude awakening…hope we don’t inadvertently have an incident like this.///

  18. hineata June 2, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

    @Kimberly – sorry, have to ask, what’s lawn height grass? Our school grass is always up to the kids’ ankles – do you mean your grass is taller than that and being mown down? I have no experience at all with snakes, but wouldn’t a large snake would have difficulty hiding in ankle-height grass?

    I know it’s off topic, but love learning new things…:-)

    Also, the dad of the split-lip kid needs a medal. I wish more parents were like that.

  19. Patty June 2, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

    I wish you’d ALL pay attention to the number of kids killed (or killed by their siblings or friends) each week playing with guns that they found in the house, found in their friends’ house, or were given as gifts! How is a 5 year old supposed to be able to tell the difference between one of these “legitimately purchased” DEADLY guns and a cap gun? Should I as a parent expect that they can if they find a gun and bring it to school?

    The reality is that the guns are out there and every week some little kid dies from an unsecured gun. I’ll not risk my child’s life on the ability of a 5 year old to tell the difference between a real gun and a cap gun (or a BB gun – believe me, I’ve seen the damage on of those can inflict – and I live in a state with tough gun laws!)

    The kid should not be punished. The parents should, because they should know the school rules and make sure their kindergartener abides by them. Seriously, is it that hard to figure out what’s in your kid’s backpack? We’re talking about a 5 year old here.

    Since many states (OK included) have either no or very weak legislation to hold parents responsible when their kids somehow gets their hands on “the gun they have for home protection and is hidden so well their kid will never find it, except when they shoot themselves with it”, we as parents are limited to school rules to protect our children from little kids who don’t know any better and bring a loaded handgun to school.

    The last thing this school district needs is some other 5 year old copying what this boy did – bringing a gun to school because some other kid did. The first 2 “guns” were not dangerous in any way. Are you willing to trust the judgment of every kid in your child’s elementary school that the next “gun” will be harmless?

    The kid should not have been treated that way. But the school district did and should have made a huge deal about the “gun thing”. Other kids need to be scared about bringing to school (or playing with or even touching) anything the looks like a real gun. Too many of them can’t tell the difference, and too many of them die.

  20. Lissa June 2, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

    This nonsense would have made my fourth grade “Living History Report” (we dressed as our subject, complete with props, and read our reports in the first person) on Annie Oakley incredibly difficult.

    My little brother, like every other little boy (and probably more than a few little girls), had cap guns growing up. Today, he is probably the least violent person I know. As it turns out, a toy gun is just another toy.

  21. Yan Seiner June 2, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    @Patty: Kids getting shot is the fault of the parents.

    Yes, the school can and should have a no weapons policy.

    But how do you expect a 5 year old to learn the difference between a toy gun and a real gun, when the principal can’t?

    (Hint: toy guns have an orange cap on the end. Real guns don’t. Federal law.)

  22. Patty June 2, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

    @Yan, yes it is the fault of the parents. But many states have no laws holding parents responsible either legally or civilly for what their children do with their guns. In this sort of circumstance (not the maniac school shooter, I get it) our children are protected by the fact that they learn, sometimes dramatically, as in this case, that anything that looks like a gun should not go to school. The school administration has no other recourse – the guns are there, they are legal, and the parents won’t be held accountable for “accidents”. The only thing in their power is to keep anything that might look like a gun out of the building – we should all be grateful that at least they are allowed to do that.

    I’m sure the principal could tell the difference. But our children are safer when none of them brings a gun to school – even if they are “sure” it’s a cap gun. But if you read what I wrote, I said the kid should not have been punished and the parents should have stopped him from bringing it to school. The rule was in place, and they were either ignorant of it, willfully ignored it, or were unaware of the contents of their child’s backpack. This does not warrant the consequences to this poor little boy, but it does warrant teachers and administration making it clear to kids, especially the little ones, never to trust a gun even if the person pointing it at them says it is a toy or unloaded.

    Like I said, start paying attention to the number of little kids who kill or have been killed by guns in the hands of other little kids. It happens every week in this country. I’m sure none of those kids meant to kill their sibling/cousin/friend/parent/self. But they didn’t know. Schools are the only education many kids get about this – the gun lobby has even stopped pediatricians in many states from discussing gun safety with parents in the sake vein as they talk about car seats. Let’s not shut down the only aspect of gun safety many children will get.

  23. Warren June 2, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

    Lenore this is no longer zero tolerance. Zero tolerance is a defensive posture to protect. This is now an all out offensive action. These school officials go into attack mode. For nothing more than to be able to say that their zero tolerance weapon rules worked “X” number of times. Never having to explain that the weapons they stopped were capguns, water pistols and bubble making guns.

    Personally if the reports of the child peeing his pants are real, then the principal should be brought up on disciplinary or legal charges.

    I to live and raise kids east of Toronto. And after school, on our own time, I would have politely told you that my kid playing with a toy rifle while it may bother you, does not bother me. I would have told my kid to leave yours alone, but he would keep his toy.

    Just how many kids get shot each year by bringing a real gun to school that they thought was their toy gun? I am very interested in knowing just how bad this is.
    And for the record, the way you went on and on, just shows an irrational fear of guns.

  24. Patty June 2, 2013 at 10:19 pm #


    First let it be clear that I have made no personal attacks on anyone on this board and will not do so.

    Second, since Newtown there have been at least 29 accidental deaths of children who were shot by other children.

    Third, I say again, parents are too often not held legally or civilly responsible for what their children do with their guns because the state laws protect them from responsibility.

    Fourth, this sort of incident, although overblown by the school in terms of how they treated a small child (as I have said), does not mean that schools should not take every opportunity available to warn children that guns can and all too frequently do kill children. The fact remains that too many children are not learning gun safety at home, their doctors are not often not permitted discuss it with them, and the guns are there in their homes, their friends’ homes, and their relatives’ homes.

    Fifth, what would you say to the the parents of those kids killed? I’m curious as to how they would respond to your opinion of my points as showing “an irrational fear of guns”?

  25. Yan Seiner June 2, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

    @Patty: You say “since Newtown there have been at least 29 accidental deaths of children who were shot by other children.”

    Did any of these happen in school, by children bringing in what they thought were toy guns, but turned out to be real?

    If not, then the principal is fighting the wrong problem. She’s teaching the kid to hide a gun s/he might have, instead of teaching the responsible action, which is that guns belong in a gun safe, disabled with the firing mechanism locked/removed/etc and unloaded.

    That’s what I want to see – people addressing the right problem.

    Years ago I worked for an organization that had a huge banner where everyone could see it:

    “Never confuse activity with accomplishment. Results count.”

    What result did the principal achieve? Was anyone safer that day at school?

  26. Gina June 2, 2013 at 11:31 pm #

    Regarding the Orange Safety Cap…In an effort to make his guns look real, my son could and did remove those caps from every toy gun he ever owned. They are not really all that “safe” if kids can remove them.

    That said, my son also knew and was constantly reminded, that if he played with guns without the orange cap, he was NEVER to take them in the front yard or in the car. They were for in the house and the backyard only. Our fear was that an officer might mistake the gun for a real one.

    This child should not have been punished, but his parents should have made sure he understood that, for his own safety, toy guns do not go to school.

  27. Patty June 2, 2013 at 11:47 pm #


    Did not spend a lot of time on the specific question about kids killing kids in school with guns, I didn’t go through the million-plus google hits. But yes, kids have been shot accidentally in school by other kids. And some have died.

