Outrage of the Day: 8 Year Old Suspended ANOTHER Year for Toy Gun

Hi Readers! Such stupidity cannot be condoned: An 8-year-old was suspended LAST year for bringing a toy gun to school (accidentally), and this year, the draconian punishment continues. The difference between TOY and WEAPON, between MISTAKE and PREMEDITATED, between KILLER and KID seems to be utterly lost on these “educators.”

The afyeybarbz
school board said they would admit Samuel into a correctional school for problem children who have been expelled located in Hallandale Beach.

The parents refused and believe their son has already paid for his mistake enough. Samuel has since been home-schooled, but his parents want him back in public school.

“I can’t sit here and allow them to send my kid to a school where students have committed actual crimes,” Burgos said. “He hasn’t committed a crime.”

Here’s the whole story. Thank goodness, this week the family gets another chance to persuade the school board that Zero Tolerance for rationality is maybe not such a great idea. — Lenore

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75 Responses to Outrage of the Day: 8 Year Old Suspended ANOTHER Year for Toy Gun

  1. Peter Brülls September 20, 2010 at 8:34 pm #

    Wow, just image what would they have done if he had come with a real gun.

  2. Teresa September 20, 2010 at 8:57 pm #

    OK, it sucks that the policy is such that a toy gets you expelled. I also believe that “zero tolerance” means “excuse to expel kids we don’t like.” But I’m a little taken aback to find out that the parents are worried he’s going to have to repeat a grade because they’ve been homeschooling.

    Why? If he’s doing schoolwork at home and not just playing video games, he shouldn’t need to repeat. This feeds into the stereotype of homeschooling as less effective than public schooling and as a homeschooler I cry BS.

  3. m September 20, 2010 at 9:14 pm #


    It takes a certain type of kid and a certain type of home situation for homeschooling to succeed.

    These parents did not homeschool by choice or inclination. They may not have been aware of support or even other homeschooling parents in their circle. Their goal was probably to keep their kid out of a school full of troublemakers. Hopefully the readers will be able to differentiate.

  4. Aaron Helton September 20, 2010 at 9:15 pm #

    “The school board says it’s common sense to know that this kind of item can’t be allowed on school campus…”

    This, of course, highlights the inadequacy of zero tolerance policies. To make its case, the school board is relying on appeal to common sense, a particular form of argumentum ad populum, which is a logical fallacy. Even if a bunch of people merely thought it was a bad idea for kids to have toy replicas of weapons, such sentiment is not sufficient to demonstrate a link between toy guns and school shootings. Absent such a demonstrated link, the application of the policy, if not the premise itself, is suspect.

  5. Elfir September 20, 2010 at 9:15 pm #

    I thought at first he’d brought toy guns to school two years in a row (at which point I’d question the parents’ sense), but kicked out of school two years for one incident?! I hope they can get him into a local private school if the public school refuses to see reason.

    Maybe it’s time to put warning labels on toy guns. “Warning: May be mistaken for a real gun. Company is not liable for shooting, taising, or other damages incurred while in possession of this toy.”

  6. Nicole September 20, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

    Florida has rather draconian academic policies, including standardized testing for grade advancement. Unless she is teaching to the test (which would be hard for a homeschooler to do) it is quite possible he will be forced to repeat a grade.

    It’s sad and sick. Not too long ago we would buy rubber band guns at the market by our school and smuggle them in- they were confiscated, no one was suspended, never mind expelled.

  7. Eizabeth September 20, 2010 at 9:18 pm #

    I read some of the comments on the story, and this is my favorite!
    “Simple solution. Pay the school board with Monopoly money. Same rule, same logic. Play money is real money.”

  8. Mike September 20, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    @Peter: If he’d brought in a real gun, the penalty would probably be less. As it is, if the board now lets him back to school, they would have to admit they kicked him out for bringing a TOY (gun) to school.

    That’s embarrassing. Expulsion for a toy? Looks bad. Have to keep it quiet. Better kick the kid out another year, hope the family moves away instead.

    School boards are elected positions. Best bet? Organize to kick out the existing board, vote in people who have a clue.

  9. Jo September 20, 2010 at 9:41 pm #

    What I find interesting about stories like this is the claim that the “new parenting” is so that children can be children. We shouldn’t make them grow up so quick. *sniff sniff*

    Ya know cause for all intent and purpose arresting a kid for a toy gun won’t force them to grow up at all. 🙁

  10. helenquine September 20, 2010 at 9:44 pm #

    Peter – if he’d brought a real gun the school policy is apparently exactly the same. By the school’s definition they are both weapons. According to the linked article, since the toy gun could fire projectiles (it doesn’t say what exactly, maybe it as a potato gun) it is classed as a weapon. So from their, apparently ludicrous, perspective the boy may as well have brought in a real gun.

    Frankly I’m not sure what the point of keeping him out for another year is even if it had been a real gun. It doesn’t seem like there was any intent to cause harm or distress, and there was no damage done. What is sending him to “correctional” school supposed to correct?

