By Randi Crawford
Have you heard about this? Officials at a middle school suspended a 7th grader after he brought a small toy gun keychain to school with him last Thursday?
The 12-year-old explained that the quarter-sized keychain fell out of his backpack and was picked up by a classmate who then proceeded to show it to other students before a teacher took it away. The school claims a zero tolerance policy and suspended the kid who brought the keychain for three days, as well as banning him from attending an upcoming field trip.
Next, I read about two 7-grade students that were given long-term suspensions (possibly for the entire year) for playing with air soft guns in their own yard while waiting for their school bus. A neighbor called the police, stating that she knew the guns weren’t real, but she wanted the police to show up anyway? The police didn’t show up because the boys weren’t doing anything wrong, so the school decided to take action. They felt that it was their right to suspend these boys for playing in their own back yard. Let’s get back to the neighbor for just a second because this is a valid point. If she honestly thought the guns were real, then I would have had a different opinion on her calling the police. Air soft guns look so real that you can barely tell the difference between what’s real and fake. But this woman said that she knew the guns weren’t real, so why did she interfere and call the police?
Then I read about the cupcake controversy – a 3rd grader whose dad brought cupcakes to school for his 9th birthday with little green toy soldiers on top (you know the soldiers that are in the beginning of that movie...what was it called – oh yeah, Toy Story)! And the little green soldiers were taken off the cupcakes because the school didn’t want to promote guns or violence. What is going on here? Have we all lost our minds?
Just this morning I read about an 8-year-old Florida boy who was suspended for using his finger as an imaginary gun with the administration citing that it was an “act of violence.” The kid was using his imagination.
I’m just frustrated with our government and our schools overreacting to kids playing games that we all grew up playing. Remember tag, cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians (yes, I said it). Did you know that kids can’t even play tag at most schools anymore because they are worried that a child could get hurt? What else are they going to take away, pencils because if you think about it, a sharp #2 could be used as a weapon? This is crazy.
Believe me, I want security at our schools as much as anyone, and in no way am I downplaying the horrific acts of violence that have turned our school campuses into shooting grounds for some very sick people. But at the same time we have to find a happy medium and let our kids be kids. Little toy soldiers on top of cupcakes, a quarter-sized keychain with a gun, boys playing with air soft guns in their own back yard, and an 8-year-old using nothing more than his finger as an imaginary gun? Clearly we must remain sensitive to the fact that gun violence in the world is a reality and we need to protect our kids from harm. But at the same time we can’t protect them from the kind of “general play” that kids have always engaged in with benign outcomes. As much as we want to, we can’t bubble wrap our world and think it’s going to solve all our problems. Kids are going to play, fall down and get hurt, but that’s life. What say you?