    Believe it or not I do agree with you on the teaching of responsible gun safety and I wish we could count on that. The fact remains that very young children do not always absorb the info – I saw a documentary on that several years ago where kids were given the NRA gun safety class, and when they were turned loose right after in a room full of toys and a few unloaded, disabled guns they played almost exclusively with the guns – even pretending to shoot each other with them. The fact also remains that you can tell as many 5 year olds as you want (if you have that opportunity – like I said even their own doctors are forbidden to mention that to them or to their parents in many states) that the guns should be locked up, but if their parents don’t do it the guns are still within reach. When states enact laws making parents responsible for what their children do with the parent’s guns, more guns get locked up and fewer kids die from accidental shootings. But many states give parents a pass on this.

    So what is a school principal to do? Hope that every kid whose parents own a gun secures it properly and teaches their kids not to touch it? Assume that every kid entering school, even 4-5 year olds (or even younger, given some schools) knows and follows the rules and can differentiate between harmful and not harmful guns? Or do what is easiest and covers the most ground – nothing that looks like a gun comes into school. From what I have seen of elementary school kids, generally when it’s made clear to them that something is seriously against the rules, they actually try to follow the rules. It seems unlikely that a kid would respond to a no toy gun rule by smuggling in a loaded handgun. I would hope that any child who did that would be referred to some psychological help.

    So, like I said, the punishment for the kid was too much. He should have been spoken to gently and his parents reminded more sternly that this is the school rule. But I’d rather have my children in a school where the rules are a blanket “no gun or gun lookalike” than in one where I must rely on limited or non-existent gun locks, safety lessons and parental responsibility, to keep an unsuspecting kindergartener from bringing a loaded gun to school. Even one kid being shot is too many.

  28. John June 3, 2013 at 12:52 am #

    Quote: “I hope the stench of pee lingers in her office for years. What an asshole.”

    LOL……now that is priceless lollipoplover! Very well said and I could not agree more!

  29. Warren June 3, 2013 at 1:26 am #

    First of all, the all out offensive attack is by the schools, not you. They are criminalizing toys and play. Toy guns, swords and such have been a part of healthy active play since Chist was a cowboy.

    29 since Newton? Prove it with sources. Do not spout off numbers and stats without backup. And do not bring Newton into this because this has nothing to do with that event.
    I do not know where you get your information, but I have yet to hear of a kindergarten age, or any school age child bringing Dad’s Smith and Wesson or Glock or Winchester to school thinking it is a toy, let alone shooting a classmate with it.
    Do us all a favour and show us an example, with at least a news article to back you up.

    Now my son has a dozen or so different toy guns, from nerf to lookalike assault rifles. When he was five he was not capable of even picking up any of my hunting rifles. There are very few 5 yr olds that would have the strength, hand size and finger strength to lift, reach the trigger and pull the trigger of most guns.
    Another thing, the ones that do pick up a real gun, do so because it is real. They do not mistake it for a toy. If they like playing with toy guns, they know which ones are toys, and which ones are mom or dads.
    Yes irresponsible gun owners should be held accountable, no arguement here. If someone broke into my house and was able to get into the gun cabinet, the only thing my rifles would be good for them is to use them as a club. There is no way they could ever fire them.

    I have never understood the need for keeping a loaded gun in the house. The 21 foot rule negates the need for them.

    Your words…”Even one kid being shot is too many”…….reminds me of the post about the Sex Offender Registry we had earlier.

    You see, by your logic, kids should not be able to bring toy cars to school either. They shouldn’t be able to bring in their dogs for show and tell either. Do you know how many kids are killed every year by cars and dogs?

    As for the fictional parents that lost their kid to an accidental shooting? What do you tell the hundreds of actual parents that lose their children every year in auto accidents?

  30. Donna June 3, 2013 at 3:34 am #

    I have never once heard of a child bringing what he believed to be a toy gun to school that turned out to be real and shooting his classmates.

    Further, I don’t think anyone here is really saying that schools can’t have rules against toy guns in school. We simply don’t believe that a cap gun should be treated as an “explosive device,” cops should be called or that suspensions and detentions are the appropriate punishment for kids bringing in forbidden toys. Taking the toy away is the appropriate punishment for bringing a toy gun to kindergarten. Police involvement is not.

    Nor do the parents need to be punished for their child bringing a cap gun into school. IT IS A TOY! It is not something that parents should be locking away from their children since it is actually a children’s toy. Kids occasionally walk out of the house with things without their parents noticing. I don’t think we should be criminalizing the failure to check a backpack to make sure our children don’t sneak in their toys.

  31. Sha June 3, 2013 at 4:06 am #

    Okay, Warren, how about this one: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57383339/wash-boy-9-to-be-charged-in-shooting-of-girl-8/

  32. Andy June 3, 2013 at 4:31 am #

    @Patty 5 years old should be able to distinguish plastic toy gun from a real one. Especially if they live in culture where real ones are common. Toy guns, cap or not are not exact replicas.

    Second, if you got issue with real guns, work toward regulation of a real guns. Not of toy guns. This whole “I have issue with x, but there is strong lobby or culture of x so I will outlaw something entirely else” is stupid and makes people stupid.

    Real guns are real and can kill people. Toy guns are toys and do not kill people.

  33. Warren June 3, 2013 at 4:49 am #

    Okay, Sha, how bout this, none of them mention that the child was a moron and thought they were bringing a toy gun to school. Like I said, if they bring a real gun to school, it is because they wanted to bring a real gun to school.
    Toy guns are toys. Unless a kid holds another down on the ground, and pummels the kid with the toy, it is harmless.

    Schools, soccer moms, helicopter parents have all got to get something better to do than come up with new and stupid zero tolerance rules.

    Sha, if you think these rules would have prevented any of what happened, you are in dire need of help. Those kids brought real guns to their schools, they knew they did, and they knew it was wrong before they did it. No rule, old, new or future would have changed a thing.

    So by you logic as well, anything that can kill a kid should be banned from schools, including toy or replica. Good….then all kids will have to walk, because vehicles kill more kids than anything.

    I just hope that Patty and Sha are not in the education sector.

    And for the record, any teacher or principal that interrogated my kid, to the point of pant wetting would be at severe risk. Yes, I know, I know, but I wouldnt give a rat’s ass.

  34. Andy June 3, 2013 at 4:52 am #

    Also, I looked up why there have to be orange gun on toy and wiki says this: “… incidents where civilians – usually children or teenagers – were killed by police officers when the officers thought they saw real guns. While these incidents were rare …”

    So, incidents were rare and had nothing with kids being unable to distinguish real and toy gun. They have been about trigger happy cops.

  35. pentamom June 3, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    Quote: “I hope the stench of pee lingers in her office for years.”

    Can’t back you up on this one. Since that principal needs to be replaced TOMORROW, why inflict this on her predecessor? 😉

  36. Emily June 3, 2013 at 8:44 am #

    >>3. New kid made ugly remarks about autistic child – entire 4th and 5th grade turned on him told him it wasn’t acceptable to do that and refused to speak to/play with him till he apologized. His parents complained about him being bullied were informed that the other students were standing up for a disabled student.<<

    Kimberley–You have awesome students. 🙂

  37. Uly June 3, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    Patty, nobody is saying that the child should be allowed to ignore school rules. And opinions are certainly divided on whether or not this is a reasonable rule.

    However, he’s five. He’s still learning the rules. The appropriate consequence would have been to tell him the rule and reasoning, them confiscate the toy until the end of the day, perhaps sending a note home to the parents reminding them of the rule against semi-realistic toy guns. Or all toy guns, or all toys, depending on what the rule is.