  11. Heather September 20, 2010 at 9:51 pm #

    @Aaron: Quite apart from the complete logical fallacy of relying on ‘common sense’ to support banning of toy guns, as far as I can see, the point of zero tolerance policies is to preclude the school’s staff from having to apply any form of sense in the course of their duties.

    A bit like blanket policies that require cashiers/bar staff to see proof of age from grandparents trying to buy a drink.


  12. rhodykat September 20, 2010 at 9:57 pm #

    “and that responsibility also falls on parents to know what their children have in their backpacks.”

    Yup, just blame the parents. Don’t encourage parents to raise responsible kids who can and do bring what they need to school on their own. If, by chance, the kids forget something they need or bring something they shouldn’t, it wouldn’t make sense for the school to make a reasonable attempt at a reasonable punishment to ensure that said mistake doesn’t happen again. Nope, tell the parents that they need to hover and monitor every single aspect of their child’s life because if that child makes a mistake that is reasonable for a 7-year-old (bringing a toy they are excited about to school without his parents knowledge) it is the parents fault and there will be hell to pay.

  13. Margaret September 20, 2010 at 10:11 pm #

    This reminds me of a sociology course I took many many years ago. On the topic of crime and punishment, there were 3 elements that a punishment needed to be effective — something like immediate, consistent (I think), and, to the point, PROPORTIONATE to the crime. The example the prof gave was that when hanging was the penalty for petty theft, there would still be pickpockets in the crowds who came to watch the executions. There’s zero tolerance — NO GUNS TOY OR OTHERWISE IN SCHOOL, and then there is insanity — SUSPENSION FOR MORE THAN ONE ACADEMIC YEAR. My goodness, you aren’t supposed to bring toy guns to my children’s school either, but I’m pretty sure the zero tolerance there for a toy gun would be toy confiscated and MAYBE the parents would be called to come and get it that day. And that takes care of it.

  14. Aaron Helton September 20, 2010 at 10:16 pm #

    @Heather: I agree. In theory, the idea of zero tolerance sounds good. We get what sounds like a particular form of procedural fairness, in that the same rule (no tolerance) is evenly and consistently applied across a particular classification (weapons). Also in theory, I don’t have a problem with the intent behind the policy (keep guns out of schools), but in adopting the balancing model of procedural fairness, schools are suggesting that the procedure in question (determining what is or is not a weapon) is too costly for school personnel to engage in. What this means is that schools accept erroneous judgments (kicking kids out of school for bringing toy guns) because of the perceived high cost of determining the difference between the real thing and the toy, as well as the potential consequences of getting it wrong. The real question here is whether this cost is indeed too high, by which I mean, what are the chances that 1) the toy gun is not in fact a toy and 2) the kid intends to actually shoot people? That’s what should inform such policies, not broad proclamations based on reactionary emotion to a handful of news stories.

  15. Uly September 20, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

    What’s really annoying about zero tolerance policies is that they’re probably not actually enforced evenly. My guess is that many teachers, when confronted with a “good kid” who just “made a mistake”, quietly don’t report it.

    Except that people being people, if any of them are doing that (and I’d be surprised if it wasn’t happening, no rule is stronger than the people who enforce it), they’re determining who is a “good kid” on a host of criteria including “gut feelings” and “instinct” that probably leads them to be more generous with the kids more like them. Which is exactly the sort of thing a zero tolerance policy, if properly run, should combat!

  16. Uly September 20, 2010 at 10:50 pm #

    A zero tolerance policy that made sense – for example, a three day suspension for a toy gun, with a review if it actually fires projectiles – would be more fair not only because of common sense (REAL common sense) but also because people would be less inclined to ignore in favor of kids they like.

  17. Rebecca September 20, 2010 at 10:57 pm #

    As an enthusiastic advocate of homeschooling I rejoice in policies like these. Yes, I know the difference between homeschooling by choice, or by coercion, but I think that many (all?) public schools have really, really bad policies and practices like this, but most of them do not make the news. I think that incidents like this help to clarify how much the schools have moved away from education as a primary goal, and towards full time employment for adults as a primary goal. As has been said before, the so-called zero-tolerance rules preclude the necessity for any adult to make a judgement, and that means that no adult in the school system could be held responsible for a wrong judgement.

  18. Larry Harrison September 20, 2010 at 11:00 pm #

    I also like the “pay the school board with Monopoly–after all, play money is real money.”

    The thing about such stupid incidents like this is this–it conflicts with my long-held view that parents are too often going against a teacher’s disciplinary methods & trying to not let their kids be accountable to other authority figures. Just 8 days ago I attended a John Rosemond workshop, he is the main parenting figure (along with Lenore Skenazy) whom I really agree with & follow, and he stressed again (as he has done so before in his books) about how “in the old days” if you got in trouble at school you got it again at home, with no opportunity to explain yourself; the expectation was that you were to not be a troublemaker at school & no excuses would be accepted.

