Harebrained Bureaucrats and Gun Craziness

By:  Ralph R. Reiland
Harebrained Bureaucrats and Gun Craziness

Does it make sense to suspend a first grader who inadvertently brought a toy gun to school and then turned it in to his teacher when he discovered his mistake?

Regarding a recent dust-up near Pittsburgh, here’s the June 6 headline at Reason magazine’s blog: “First-Grader Finds Toy Gun, Turns It In, Gets Suspension.”

How a seven-year-old kid ended up in serious trouble is reported by Robby Soave, a staff editor at Reason.com: “Pennsylvania first-grader Darin Simak brought a different backpack to school this week, failing to notice the toy gun concealed inside it. When he realized that he had inadvertently brought the weapon — which is not a real weapon at all — to Martin Elementary in New Kensington, he immediately informed his teacher.”

It sounds like the boy did exactly the right thing. He made an innocent and harmless mistake and told his teacher when he noticed the slip-up.

The teacher, following protocol, told the principal and the first-grader was promptly suspended from school for breaching the school district's “zero tolerance” policy against weapons — even though the toy gun was as far from a real weapon as a chocolate pistol or a cupcake in the shape of a hand grenade.

“The New Kensington-Arnold School District superintendent said that bringing a toy gun to school violates the district’s policy at the highest level and requires a child to be suspended immediately until a meeting can be held to discuss what happened and whether punishment is warranted,” reported Soave.

“School zero tolerance policies require administrators to suspend or expel (and in some cases, arrest), students who break the rules — even inadvertently, as in Simak's case,” explained Soave.

In due course, the school board declined to expel the first-grader, releasing the seven-year-old from further punishment, additional banishment, and continued public humiliation.

In any case, it seems like the school districts in my neighboring communities in Pittsburgh’s more tony suburbs would handle the aforementioned case with more good sense, less paranoia, and less rigidity.

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