    As for punishing the parents, at five years old they probably no longer sit and stare at him every second of every day. Kids that age can do a lot of things without their parents’ blessing. It happens.

  38. sayno June 3, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    What if it was a real gun and someone got hurt? THis is not a matter of free range but a safety issue for all the teachers and students at the school. Shame on you for pointing this out as a free range issue!

  39. Warren June 3, 2013 at 9:43 am #


    Everyone go to dollar store and buy a waterpistol…..you know the cheap glow in the dark plastic ones the size of your palm. Then on the same day evey kid brings it to school. Call the press and inform them of the peace protest to zero tolerance oppression.

  40. Warren June 3, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    Or do we call you Patty?

    The free range issue is the zero tolerance, and just how insane it is.

    Toy guns are not a safety issue for anyone, my kids have played with toy guns all their lives. It is natural, healthy and fun.

    If it had been a real gun, it wouldn’t be a zero tolerance issue. So shame on you for not being rational and mature enough to recognize this.

  41. Uly June 3, 2013 at 9:54 am #


    Yes, we’re aware. That doesn’t mean it is a good idea. There has got to be room in our discipline of schools for critical thought, common sense, and compassion.

    What if it was a real gun and someone got hurt?

    But it wasn’t a real gun, and nobody got hurt. Nobody could have gotten hurt, because it was a harmless toy. What if this child ends up scarred for life and drops out of school because of this negative experience? What if we get invaded by aliens tomorrow and school closes for good? What if everybody forgets how to think because of inane zero tolerance policies? What if, what if, what if…?

    THis is not a matter of free range but a safety issue for all the teachers and students at the school.

    Perhaps, but the punishment should still fit the crime. No child of five should be suspended from school for two weeks. That’s ludicrous, even if he HAD brought in a real gun.

    Shame on you for pointing this out as a free range issue!

    It’s a free thought issue. As in, people should be free to think.

  42. Natalie June 3, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    Do they even still sell those cap guns anymore? I’m going to get a few for my girls. They were so fun to play with!

  43. J.T. Wenting June 3, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    “My godson got suspended for a week for punching another kid. This is a kid who had never been in trouble before and not exactly the kind of kid who would haul off and hit someone for no reason. Needless to say, when his mom asked whether he had been punched first and was maybe just defending himself, no one had any idea because no one had bothered to stop and ask why a kid with no record of physical aggression would hit someone.”

    happened to me over 30 years ago. The bullies who caused me grief were never punished for anything, including when they kicked a friend of me so hard he almost ended up in the ER, in earshot of several teachers.

    “I love that you point out the idiocy that results from these zero tolerance policies but I feel like we should do something productive about them, a letter writing campaign to the schools perhaps?”

    nono, that would be threatening. Maybe a sit-in, but of course have to get a permit first, and mandatory background checks for all involved, you never know which of those parents might be a pedophile just waiting to snatch a kid from a crowd.

    “1. A toy gun isn’t a weapon; it’s a toy.”

    tell that to lawmakers who consider anything that “looks sufficiently like a weapon” to be a weapon, including those all fluorescent plastic toys (which after all COULD be painted black and be used to threaten someone).
    And yes, that happens here several times a year (but I’m not in the US). Toy importers constantly run the risk of being arrested for dealing in illegal weapons whenever they import a few boxes of toy guns or water pistols.

    “3. If the police were called (whether it was over the toy gun itself, or “explosives” if it had had caps in it), I think they’d probably be more concerned with the fact that the principal had detained a five-or-six-year-old child for two hours, without a bathroom break, to the point that he had an accident. ”

    under the zero tolerance policy, they’d have to take the kid to the police station and file charges, so he’d have a criminal record even if those charges were dropped 10 minutes later.

    “then what do you do when someone does something really bad?”

    ignore it, because someone (meaning the teacher) could get hurt if he tries to interfere.
    What else?

    “Seriously, I am not in favour of guns that are not used for hunting, culling stock etc.”

    I’m all in favour of culling the overpopulation of gang bangers and other criminals…
    As the police are too busy dealing with dangerous schoolkids who bring toy guns or fruit knives to school, or (shudder) candy bars, citizens have to defend themselves (and I envision they’ll soon have to defend themselves against that same police).

    “Today cap guns, tomorrow water pistols. Where does it end? Think of the (adults acting like) children!!”

    and day after tomorrow, the next generation of voters is so indoctrinated into accepting anything someone in authority tells them and that nothing is allowed except what’s explicitly granted them, they’re perfect government drones.
    And that’s the intended end result.

    “What if it was a real gun and someone got hurt? THis is not a matter of free range but a safety issue for all the teachers and students at the school”

    it’s an anti-idiot issue, something you clearly don’t understand.
    If you don’t want guns in the hands of schoolkids, fine. But toys aren’t guns. If you’re too stunted to understand that as a teacher, you should not be a teacher.

  44. CrazyCatLady June 3, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    Patty, Sanyo, here in WA parents ARE held accountable when a child shoots another child. If that isn’t the case in your state, you could petition for changes in the law.

    A case here involving a 3 year old finding his off duty officer father’s gun under the car seat and shooting his sister, resulted in charges to the father. The case of the child bringing the gun to school and shooting a classmate resulted in charges to the mother. (Though that may have been in OR – I hear a lot of their news.)

    But, I am pretty sure that this boy, whose parents bought and gave him his toy, knew that it was actually a toy. Partially because they bought it at a place that had other….wait for it….toys. Toys that kids played with in the past. It was probably on the shelf with Jacob’s Ladder, jacks and other old time toys.

  45. CrazyCatLady June 3, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    Natalie, see if the Frontier Town mentioned has a web site that could sell and send you the plastic cap guns.

  46. Yan Seiner June 3, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    Here’s the main problem with the zero tolerance policies:

    A 5 year old brings a toy to school. It’s not a weapon, and possession of a toy by a child is not against the law. But for the moment, let’s say that a 10 day suspension is appropriate.

    A 5 year old steals another child’s lunch. This is an actual crime. Theft is against the law. What is an appropriate punishment?

    Be careful on this one; we had a minor sentenced to life in prison for stealing a popsicle. It was his 3rd theft, and under the state’s “three strikes” law the judge had no choice but to impose a life sentence.

    That’s the stupidity of these kinds of policies.

  47. Natalie June 3, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Do people not see the irony in that they want children and teenagers treated like infants but punished like adults?

  48. pentamom June 3, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    “What if it was a real gun and someone got hurt?”

    What if it was a purple polka-dotted alien dragon and someone’s brains got sucked out?

    It wasn’t, and it wasn’t. Real guns do not get into kids’ backpacks under the same circumstances that toy guns get brought to school. You might as well say, “What if their pencil had a been a REAL BAYONET?”

  49. CLamb June 3, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    I looked up the code of conduct for the Calvert County Public Schools. I couldn’t find anything prohibiting students from having toy guns. Real guns are prohibited including “…any object which is a look-alike weapon even though incapable of
    operation”. Seeing as how a toy gun would have an orange plastic tip on the barrel I don’t see how it could be considered a look-alike weapon. The code of conduct is written by the Superintendent of Schools. The published budget did not include individual principal’s salaries. The district website is http://www.calvertnet.k12.md.us/ .