    I have always agreed with that when I’ve read it in his books, and did so again when I heard him talk about 8 days ago–but now it’s a bit different. The thing is, how can you just accept the teacher’s side (or school’s side, whatever) and hold your child accountable to “be a good little lad” (my words) if nonsense like this is happening?

    In general I still agree with Rosemond’s ideas, especially in the overall sense, but I’m wondering if maybe this is one that can’t work–NOT because his concepts are wrong, but because of this–it operates under the assumption that the school is ALSO doing things “the way things used to be” and we know all too well that schools themselves are not what they were, insomuch that they’re worshiping at the altar of zero-tolerance.

    Maybe there’s a difference between always backing the TEACHER (especially if they call & the problem was your child was acting up, the kind of situations Rosemond typically is referring to) as opposed to a school BOARD issue like zero tolerance, school uniforms, the topics being covered in class, etc.

    At any rate, I think it’s time we start paying the school board with Monopoly money like the one poster said.

  19. EricS September 20, 2010 at 11:02 pm #

    Wow! Stupidity and ignorance at it’s best. There is nothing that school board can say to justify this kind of treatment. This child’s future is being affected for what? A TOY?! The policy is now WEAPONS allowed at school. Since when is a toy (be it a gun or a doll) a weapon?! If a toy gun can be considered a weapon, then a ruler, scissors, pens, pencils…hell, even a shoe can be considered a weapon as well.

    And these are “educators”? Just ridiculous. The family should file a law suite. They have grounds.

  20. osujedimom September 20, 2010 at 11:05 pm #

    I fear for the education of today’s youth, if the People In Charge can’t tell the difference between a toy gun and the real thing! At the very least, they should have taken a good look at it and maybe had a conference with the parents. Sheesh! And then to compound the error by extending it another year?!

    I hope no other kid gets “busted” with something that can be used as a weapon…such as a pencil, ruler, shoelace. Don’t forget about the dreaded “Indian Burn”- all that takes is 2 hands that work!

  21. Karl P September 20, 2010 at 11:10 pm #

    Zero Tolerance = Zero Intelligence

  22. EricS September 20, 2010 at 11:14 pm #

    @Aaron: If one cannot determine a toy gun from a real gun, especially that of the educational system, than one is dumber than a door knob. What cost is it to look at the gun and say “oh, its a toy”. All toy guns now, are made to distinctively identify it from a real one. One would be too stupid, blind, or just a plain ass to not recognize it as such. I can tell you if a toy gun was real or not in less than a second of looking at it. So if a teacher gets paid say $24/hr, it just cost the school $0.006. But this isn’t about budgets, this is about COMMON SENSE. If one can’t figure out toy from weapon, they have no common sense. No matter how you justify it.

    That’s like saying any children that came into contact with a child who contracts an illness and gets sent home, should be all sent home too. Potentially, they can contaminate others. That would probably mean about 80% of the school, which I highly doubt they would do. Otherwise it would look like an epidemic. God forbid, you report that to parents. In short, these dumb educators, are just playing political and biased games for their own benefits. As long as they’re safe, doesn’t matter what happens to the children. Zero tolerance means ZERO, but I guarantee you, there are kids that get off with a warning or nothing at all.

  23. Aaron Helton September 20, 2010 at 11:29 pm #

    @EricS: I’m with you. The idea that it’s too much effort to distinguish between the two is probably unfounded (and effort is what I meant by cost in this context, not the monetary costs involved). At the least, I would like to see some evidence to back it up. I do hesitate, though, in appealing to common sense. Worded a certain way, any zero tolerance policy or law may sound like common sense (put all criminals in jail, perhaps), but it comes down to the fact that adopting the policy leaves no room for discretion. I’ll also point out that we see these same broad trends in other aspects of our civil society, in mandatory sentencing laws and our general acceptance of risk (plenty of which has been highlighted on this very site).

  24. chavisory September 20, 2010 at 11:33 pm #

    I’m disturbed by the school system’s willingness to ruin this kid’s life over a toy gun.

  25. Andrew September 21, 2010 at 12:01 am #

    Biggest tragedy of all this: the parents want their child to go BACK into the assembly line insane asylum that calls itself a learning institution.

  26. socialjerk September 21, 2010 at 12:10 am #

    I’m a social worker in a pretty rough neighborhood in the Bronx. I work with children who are actually troubled, some of whom have brought real weapons to school. We struggle so much to get the kids we work with the help that they need–sometimes this involves sending them to a specialized or residential school for children with problems. However, we’re an underserved area, and it’s incredibly difficult to do this. I guess I have to start telling the kids to leave their knives at home and bring in a Nerf gun, and they’ll get sent away, no problem.

  27. Greg September 21, 2010 at 12:10 am #

    “I’m disturbed by the school system’s willingness to ruin this kid’s life over a toy gun.”

    You hit the nail on the head there. In my experience even the best school administrators in the smallest of school districts can fall into the trap of putting their own interests (and often what is merely easiest for them!) ahead of what is truly best for the kids. Blanket rules are created so administrators don’t have to make tough decisions and then defend them later. This is where becoming involved can make a real difference–we have to call them on this stuff at the local level to keep them focused on the well being of the kids. After all, we pay them the big bucks for just this sort of thing. Eternal vigilance.

  28. anonymousblob September 21, 2010 at 12:14 am #

    “A school board report on the incident mentions that Samuel showed the toy gun to another student and it was capable of firing projectiles.

    That’s all it takes for it to be considered a weapon.”

    So, a rubber band? An empty pen tube? A ruler? Any of those are capable of firing a projectile.

  29. Mackey Mack September 21, 2010 at 12:22 am #

    What I think is interesting is that in my hometown back in either 1999 or 2000, a young boy (4th grade) brought a gun to school. Not a squirt gun, a pop gun, a paintball gun, or even a BB gun – it was a loaded, honest to God handgun (9 mm I believe). On top of that, it wasn’t even a case of “Oh cool I found my dad’s gun, I’m going to show it to my buddies”. His brother gave it to him so he could defend himself against a bully. I guess a cap in the ass is fair retaliation against a swirly.
    You know what happened to the boy? A student saw it, (thankfully before he used it), reported it, and they confiscated it. The boy’s adult brother went to prison, I believe, but the boy himself received only a 10 day suspension. This was 10 or 11 years ago, and now look what happens when you bring a TOY gun to school.

  30. Steve September 21, 2010 at 1:19 am #

    Not about this particular story, but still keeping with the topic of school administrator foolishness and the anti-FreeRange Mentality — Here’s an older story I just found entitled:

    11-Year-Old Girl Suspended For ‘Dangerous’ Cartwheels At School


    Yes, that’s right. An 11-year-old girl in West Covina, Calif., was suspended for doing “dangerous” cartwheels and hand stands during lunch time. This was back in 2004.

  31. Frau_Mahlzahn September 21, 2010 at 1:19 am #

    I’m speechless.

    So long,

  32. EricS September 21, 2010 at 1:22 am #

    @anonymousblob: by their definition a weapon, pretty much anything that can be thrown would be considered a projectile, as well as anything or anyone that can project (which includes throwing) any object. So if it’s ZERO TOLERANCE, that would mean almost all the students AND teachers there that has ever held a ball, ruler, pen, pencil, worn a shoe, picked up a pebble or a little twig would be in violation, therefore suspended for a year. Hey, zero tolerance is zero tolerance. They can’t start making exceptions to the rule, then it wouldn’t be zero tolerance.

    When you look at the logic of this, it’s completely absurd, self-centered and bias. As someone else said here, the school probably didn’t like the kid to begin with and used the toy gun as an excuse to not have to deal with him anymore.

    I wonder what these people would say if they lived in our era, where we were being taught to use power tools, band saws, hammers, burners, etc… starting at grade 3. Kind of makes me think the incompetence of teachers these days. If their predecessors were able to successfully teach us, without anyone ever getting injured, why can’t they? Unless they lack the confidence in their abilities, thereby negating their qualifications as “teachers”. So if they can’t effectively teach, they should be there in the first place.

  33. EricS September 21, 2010 at 1:29 am #

    Steve…that’s even more ridiculous than the toy gun, and the toy gun is already over the top. What is this world coming to? Now I’m getting mad. Unless the child was blatantly doing these things to intentionally harm another person, there is no excuse or reason that could ever justify these actions of the school board. If they are so afraid to get sued, then I say sue them for ruining children’s lives.

  34. SKL September 21, 2010 at 1:33 am #

    I don’t mind that they felt the need to do “something.” However, I think a detention should have been enough! This is ridiculous. Someone needs to sue the school over the damage that’s being done to this child. The school system should be forced to pay for this child to get remedial education in a private school to make up for the time he has lost. Lord help me if I find out this child had to repeat a grade because he had a toy in his backpack one time.

    My nephew (I’ve mentioned his “zero tolerance weapon” case here before, you know, the one with the little sliver of flexible plastic that he happened to have in his hand when attacked by another boy) – the school wanted his suspension to go into the next school year as well. He was transferring from middle school to HS, and had been accepted into a highly selective gifted program. So yeah, that stupid little piece of rubber could have f-d up his education pretty significantly. Luckily an appeal stopped it from going that far. But damage was done.

    Zero tolerance has nothing to do with “common sense” – what a joke that someone tried to use that as an excuse.

  35. Jenny Islander September 21, 2010 at 1:39 am #

    Zero tolerance policies completely ignore the need to provide a rational explanation.