  50. Rebecca June 3, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    just so you all know, a good friend of mine is a former teacher at the school. Shockingly (not), WaPo misreported the situation and has had to retract some of the information. Here is how the actual situation played out http://www.calvertnet.k12.md.us/info/submission/viewsubmission.asp?num=484 This has been confirmed to me by a member of the office staff who is also a family member. Thanks.

  51. Taradlion June 3, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    There have been quite a few kids that have brought real guns to school. I found 4 cases (two that I remembered from news) in the last 5 months in quick google search (links on major news sites)…BUT the kids all knew the guns were real. It is insane that a 7 or 8 year old can find a gun and put it in their backpack…the kids’ parents (or the gun owners) should be held accountable. The kids need to understand that real guns are not toys….

    Toy guns are toys. What if the kid brought in a toy light saber?

    Full disclosure. I happen to dislike toy guns. I dislike them because they encourage shooting games and cannot be used for anything other than shooting. I never bought toy guns for my son.. He had a water pump backpack (firefighter style) and water pumps that shoot water as far as a super soaker. He loves roll caps (smashes them with rocks). However, if (when) my son picked up a stick, used Legos, or chewed his toast into a gun, I didn’t freak out. He has used sticky dart guns at friends houses. He wants to play good guy/bad guy games and MAKE a gun, fine…just I personally am not going to give him a toy gun.

    My son does have a REAL jackknife. He’d love to carry it in his backpack, but he can’t….

  52. Patty June 3, 2013 at 12:13 pm #


    Here you go.


    I apologize if I offended you by using the “N” word – I was being lazy and should have specified the date – 12/15/12 instead of an incident. You’ll see the links to every shooting, and notice that I only mentioned accidental killings of kids by other kids, not the rest of the kids killed by guns. The authors believe that this list is in no way complete, and it doesn’t include kids who were shot and did not die. You’ll be interested, I’m sure, in reading about the 7 year old who shot a younger sibling while they were playing with a pink gun. Apparently they thought it was a toy.

    It may be that no kid has been killed in school by a gun someone brought in thinking it was a toy. But how many do we need to have before it’s OK for a school to say that kids can’t bring things that look like real guns to school? One? Ten? Who decides?

    As an aside, check out the NRA gun safety instructions for little kids.

    If you see a gun:
    Don’t Touch.
    Leave the Area.
    Tell an Adult.

    It doesn’t actually say that if your friend is holding the gun you should first check to see if there is a little orange thingy on the front, signifying a toy. It says you should clear out and let an adult figure it out. Those are there to protect kids from being shot by cops, not as a guide for administrators as to whether or not the gun is real, especially if they see it coming out of a backpack butt first.

    The kid may know it’s a toy. A teacher looking from a distance may not be so sure and could send the school into lockdown until it’s confirmed to be a toy. What a waste of time and money, but it could also be that a kid purposely brought a gun he knew was real to school (as Warren insists that they do, and yes, I believe him even without a citation). It’s not going to hurt our kids’ learning to have limits on what toys they can bring to school. And seriously, no one’s going to stop them from bringing toy cars – they don’t actually resemble real cars enough to scare anybody – I suspect it’s the size difference, but I admit I have no data to back that up.

    @CrazyCatLady, Many stores that sell guns also sell toys (Walmart, anyone?) I would hope they would be in different departments. And I’m glad your state holds parents responsible, as does mine. You are safer for that. Would it be true that it were the case everywhere!

    I’m sorry if I offended anyone with my comments on gun safety. This incident sounds like a real problem with a principal and an overreaction to a zero tolerance policy. This kids’ treatment was abusive and the punishment completely inappropriate. I’m not a big fan of those policies either – they all too frequently result in disasters like this with no one made safer. Like with the caps as explosives or the poor high school girl who made a bleach bomb (or something ) as a science experiment and was expelled. These things are ridiculous.

    Now off topic and just for Warren, because you brought up cars & dogs. Now it gets fun! Yes, the riskiest thing a kid does all day is get into a car. So what do we do? We make cars safer physically. We limit those who are allowed to drive one by age and ability. You must show that you are minimally capable of operating a car, the car itself is required to be minimally functional, are you are limited in how and where you drive it, your physical condition when you are driving, and where you leave it. You are criminally and civilly liable for what you and your children do with your cars. You are required to make special arrangements for children in cars for their safety. You are even limited by the school! You are only allowed to park it in proscribed places, cannot drive it in certain places, in certain directions, and above certain speeds. Schools hire crossing guards to control the movements of the cars around schools – for the safety of the children. Guess what – we’re all safer! Can we eliminate all risk? Of course not, and I doubt anyone who thinks that can and should be done for kids would even look twice at this website. But we can take reasonable steps to limit it, and people do actually manage to live with that without suffering irreparable emotional damage! Please tell me you’d like regulate guns like cars. You’d make my day!

    Now dogs – I suspect the rules against dogs in school are more related to allergies than bites, but dogs get regulated too, for our safety. Rabies shot requirements, rules about wear dogs my be and disposal of their waste. Even at schools! Dogs are often not allowed in playgrounds and at beaches where children play – roundworm doesn’t hurt dogs any but it can really wreak havoc on a kid. And yes, dog owners are considered at fault when their dog injures or kills someone, for all 38 people (of all ages) killed by dogs last year in the US. I’d take that as a gun death number any day!

  53. Warren June 3, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    How many kids need to be shot in school by a kid with a real gun they thought was a toygun, before we crack down on toy guns? At least one, because until that happens you are acting on an irrational fear, of what ifs.

    Actually I would like to regulate vehicles more, as their are numerous drivers out there that have no business being behind the wheel of two tons of mass, capable of high speeds.

    As for dogs restricted access to areas, it is not a safety issues, it is a dogshit issue and people not cleaning up after their dog……nothing more. As for owners being held responsible for dog attacks, sometimes yes, but nowhere near all the time. Some dog attacks are considered lawful.

    Back to the banishing and punishing for toyguns…….it will not stop one child from being shot. You could outlaw the manufacture and sale of all toys that even remotely resemble a firearm, and the child deaths and injuries due to firearms will not change. Toy guns do not kill anyone, real guns do not kill anyone, people kill people. The sooner everyone can wrap their head around that, the sooner progress can be made to reduce accidental firearm shootings, and gun crime.

    You talk about taking reasonable steps, well in the real world zero tolerance rules are not reasonable, by definition.

    Now the lockdown scenario………..if a staff member is going to throw the school into lockdown that quickly, without knowing what is going on, then that staff member needs to be fired immediately. Someone that paranoid and jumpy has no right to be supervising kids. Paranoia needs to be replaced with common sense, and a cool head.

    That statement from the school does not clarify anything, and is nothing more than a PR piece to save face at the moment.

  54. Gary June 3, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

    I was wondering if you were going to address this…as if…”issue.”

    I am sorry but I do not have a humorous YouTube video that expresses my feelings and I cannot find a short enough one of a thermonuclear explosion so yea, I got nothing.

  55. mystic_eye_cda June 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    Regarding the case above. This wasn’t a kid who accidentally gained access to guns and tragedy ensued. This is a case of unfit (court ruled) parents, and a school board that allegedly knew the child was troubled and that his parents were unfit and did nothing.
    “The suit alleges school officials failed to grasp the potential danger posed by the troubled boy who bragged to friends about bringing a gun to school.

    The Bowman’s attorney talked to Times reporter Christine Clarridge and outlined their case, saying: “Despite a judicial finding that the (boy’s) parents were unfit, they were allowed to raise their children, including the boy with the gun. They were present constantly and they were the example that the child followed. We have brought suit against them because they entrusted firearms to a child and also let this child believe that the .45 caliber handgun is appropriate protection against bullying at the school.””