    When I was in grade school (thirty years ago), the rule was that children were not allowed to bring jackknives to school. There was zero tolerance for jackknives. BUT–there was a rational explanation for this rule. The rational explanation was that children who brought jackknives to school tended to carve on the desks or make piles of pencil shavings, and also if the knife had lots of features they would show them off in class and distract from the lesson. In addition, a really good knife was expensive and we all know how kids tend to lose things. So no jackknives.

    Because there was a rational explanation, the application of the rule wasn’t YOU WILL GO TO REFORM SCHOOL FOR DISRESPECTING OUR AUTHORITAH YOU HORRIBLE HOODLUM PSYCHO KID. It was, “I am now confiscating your jackknife. I am also going to call your parents. If you just made a pile of pencil shavings, I expect you to clean it up; there’s the broom and the dustpan. You will get your jackknife back next week at the end of the school day unless your parents don’t want you to get it back at all.”

    The school also recognized the futility of attempting to enforce an unenforceable rule such as “No carving on the desks.” Kids have carved on desks with whatever they had in their pockets since the founding of the first public schools. So they only punished the ones who were dumb enough to put their actual names on the desks, typically by sending the parents a bill for a new desk. The horror of actually having this happen was enough to deter most kids from carving on the desks.

  36. Stephanie - Home with the Kids September 21, 2010 at 2:16 am #

    It’s ridiculous that the school wants to continue the punishment into this year. Way overboard.

    I’m homeschooling my oldest this year, but I have sympathy for the parents wanting to have their son back in public school this year. It’s hard to homeschool, and it could be a financial hardship for the parents. Also, not all parents are comfortable homeschooling. It’s not fair to their son’s future to force it on them if they can’t do a good job wholeheartedly.

  37. Dino September 21, 2010 at 2:17 am #

    Had a chat with the principal of a special county-operated school last week. He admitted that Zero Tolerance had gotten out of hand. Didn’t even flinch when I admitted I had a pocket knife on my person. Students at the school are subjected to personal searches by armed law enforcement people a couple of times a week. My kid is dangerous because he is ADHD and got some poor grades.
    However, a state building security guard refused me entrance because there was a 1-1/4″ depiction of an axe on my belt buckle…axes are dangerous weapons, you know.

  38. John Powell September 21, 2010 at 2:37 am #

    My favorite comment on the page:

    “Simple solution. Pay the school board with Monopoly money. Same rule, same logic. Play money is real money.”

  39. j September 21, 2010 at 2:52 am #

    To email the entire school board, use this address.


    So, Paris Hilton gets probation for cocaine and Lindsay Lohan gets multiple chances at rehab, but a kid gets suspended for two years for bringing something to school that you can buy at Target. And that’s America today folks… virtual, vicarious and vigilant.

  40. Jenny Islander September 21, 2010 at 3:08 am #

    So here’s a rational application of no toy guns at school:

    We do not accept any toy guns at our school because they are a distraction and are apt to get lost. Kids who really want to play gun can use their thumbs and forefingers and go “pew pew” the way we did as kids. Therefore. toy guns will be confiiscated for 1 week (because not having your toy for a whole week feels like forEVer) and parents will be called to let them know that you put something in your backpack that you weren’t supposed to have. If you bring something that actually shoots projectiles, such as a potato gun or a rubber band gun, we will keep you in from recess and your parents will be called. We don’t allow games that involve potentially putting somebody else’s eye out and you should know that by now, kid.”

    There. Rationality restored.

  41. crystalblue September 21, 2010 at 3:11 am #

    I used to work as an editor for Florida’s state teacher certification exams. The bureaucracy and lack of academic excellence and lack of logic made me want to drive home, take my kids out of public school, and start homeschooling right away. (But at the time I couldn’t do that and provide for them at the same time.) “Florida” almost became a dirty word amongst the editors there. Sigh.

  42. Tiggerinma September 21, 2010 at 3:12 am #

    The largest problem of Zero Tolerance Rules is that it leaves no room for any discretion or common sense to enter into the decision making process. This is similar to the concept of minimum sentencing that was once applied to all types of drug offenses. We ended up with over a third of all those held in prison held on drug offenses, many with only small possession charges, while much more violent crimes convictions were often serving much shorter sentencing. Most of those maximum sentences for drug offenses have now been eliminated, yet are being passed again by legislators to hold our current society’s “lepers” the sex offenders.

    School administrators as well as judges should be given the right to make their own decisions at to what is appropriate punishment based on the actual situation or case. Two years expulsion for a toy gun is ludicrous and unreasonable punishment. I hope the parents follow up with a blistering law suit. Possibly to fund private schooling clear through an Ivy League University.

  43. Noël H. September 21, 2010 at 3:28 am #

    @Jenny Islander, our school (Pre-K-12th) does not allow children to pretend gun play even with their fingers. So the old fashioned ‘pew pew’ with your thumbs and forefingers will earn you disciplinary action, though thankfully not expulsion. Yet.

    (And, yes, my 4 year old committed the crime of finger gun pointing on the playground, and I endured the ensuing teacher discussion. I was also informed that playing scary ‘monsters’ or ‘aliens’ on the playground is forbidden as well.)

    Expelling a child for 2 years over a toy gun is outrageous.

  44. Christy Ford September 21, 2010 at 3:52 am #

    Yeah, when I have kids, I will be home schooling them.

  45. John Hritz September 21, 2010 at 4:55 am #

    I’m probably on the wrong side of this issue, but the device shown in the video is an AirSoft target pistol. They are not toys and should not be handled by kids without eye protection and adult supervision. They have a high muzzle velocity although the airsoft pellet is pretty low mass. I’d feel a lot better if the parents were filmed acknowledging that they erred in not keeping better control of the pistol.

    That said, a multi-year suspension seems like overkill.


  46. Rich Wilson September 21, 2010 at 5:59 am #

    @John Hritz

    I wouldn’t call adding an opinion and information the ‘wrong’ side of this issue. There might be a minority side, but that in and of itself doesn’t make it wrong.

  47. Marty September 21, 2010 at 6:05 am #

    when a student’s expelled or suspended, does the school still receive funds as if the student is attending?

  48. Catherine Scott September 21, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    Um, am I mistaken or are a disproportionate number of the kids and young people reported here as being officially and officiously mistreated non-Anglo?

    Is there a big dollop of the R word involved?

  49. Donna September 21, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    @ Catherine Scott – Looking at race is putting the emphasis on the wrong category. The issue is usually socioeconomic background. I work as a public defender in an area with large poor black and poor white populations. I see no difference in how the two groups are treated. If a gun is brought to school by someone who is lower class, it doesn’t matter whether he’s from the hood or the trailer park; he’s going to get slammed. On the other hand, the story may be different if the kid is middle class. Those kids are often either not referred for discipline or are more lightly disciplined when referred. And it’s not a matter of the middle class kids being able to afford better attorneys. I wouldn’t hire several of the private attorneys in my area to get my dog out of the pound. It’s just a different perception of the kids.

    Basically, middle class = misguided, mischievous and has potential (can’t expel this child as you’ll be ruining his future); poor = criminal, dangerous and worthless (what does it matter if we expel him; he’ll be lucky to graduate high school anyway).

    That said, the effect of the emphasis on socioeconomic background is to see more non-anglos in these situations because more non-anglos are poor.

  50. Rich Wilson September 21, 2010 at 11:16 am #

    The other issue behind socioeconomics is the family’s resources for dealing with the issue. Homeschooling for any amount of time is rarely an option for poorer families. Likewise for mid-day meetings with school officials, and getting legal advice.

  51. Robin September 21, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    John, I’m curious to know what it shoots. Air? I’m not familiar with any type of guns. What kind of injuries can it cause? If it’s not a true “toy” than yes, some type of punishment is necessary, but 2 years is overkill (no pun intended :))

    Donna – I’ve found in our district that a lot of the minorities are not disciplined as much as the whites because the teachers are more hesitant to report them. Even the kids will tell you the same thing.

  52. SKL September 21, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    Yeah, Catherine Scott, I agree with Donna on the racism question. My nephew is white and he goes to a school with a racially mixed population. The boy who blackened his eye and did not get suspended was black. My nephew (who is also a star student and has never had any other discipline record) received the “zero tolerance” sentence. I have also heard many other cases where the child was white. I am not sure class is that much of an issue either, other than the fact that people with a few bucks can afford to hire a lawyer to nip the problem in the bud before it becomes a national news story.

    But to be honest, racism crossed my mind in this case, too. Then I remembered that there is a high % of “minority” folks in that area, so that was probably just coincidence.

  53. Uly September 21, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

    Donna pretty much summed it up. Class and race are intertwined in a whole messy bundle in the US.

    I’d also be interested in knowing if schools in poorer areas are more likely to have these zero policy rules in the first case, etc. (And if they are, guess which kids are less likely to be able to choose schools?)

  54. Donna September 21, 2010 at 7:14 pm #

    Money is also power. The poor don’t have the ability to martial the press in their fight. They rarely think that they can go to the school board and fight. They are so used to getting screwed that they lie down for it. If you try this with a doctor’s kid, that doctor is going to fight like hell for his kid. The kid whose parents are on welfare, not so much. Ultimately, the fight would also never be lost with the richer kid – if it appeared they were losing the fight, they’d pull him out and put him in private school before he was ever expelled. Poor families don’t have that option.

    But socioeconomic breakdown is also too easy. In equal populations, you’re still going to have people treated more harshly than others. It becomes a matter of who is favored – who is valued most by the school. Got a kid that is socially awkward and unpopular? He’s going to get punished more harshly than the popular kid. How about an ugly kid? Having a pretty face matters. Non-anglo community that is not well integrated into the white population? They’re going to get dinged more heavily. Schools (any entity really) place different value on different students.