    “Courts are able to discern the difference between allowing a child access to, for example, a butcher knife or a hand grenade, they wrote in the decision released Friday. ”
    Or perhaps a toy gun, and a real one?

    According to the claim, the girl’s teacher had been concerned about the boy’s behavior since late last year, as he became more aggressive and bullied other pupils. He was unhappy with his teacher after he was moved into a lower, remedial reading class. And about one week before the shooting, he was suspended for fighting on the playground, and he began telling other students that he was going to bring a gun to school – information that apparently was never relayed to teachers or administrators.

    The boy later told police that he brought the gun to protect himself against bullies.

    The district declined to comment.

    “You have to teach children to report danger,” Campiche said, as he was flanked by Amina’s parents. “When you have children who are acting out, you have to connect with those children and see just how deeply troubled they are.”

  56. mystic_eye_cda June 3, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    @hineata, on June 2nd, 2013 at 8:22 pm Said:

    “Emily – ‘pretty soon, there won’t be any more students left’. Some days, that would seem like a marvellous idea for my colleagues and I, LOL! Teaching has always been a wonderful job – it’s only the students that make it difficult….”

    Learning is a wonderful job, it’s only teachers that make it difficult 😛

  57. Yan Seiner June 3, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    As for the Sparks case: The Cricket is designed to be shot by kids; it needs an adult to actually cock the weapon. It’s a single shot bolt action that requires two separate actions to cock it. (Personally I detest it and its marketing, but they’ve done their homework as far as safety goes.)

    Someone must have left it loaded and cocked, possibly with the safety off.

    This has little to do with guns and everything to do with adult stupidity.

    We shoot, but when the rifles get stored they are brought into the house with a chamber flag (to show there is no round in the chamber) and the bolt is removed for storage, making the rifle inoperable.

    The Sparks death, and all the child deaths, were preventable. They are the result of adult stupidity and carelessness.

    Further, they have nothing to do with this particular case of a child bringing a toy to school.

  58. pentamom June 3, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    Patty, I don’t disagree that it’s fair for schools to have rules forbidding toy guns. They can have any rules they want.

    But not because forbidding toy guns in any way addresses the dangers associated with real guns.

    Young kids who get access to real guns and manage to get them to school have parents who are GROSSLY NEGLIGENT.

    Kids who put toys they’re not supposed to have with them at that particular time, into their backpacks and take them to school are being rather disobedient.

    There is a vast gulf, both in the circumstances that allow such a situation to happen (one is a kid picking up something he’s allowed to play with any time he wants, but not take to school, the other is a kid having free access to something that he should never be allowed to have access to unsupervised, and should be taught NEVER to attempt to use unsupervised) and in the potential outcome (in one case, a kid breaks a rule and plays with a toy he shouldn’t have, in the other, someone could get seriously hurt or killed.) It’s not just that it’s extreme to punish the one as though it’s the other, it’s wrong to treat the two as though they bear any real-world connection to one another.

  59. pentamom June 3, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    And I agree with Warren — if a teacher “sends a school into lockdown” because they see something they think might be a gun but don’t even see closely enough to know whether it’s a toy or a real thing (when it is CLEARLY a toy upon the merest of focused inspection) then there is either a reaction problem with the teacher or a policy problem with how easy it is to invoke a lockdown. Ask Amadou Diallo about whether it’s smart to promote an excessively reactive “better safe than sorry” approach to “I think that might be a gun even before I actually see what it is” incidents.

  60. E. Simms June 3, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    If the toy had been loaded with caps and the principal called the police to report an “explosive device,” she would have been guilty of filing a false police report.

    I would love to see a teacher or school administrator arrested and charged with filing a false report when they waste police resources and create a dangerous situation for all involved. When the police hear “explosive device” and don’t have many details, an overwhelming police response would not be out of the ordinary.

  61. BL June 3, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    “If the toy had been loaded with caps and the principal called the police to report an “explosive device,” she would have been guilty of filing a false police report.”

    Never happen. The police and the principal are on the same team (Team Government). They never file false reports. Just ask them.

  62. Warren June 3, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    Just think about the lives this principal saved. This young man will never touch anything that looks like a gun ever again. The traumatic memory of wetting his pants will haunt him everytime he is near a gun. Just ask Patty.

    On the other hand, this is on his school records, which will prevent him from getting into the college of his choice. He will end up in a deadend job, depressed, asking himself over and over “Why didn’t I just leave my capgun at home?”. The years of self loathing will finally become too much, until he implodes, and climbs a clock tower with a real rifle. When this happens Patty and the principal can meet for coffee to re-evaluate their stance on zero tolerance rules.

  63. Katie June 3, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    Although on a bright note hopefully the principals office now is going to stink of pee. That’s what the principal get’s for being an idiot.

  64. pentamom June 3, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    The principal would have done something stupid if she’d called the police for “explosives,” but the crime of filing a false police report requires reporting known facts falsely, not misunderstanding what constitutes a crime or meets the legal definition of an “explosive.” People don’t get nailed for filing false reports whenever they complain about their neighbors doing something legal they don’t like; they just get told the police cannot help them with that.

  65. E. Simms June 3, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    @pentamom “… the crime of filing a false police report requires reporting known facts falsely, not misunderstanding what constitutes a crime or meets the legal definition of an “explosive.”

    I agree that it is extremely unlikely for something like that to result in an arrest, but I still think it would have been a false report. That’s because there would have been no misunderstanding of the facts. She said she would have reported the presence of toy caps that small children are allowed to purchase on their own as an “explosive device” when she damn well knew it was not an “explosive device.” If I had anything to say about it, being disingenuous would not have cleared her.

    Something needs to be done about school administrators using the police as a hammer in minor disciplinary situations. I have no doubt that most police officers and juvenile judges are fed up with it too because there is no shortage of real juvenile crime that they have to contend with.

  66. Papilio June 3, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

    “pretty soon, there won’t be any more students left”
    Everyone go to dollar store and buy a waterpistol… Then on the same day evey kid brings it to school.”

    Almost exactly what I thought! Just pick a nice day (week), organize for every student to bring whatever is perfectly harmless yet not allowed in school (Advil???), get suspended (that punishment seems predictable enough) and there’s your chance to play outside all day…
    And the principal can enjoy all those empty class rooms all day and wonder what went wrong.

  67. hineata June 3, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    @mystic_eye_cda – ‘Learning is a wonderful job – it’s only the teachers who make it difficult’..

    I so agree with you, LOL! A colleague was just saying to me the other day that if she had to sit and listen to the rubbish she spouts day after day, like our poor students do, she’d be tempted to shoot herself….:-) Same for my poor kids, and they get the chance to work a lot more independently.

    Time to shut the whole system down, maybe. There has to be a better way for kids to learn. Certainly for the kid here…

  68. Warren June 3, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

    You can get junior memberships to the NRA. Personally I would get my kids memberships, just so they can take the literature to school with them. Not a damn thing the school can do about it, unless they ban all literature from all groups, Scouts, youth groups and the like. I would be worth the membership fees just to piss off the schools.

  69. Brenda June 3, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    @Warren – just as you said, the kid in my neighbourhood had every right to carry a toy gun, and as I specified, I had the right to ask his parent to not have him chase my kid and pretend to shoot him. I didn’t say anything more than that, and never tried to tell the parent what her kid could or could not play with. The fact that the school did not want kids playing with toy guns on school property was their call, and one that I support, but we are all entitled to an opinion on that one, that I will concede. Fortunately, there was no two week suspension or massive overreaction, and the child could play with his gun wherever he wanted, just not on school property.