  55. Maggie September 21, 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    It’s interesting that at the end of the article it says that parents are responsible for what’s in the kid’s backpack. So, we’re supposed to go through their bag every day before they leave for school??

  56. su N September 21, 2010 at 10:14 pm #

    Obviously the school board was educated in a school district where kids were taught to the test. See how it works out? No ability for logic, only ability to follow one small minded train of thought.

    I fear for this world somedays…

  57. Lola September 21, 2010 at 10:25 pm #

    Worse: we’re supposed to be the ones who equip our children’s bags every day. A really caring parent wouldn’t let their beloved child do that dirty work.

  58. pentamom September 21, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

    Robin, air guns shoot fairly soft pellets (hollow plastic balls I think, but I’m not sure), powered by forced air rather than gunpowder.

    Good point — “toy gun” may be a bit misleading, making you think of a molded plastic thing that doesn’t shoot anything, but doesn’t change the essential point that no way is this a two-year expulsion offense.

  59. E. Simms September 21, 2010 at 11:44 pm #

    The Broward School Board seems to be ignoring a Florida law passed last year. http://www.flgov.com/release/10842

    “Senate Bill 1540 requires school boards to revise their zero-tolerance policies to ensure that students expelled or referred to law enforcement pose a serious threat to school safety, and are not expelled or arrested for petty misconduct.”

  60. Steve September 22, 2010 at 1:13 am #

    A commenter on another blog suggested planting toy guns in the principal’s car and the cars of the teachers and then calling the cops.

    This might be a good way to show that zero tolerance is stupid…because after all, even if the person who planted the toy guns came forward, he/she could point out that it doesn’t matter how or why the guns came to be in those cars — zero tolerance is zero tolerance…right?

    No exceptions!

    And imagine going to jail for planting toy guns in school officials cars! You’d have all the inmates laughing, and it would probably be good for your resume, too.

  61. Sky September 22, 2010 at 5:48 am #

    Larry, I think you make an excellent point. In my daughter’s school, the only means of discipline I could discern were color coded cards sent home to the parents – green was “good,” purple was “really good”, yellow was a warning, and red was bad. My daughter brought home red cards a couple of days in a row, and I gave her a real what-for. But then I found out what she GOT them for. Twirling in the halls. Which is against the rules, of course (need to be orderly in line, I get that) BUT, I thought she had done something like talking back, disrespecting the teacher – something more significant than hall twirling. Then she was SPIT on by some other older bullies in the hall. What did they get? A red card, of course. So the discipline becomes essentially meaningless. Red card for twirling or for degrading and bullying someone. Suspension for toy gun or real gun. When the discipline is the same regardless of the degree of the infraction, it becomes largely meaningless to the children.

    Things are not done “the old way” at school, so if you do them “the old way” at home – well, yeah, it doesn’t coincide. Also, the schools seem to be handling less “in-house”. When I was in school, my parents wouldn’t have heard from the school unless and until I was up to something more major than hall twirling.

    Jenny Islander, our school ALSO does not allow children to pretend gun play even with their fingers. My girl also got a red card for continuing to do the pretend “pew pew” after she was told not to. (Now, that was disobedience, so should have been reprimanded; but why was she stopped from the pretend pew pew during recess anyway!!!) One kid was sent to the principal for the pretend pew pew. Oh things have indeed changed from my day, when the rifle club members brought their REAL rifles to school, and no one seemed to mind.

  62. Library Momma September 22, 2010 at 8:53 am #

    I know the topic of this discussion is not homeschooling, but since it was already mentioned I wanted to add a thought. I’m sure that if these parents had some support, they might be more inclined to continue homeschooling their son. Most states have homeschooling associations (we’re lucky, in California we have two) and Florida is no exception.

    I looked it up and Florida has a state-wide parent-educators association. But their laws are a stricter than those we have in California and it might be more difficult to follow their homeschooling regulations than it is here.

    As far as finances go, I read a very interesting book a few years ago called “The Four-Thirds Solution” by Stanley I. Greenspan. He focuses mostly on preschool and how parents can each work 3/4 time instead of full time and how that benefits their children without sacrificing their ability to pay the bills.

  63. Donna September 22, 2010 at 10:25 am #

    @ Library Momma –

    How about the fact that they clearly DO NOT want to homeschool their child? This family has a right to have their child in the schooling environment that THEY want; not the one that YOU want . You certainly wouldn’t appreciate it if a someone insisted that you had to send your child to public school.

    In addition, do you know this family? Do you know if the parents have a high school diploma? If they even know how to read and write themselves? Or speak English as their native language? Or at all? Or have the patience to teach a child? Maybe insisting “I’m sure that if these parents had some support, they might be more inclined to continue homeschooling their son” is a bit presumptuous considering you know absolutely nothing about the family other than what was contain in an article (you know, the one where they clearly stated their lack of desire and ability to homeschool their child).