  70. Puzzled June 3, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

    @mystic_eye_cda, hineata – So great to hear other people noticing the same thing! Today, I wrote a detailed proposal, backed by piles of research, asking my school to eliminate tests and grades. I included in the proposal that teachers will be forced by this change to talk about what students want to talk about, if they intend to motivate their students to learn at all.

    Indeed, though, this situation is crazy. Children are incurably curious and want to know everything they can about their world – and schools manage to drive it out of them, to make them hate to learn. We do it in so many ways. My goal as a teacher is to be as little as possible a part of the problem.

    Here’s my take – learning is so pleasurable because it is how you make the world more sensible and less threatening. Any part of schooling that makes the world harder to understand, rather than easier, destroys the desire to learn. So, for instance, elementary school arithmetic, when taught improperly, which turns into a collection of arbitrary, meaningless rules, lessens the desire to learn – while engagement with numbers in their natural habitats, so to speak, ignites that desire while fulfilling the aim. The point of school should be to prepare learners, not those who are filled with knowledge. A biology class should suffice itself with making the student interested in biology – class can be spent in a park, watching animal behavior, then talking about what they’ve seen – rather than memorization of latin terms.

  71. Kay June 3, 2013 at 11:43 pm #

    I find it alarming that our national education is concerned with our children developing critical thinking skills and yet they can’t employ those skills themselves when it comes to our children. What kind of example are they setting for our children with these zero tolerance policies and punitive consequences?

    Tragic consequences have happened with children and guns. But they’ve also happened with matches, swimming pools, and traffic. It hasn’t gone unnoticed that the media is highlighting every single gun incident in this country on a national level. I’m not sure if these incidents are statistically more or less than they have ever been but to me it is at the least an attempt to sway public opinion.

    We are not gun owners nor have any intention in the future to be but I don’t have an issue with guns as I think they’ve been a useful tool for centuries. If I was living in a high crime or a remote rural area, I’d might consider a gun.

    My children have been instructed that if any of their friends gets a hold of their parent’s gun to show them they are to walk out immediately and come home and tell us. My children have not been educated or exposed to guns so they have no business looking at one without supervised instruction. They’ve been told no child should touch a gun without an adult. My oldest has shot BB guns through Scout camp and he has told me at some point they will shoot rifles. I don’t want the word “GUN” to invoke terror in them. I feel they need to have a healthy respect for guns. I’d rather they be educated and smart about them. Some people are freaked out by these gun ads that the media has pulled out that show children with guns. Do you know how many children are being trained to go hunting with their parents?

    The thing is, there are always going to be irresponsible people. All we can do is stress education and public awareness. Maybe it’s absent-mindedness or forgetfulness or poor judgment. I’m sure that off-duty police officer didn’t think his child would grab his gun that quickly either. Accidents will happen. What’s also sad is some parent will forget their kid is still in the car this summer, too. Educate, educate, educate, you can’t play around with guns, have respect and be as careful as you can.

    As for Newtown, short of the mother not securing her weapons, I don’t know how you ever can predict or stop a crazy person from going mad when all reasonable precautions were already taken at Sandy Hook. It’s been one of the most gut-wrenching things that’s ever happened. But I seriously doubt we’ll see the likes of it ever again. I feel my children are safe in school and I want them to feel safe, not scared that at any moment there will be a shooter.

    Whatever happened to Cops and Robbers or Cowboys and Indians? Children need to work out the good guys/bad guys scenario, it’s needed for their moral growth. A lot of kids do that with toy guns and they’ve been doing that for ages. I agree it’s not appropriate to take that toy to school but why has all reason left the educational system? We’re paying for this!! Just like that kid who forgot he had a pocket knife, actually turned it in himself and got in major trouble, I think either suspended or expelled. Yes, there is, indeed, a critical thinking skills crisis in our educational system and much of it is from the educators themselves.

  72. Warren June 4, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    You had said this was after school hours. The playgrounds of schools in are area may be on school property, but after hours are still taxpayer parks, and as such outside of school hours are not subject to school policy.

    Was talking to my dad about this last night, and he reminded me that when my younger brother, by 8 yrs was in grade 8, they were talking about hunting seasons, in class. The premise being that so many animals are allowed to be harvested each year, and how this can have good and bad affects on populations. My dad an avid Moose hunter was asked to come in and talk to the class…………get this……with his rifle, ammunition, knifes and all.
    We laughed because that would never happen today.

  73. CrazyCatLady June 4, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    My school gave my son a water gun yesterday. It was reward for putting up words on a “tree” with Latin roots. Apparently he and some others put up a lot, and got a reward for it.

    The water gun is orange see through plastic, and for the record, looks like a space gun. But, considering the girl that got suspended for just talking about a bubble blowing gun….I find my school to be very refreshing when it comes to these types of things!

  74. Papilio June 4, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    @Puzzled, hineata: Interesting discussion. I don’t know much about education in the English speaking world, but education in the USA is either described as ‘barely more than day care’, or seems to ask (slight exaggeration: ) 5-year-olds to build a working plane for a homework assignment – you know, an assignment they can’t possibly do by themselves and seems way too complicated for them to understand at that age.
    Is that a public school versus private school thing??

    Memorizing Latin terms sounds extreme to me – and that is elementary school?? How does that knowledge help them understand what’s crawling around under that stone in the backyard?

  75. lollipoplover June 4, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    @Warren- When my oldest daughter was in kindergarten, one of the dads (who is an avid hunter) brought some of his hunting mounts to show the class different animals (bobcat, fox, big buck). Apparently, the teacher didn’t want to tell the kids the animals were shot so when the kids asked how the animals died, the dad was told to say they were hit by cars.
    Lost in translation, my 5 year-old shared that one of the dads brought in dead animals he hit with his car. We all thought he brought in road kill…I called my neighbor (whose daughter was in the class) and she confirmed the road kill story. We were perplexed and when I saw the teacher next, I asked her casually if there was a show and tell with road kill- and she burst out laughing. Being PC is so confusing to kids….

  76. Puzzled June 4, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    Papillio – I lack much cross-cultural experience, but I think a lot of the US-specific criticism tends to be off the mark. Here’s why – about half of my students, usually graded when they come in as high-level, almost all registered for AP classes – are Asian. I hear non-stop about how much better the Asian school system is than ours – yet I don’t see it. These students tend to be, if anything, less thoughtful than American students. My thought on seeing them was that their school system was based entirely on drill-and-kill – then I did the research and, it turns out, all those claims about Asian schools being superior were based on standardized test scores. So I don’t think the US is doing a particularly poor job of training real thinkers – I think it’s a worldwide problem, at least in my limited experience.

    That said, there is a tendency for teachers to be resistant to change. Then there’s the tendency for standards and exams (don’t get me started) to change yearly. So many teachers end up giving assignments based on the exams, without necessarily teaching in a manner that supports those assignments, leading to assignments that students cannot do. This has happened to me pretty often – I’ll speak to a teacher in my department about including more relevant material, maybe suggest that, for a particular student, current-events tie-ins would be cool. The teacher knows that the only things I look at are exams and graded assignments, so he’ll give a graded assignment with some question like “Find a current event related to what we’ve learned and summarize the connection.” But in class, he’s spent all week factoring polynomials, with no discussion about how it ties into anything outside the classroom. Then he’ll give the kid an F and tell me – see, that doesn’t work.