    Further, for middle class america, going to 3/4 time may not sacrifice the family’s ability to pay the bills. However, for low income families, every single solitary dime is spent before it comes in the door. A half day off work because the kid gets sick could make the difference between eating that week or not. There is no way that these families can homeschool their children and still keep a roof over their heads and food in the stomachs (and, frankly, probably don’t have the education to do it). The entire country is not middle class, white picket-fenced suburbs.

  64. Gary September 22, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    Why fight to get him back to this school? With a school board that makes such idiotic decisions, what kind of students are they turning out anyway??

  65. Aaron Helton September 22, 2010 at 6:55 pm #

    I’m inclined to agree with Donna. Homeschooling is really only available to those who can afford to maintain a certain standard of living on one income, though I disagree that you have to be decidedly middle class to pull it off (I was homeschooled for a while, and our family was by some standards fairly poor, although we were not in true poverty).

    Also, the idea of working 3/4 time introduces a whole host of issues. First, most employers are ambivalent at best toward workers who work less than full time; some employers do not allow part-timers to hold management positions, which limits certain directions of growth potential. Many who do employ part time workers treat them badly (Wal Mart comes to mind, anecdotally). Second, working less than full time often means you don’t get employer sponsored health benefits, meaning part time workers have to compete as individuals when purchasing health insurance plans (hint: companies usually have better luck negotiating coverage and rates); don’t think about having children on one of these plans, since most don’t provide any maternity benefit. Third is Donna’s observation that those in the lowest income brackets need every penny they can earn. And fourth, try 3/4 time as a single parent and see how far that goes.

  66. Jenny Islander September 23, 2010 at 12:08 am #

    Kids not allowed to play Monsters, Aliens, or Bang Bang Yer Dead Fifty Bullets In Ya Head?

    Wow. I’m sure that schools that can devote that much adult eyeball time to not letting kids play pretend in the “wrong” way must have no problem at all with bullying. Excuse me, I need a shovel for my sarcasm.

    I can remember, in fourth grade or so, when the boys were all heavily into picking up sticks (because we had actual woods at the edge of the playground then) and pointing them at each other, that some grown-up or other wanted to punish any child seen picking up a stick, pointing it, and saying “pew pew.” So the boys simply stopped playing. They hung around the edge of the playground in silent, disgruntled groups. A few weeks later, the rule was rescinded. They were sternly warned not to hit each other with the sticks, which had not been happening anyway because the boys all knew very well that actual bodily harm meant loss of recess time.

    So they grew up shooting one another with imaginary bullets. And yet, somehow, they survived and are productive citizens today. Except the one who flipped his Bronco trying to off-road in it, and the one who got cancer, and the two or three who did stupid alcoholic things, and the commercial fisherman who caught a storm. Which I am sure could have been prevented if they had never been shot with imaginary bullets.

  67. DensityDuck September 23, 2010 at 1:46 am #

    Well, look at it this way. It’s not that “Zero Tolerance” means “teacher don’t wanna think”. It’s not “no decision *required*”, it’s “no decision *allowed*”.

    And this is intentional, and it’s a good thing. Because if a decision is allowed, then that decision can be wrong; or it could be made for the wrong reasons. Like racism.

    So either it’s ZT all the way, or else it’s having to explain to every member of the Junior MS-13 League why *they* can’t have a gun in school even though some other kid had an Airsoft and that was okay.

  68. Jenny Islander September 23, 2010 at 7:15 am #

    Yes, because zero tolerance is always applied completely impartially . . . oh, wait.

    You should reread these threads before you post again.

  69. m September 23, 2010 at 8:45 pm #

    Density Duck.

    Has it possibly occurred to you that schools have limited tax dollars to spend on therapeautic schools? Maybe perhaps that a real troubled child is denied entrance because “kiddo fake gun” is taking up that 50,000 dollar slot? Is every infraction worth 100,000 dollars?

  70. DensityDuck September 23, 2010 at 11:45 pm #

    Jenny: Show some evidence that it *hasn’t* been.

    m: Yes, every infraction is worth a hundred thousand dollars, because the legal battles over “YALL JUS DOIN DIS CUZ YALL RACIST” would cost more than that.

  71. David Anaxagoras September 24, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    I don’t understand why school boards aren’t getting slapped senseless by violation of due process/equal protection lawsuits. Zero tolerance by definition short circuits due process, and results in denying children access to the same education their peers have.

    I’m not a lawyer, but surely less worthy lawsuits have gone to court.

  72. Shawn September 29, 2010 at 9:42 pm #

    David, I have wondered the exact same thing. The one time a lawyer could actually do some good… 🙂

    You and E. Simms should get together and maybe you could help this family out!

  73. Jack October 1, 2010 at 10:03 pm #

    I got a call from school last week to tell me my 7yo had taken his new pocketknife to school. He was so proud of it. Woops. Glad they’re not as militant as this school!

  74. Bergman August 8, 2012 at 2:34 am #

    I wonder if you could start truancy proceedings against the school board, given they are denying him a place in a public school?


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