    Well-intentioned administrators are trying to move teachers in exactly the unsuccessful way that teachers are trying to move students. It’s a big mess.

    The ‘barely more than day-care’ is, I think, also unfair. I have a student from Singapore who often complains that in America, the books are too easy, the assignments too short – but he also rarely reads the book or does the assignment. I have a feeling that this complaint, like the “Asians are better” claim, comes from thinking that education should be ranked on the basis of difficulty, rather than effectiveness. I have students where I can do nothing more than have conversations about their day – ask me why that counts as math class, and I’ll be happy to explain that generalizing statements about lunch food, treating a hot-dog as an instance of a junk food, and comparing a person’s actions to expected actions are exactly the level this student is up to in his abstract symbolic thinking. I can stand in front of him and force him to recite “negative b plus or minus the square root of b squared minus 4ac all over 2a” and then make him do problems, and he might, eventually, train himself to copy over the first number in place of the a and so on – but he’ll be pretending to understand the type of abstraction involved, he won’t actually get it – let alone be able to understand what types of things are modeled by quadratics, how one might make up a formula for cubes or 4th – or why one cannot do so for 5th or higher. I’ll be stunting his growth and making it impossible for him to ever develop anything higher than the standard.

    On Latin terms, I was referring to phylum, genus, species, and the Latin terms used, such as felus domesticus, and so on. Sure, we can play that game – but why is that better than going to a wildlife conservatory and talking about why those birds were fighting, how an animal recognizes their own species, and how they tell prey from threat…with words like species and genus naturally being used to shorten discussions and students eagerly picking them up (although, to be sure, learning those words is still not the point…)

  77. hineata June 4, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    @Papilo – I am down in New Zealand, so can only get from American schools what we learn in in-service here. My husband being Asian, we get to see the results of the Asian schooling system more, and for some students it’s great. There’s no doubt that all that memorisation etc helps for things like medical school, though you need more than just memorisation to be a good doctor. Where the Asian system falls down in my opinion is the rigid conformity and lack of free thought, which means the students learn an awful lot but fail to work out how to do anything much useful with it. That’s why Singapore anyway seems to be moving big-time into curriculum programmes aimed at encouraging lateral thinking.

    In fairness to the Chinese, over their many millennia of civilisation ( the longest continual civilisation in existence, I believe) they have invented many useful things and contributed a lot to the world, but a/ it would be extremely difficult to control a population the size of what their empires reached without some form of autocracy,(and autocracies don’t lend themselves to encouraging free thought) and b/ the Chinese language forces memorisation on its learners. My husband spent three solid years writing and memorising characters six plus hours a day (they had a mandatory hour of bahasa Malay on top of that), and that was only to get through the first five thousand.

    The American system appears extremely diverse, so I am sure different things go on depending on your state. There’s a wonderful woman in Arizona doing indepth problem-solving with diverse cultural groups that I’ve adapted for my kids here, and yet I see other schools (on You Tube, while looking up learning techniques) where bums are still on seats in strict rows, and the idea of kids sitting in groups and working co-operatively is new to them. So the programme types and general quality appears to vary widely. Naturally.

    As for my kids down here, I run a ‘special programme’ for bright kids and so my kids work pretty independently for the time they’re with me. But I still feel much of the time that they would be better off out in the community learning in real situations. I do let them do dissection etc, and last week we had a go ‘blowing up’ small concoctions, but we could be doing a lot more, and the stuff I do isn’t done by lots of teachers anymore ( the dissection, anyway).

    What a rave….There’s nothing like coming on this site for work avoidance, LOL!

  78. Puzzled June 4, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

    Hineata – it sounds like we’re in much the same place – doing a lot of out of the box things, but still doubtful if we’re doing enough. For me (I don’t want to speak for you) the more out of the box I get, the more I start to despair at ever really doing what I want in a school. The problem has become – I think that teaching is ultimately about forming a personal relationship with each student, and mentoring them in exploration, more than anything else. However, can I form a relationship with a student when, as much as I might wish otherwise, school by necessity puts us in a superior/subordinate relationship? How can a student really relate to me personally when he has no choice, but must come to my classroom at a particular time, regardless of his feelings, or face punishments? How can he take me seriously and relate to me knowing that I will punish him for being late to dinner? It’s mind-boggling – and confusing. When I try to make a connection, the student has to juggle the knowledge that he cannot, in fact, speak openly to me – can’t, for instance, admit to hating every minute he’s around me.

    What if I just cannot relate to a student? I can’t find him a teacher who can because, first, my colleagues don’ have this mindset, and second, I’m the only one teaching a number of classes.

  79. hineata June 4, 2013 at 10:23 pm #

    @Puzzled – yes…particularly what can we do when we’re faced with a kid we actually can’t relate to. I wish this was recognised more – I’ve seen more than one kid where the relationship with the teacher was just toxic, but the teacher refused to even consider moving the child to another class, because that reflected on her ‘professionalism’. And that’s only possible if there’s another class to move them to….Have had a few myself where I just could not find what worked with them, but again there was nowhere else for them to go.

    Have you heard of ‘place-based’ education? That seems to be one of the latest buzzwords in indigenous education, and I hope to make it work where I am. Is pretty reliant on working on relationships with the community and finding people with local knowledge though. Am sure it could be done in the city, though it would probably require more work.

    Good luck! There must be a way. Outside of universal homeschooling, though, which would be impossible as things stand right now, I cannot see it just now. Will have to keep bashing my head for a while longer…

    Now I really must stop avoiding work, and get on with what I’m actually supposed to be writing, LOL! Fifteen hundred words to go….

  80. Puzzled June 5, 2013 at 12:07 am #

    What I’m thinking of, to replace school, is thoroughly unworkable today – it requires a different society. Of course, once we posit a different society, universal homeschooling also becomes possible (although I wouldn’t advocate it, even in principle – but I’d be happy with universal homeschooling along John Lott’s principles.) Anyway, what I’d like to see is a society where curiosity is expected everywhere, and where everyone considers it a part of their life to teach what they know, and to ask about what they don’t know. So, checking out at the grocery store, I feel empowered to ask “so, why are the peanuts located there?” and the cashier feels empowered to explain.

    Of course, such a society would be much less efficient than ours. Just checking out at the grocery store would take longer, for instance, because the person in front of you might ask such a question. On the other hand, though, we wouldn’t be sinking what we do into schools, and we wouldn’t have people pulled out of the workforce to be teachers, or to be students. I think it would more than balance out.

  81. Donald June 5, 2013 at 1:33 am #

    ……That’s what I want to see – people addressing the right problem…….

    That seems to be irrelevant. You must be seen as taking action to try to solve a problem. It matters not if you fix the problem, make it worse, or are chasing after 6 year olds that show terrorist traits. The important thing is that you’re doing something-ANYTHING. Otherwise you are viewed as sitting on your hands and therefore uncaring.

  82. Donald June 5, 2013 at 1:50 am #


    ….I find my school to be very refreshing when it comes to these types of things!

    That’s what we need to do. Lets cheer for schools and publicly compliment teachers/administrators that are NOT frightened of toy guns or have prison yard security. Lets compliment people that have a backbone.

    If I had your school’s email, I would tell them that they are a rare breed and to keep up the good work.

  83. Papilio June 5, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

    @Puzzled: The way you describe that math sounds like the books that taught my mother how to hate math… I on the other hand grew up with a little ‘dry theory’ to learn what you were supposed to do, and then we got little stories around the same kind of math problems. So the stories connected the dry math with the world outside (okay, not always in a very likely way).
    And again, at what age are those kids supposed to factor polynomials (I had to google that to see what it was; I was 13 when I learned that)? I take from your answer that your students are indeed forced to learn stuff before the majority of them is ready for it?

    @hineata: Funny that I mentioned pointless memorization in US education, and you, well, both of you, mention how Asian education emphasizes that even more – without asking them to apply that knowledge, that was my impression too. (My brother complained once about how he could never have a normal conversation with a Chinese kid – they never had an opinion of their own, it seemed to him they were always giving the answer they thought he wanted to hear.)
    And ehm… I’ve often joked how English spelling will be just like Chinese one day: lacking any link between pronunciation and orthography. Just give it a few more centuries…

  84. Puzzled June 5, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    Papilio – I’m no expert on child development. However, my experience suggests to me that elementary school math is largely taught prior to being developmentally ready for it. I don’t think that’s true for high school math – however, students are unprepared for high school math for non-developmental reasons: they haven’t been taught, or even allowed to learn, the types of thinking that make such things sensible. Perhaps even worse – since they didn’t learn elementary math correctly, they are trying to do abstractions without any real sense of feel for number, division, and so on.

    On the stories you learned – that’s the kind of teaching that annoys me because it’s so close to right. It’s just backwards, is all – we shouldn’t study real life things in order to make the math make more sense – the real life things are what count.

    It’s like something I saw recently – a mat teacher talking about how he has students building scale models to understand proportions. He said something like “what better way to understand proportions than by building a scale model.” My point was that the correct statement would be – what better reason to learn proportions than the desire to build a scale model – or, better, the desire to understand cars by building scale models – or, even better, the desire to design a better car by understanding cars by building scale models – or, even better, to build scale models of better cars…

    This is tied into my belief that it’s silly to say “learning is your job.” Learning is not a job – it’s something everyone should do as part of their job, and to find their job. Telling kids that learning is their job separates them from the grown-up world, and encourages selfishness – to spend all your time learning is selfish, the point should always be to be a participant in society right now. When the student designs a better car, it should be with the knowledge that you – the teacher – will act on it if he does a good job.

  85. Papilio June 7, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    @Puzzled: (Long time I started this conversation because I wanted to know if children really are taught things before they’re ready to learn them, but you’ve answered that one now 😉 )
    So… You’re taking it a step futher, and – well basically what you say is you would like to make learning a more intrinsic thing, in order to achieve something in the real world – in other words, know what you’re learning for (quite literally, thus not for a school thing like a test), . Did I get that right?
    I admit it sounds wonderful, but in an education context it also sounds like small groups of children and lots of projects. My concern would be that projects take more time and still only show one example of the math that it requires, instead a whole bunch of different examples. Would every kid still get the oversight?
    Sometimes the stories were stupid (who’s gonna flip a coin 500x to see how many times it’s head?), but they would also provide you with examples of 10, 15, 20 different situations in which X type of math could be used to answer Y type of questions. So on encountering Situation 21 in Real Life, you could see which ‘path to take’, so to say.
    Nothing wrong with a real life goal, but it seems to me you still need a basis, because otherwise it would be like learning how to cycle to gym class without learning the other traffic signs & rules (that just not happen to apply to this particular route) as well.
    But I’m not a teacher, I don’t actually know much about math (though I loved the subject in what you would call high school, but that had much to do with the teacher 😀 ), and maybe I’m still thinking inside the box…?

  86. Papilio June 7, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    *long time AGO

  87. Puzzled June 8, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

    Well, I shy away from “project-based learning” or any buzzwords, really. I guess I’m talking about projects, but the difference to me is – projects that actually need doing. Maybe an example from when I used to teach history can illustrate – at the start of the year, each student selected some problem in society – the assignment was kept as broad as possible purposefully. I’d help them narrow and clarify if needed. Then, as we went through the year, each paper, each test, and so on, was focused on something related to their problem. At the end of the year, their final assessment was to assemble 5 of their papers/tests into a portfolio, and edit it together into a useful proposal. Then I mailed that to a congressman. I felt papers shouldn’t be written for teachers – they should be written to actually change someone’s mind, or try to.

    So too in math – I don’t want my students designing something just to please me – I want it to either please them or some customers.

    Regarding diversity of examples – I think the issue of seeing only one example goes away pretty quickly when we add that I don’t provide much help, so they make a lot of mistakes and false starts. When one way doesn’t work, we’re back to measuring and determining lengths on a different angle. Also, keep in mind that these projects aren’t being chosen to illustrate some mathematical point – they are the point, the ‘math’ is secondary.

    When you speak of overall picture, which you worry they might not get from a paucity of examples – what is the overall picture? It isn’t the binomial distribution – it’s thinking critically, over a long period of time, about issues like probability, liklihood (are those the same or different?), and fairness (how should we define a fair game?)

    By the way, maybe no one will flip a coin 500 times – but we are very interested in what happens at the limit, and students can consider whether or not 500 times is a good estimator – 250 is ‘expected’ but we don’t really expect it – but what do we really expect the answer to be between? What happens to that boundary of error if we go to 5000 times? How is it expressed if the probability changes to .4? These things might well come up in my class – if we’re discussing, say, a computer program to kick people out of a casino for cheating, or a computer program to detect false log-ons (you steal someone’s username and password – we want the program to detect unusual behaviors once you sign on.)

    So, if the student wants to do the latter, we’re going to need to simplify the problem at first – and in so doing, he’s going to see a ton of different examples – each modification having a point. But he’s doing it in a context where it’s in the service of a larger goal – he needs to understand this to do the next step.

  88. Papilio June 9, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    Okay – that sounds wonderful. It also sounds like a lot of work for the teacher and it requires someone with a broad view and a passion for teaching.
    Maybe it’s because Hineata wrote about teaching gifted kids but I can’t help imagining your customer-and-reality-based education for that specific group of children. Maybe because many of them don’t fit in the system and this is definitely not the system 🙂

    So are you doing this with “normal” students, of what age?
    And now you made me curious to know what proposals were actually implemented by those congressmen; what’s your favorite example? 🙂

    (I’m beginning to wonder how Lenore ever gets through all of her e-mail! Here goes another one… click)

  89. Puzzled June 9, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    Yes, it’s a lot of work for the teacher – absolutely more work than photocopying tests from a textbook and reciting pieties. That’s why I have little use for the majority of the profession and its unions. And I’m not an opponent of unions in general.

    That’s actually how public schools describe the school I teach at. “Oh, well, some kids just can’t fit into a real classroom, and need that sort of kind.” It’s a great way to admit that it works without feeling threatened by it – but to me, no one should ever fit into a classroom, and just because someone can doesn’t mean they should. I’m doing it with kids all over the place – gifted, far less than gifted, and average – ages from 14 to 22.

    None were actually implemented – sigh.

    My favorite response to what I do is “blah, blah – college preparation, blah, blah, SAT.” I also get things like “why should schools be fair, and just, and try to do what’s right, when the world isn’t like that? You need to prepare students for lousy bosses and a lousy world.” Answer – no. I need to prepare students to expect better, to demand better, and to change the world. Education isn’t about reproducing the horrors we already have, it’s about every generation having the ability to rise higher and do better. Similarly – education is not about making sure that my students value what I value – it’s about making sure that they can decide what to value, and can do a better job than I can, since they have one generation more of accumulated effort and wisdom.