A Cape Cod five-year-old has gotten himself in trouble for, as one Hyannis news report puts it, pretending to “fire on” classmates with a gun he made out of two Lego pieces. In this case what’s connoted by the menacing phrase “fire on” is that the kid took his plastic gun and “made shooting sounds”with it.
HYANNIS – Barnstable school officials are facing criticism from as far away as Arizona and Colorado over the decision to reprimand a Hyannis West Elementary School student who pretended to fire on fellow students last week with a toy gun he made out of Legos.
In a statement released Thursday, Barnstable Public Schools Superintendent Mary Czajkowski reiterated her position on the incident, which school officials said made other students uncomfortable.
“Parents and other members of the community have a right to expect educators in our schools to address any potentially harmful or threatening situation swiftly and appropriately,” she wrote in the statement. “The teacher and school principal acted in accordance with school and district policy.” (“Hyannis West officials criticized for Lego gun incident”).
School administrators believe they’re being unfairly criticized because the shooter, Joseph, had been repeatedly warned before this that his behavior in the day care was “unacceptable.” “Some children are coming in with no structure, no guidelines for expectations, for how to behave and how to act,” the superintendent said, strongly implying that Joseph was that kind of kid. Consequently, a letter of reprimand went home with him, warning that Joseph faced suspension if he got written up again.
Maybe the kid really is a behavior problem, in which case school officials are well within bounds to clamp down. I’m sure that thousands of times a day school officials and angry mothers clash over whether or not the little angels deserve punishment.
But that’s not exactly what this is. The school superintendent justified the school’s response not based on disciplinary policy, but on safety: “Parents and other members of the community have a right to expect educators in our schools to address any potentially harmful or threatening situation swiftly and appropriately.” Joseph’s misbehavior was a “threatening situation.” When he kept on with his shooting-sound spree in spite of orders to stop, it became clear he didn’t just have a time-out coming: he needed to be disarmed.
Something similar happened in Maryland last month when a 6-year-old was suspended from his public school “for pointing his finger like a gun and saying ‘pow,’ an incident school officials characterized in a disciplinary letter as a threat ‘to shoot a student.’” That poor kid’s parents were able to get his record expunged, but it took getting an attorney to do it; the attorney also felt it necessary to state for the record that “the boy had no intention to shoot anyone.” It took an attorney to figure that out?
In either case school officials really seemed not to know there was a difference between small boys going “bang! bang! bang!” and what law-enforcement types call an “active shooting situation.”
I’ve noticed this inability to make distinctions is widespread in the outspoken gun-control community. It correlates with the premise that all firearms are evil in themselves, even to the extent of the abstract idea of a firearm. When all you know is that a gun is a gun is a gun, (even when it’s not a gun at all, but only a finger or a drawing of a gun), then you’ll see a pointed finger combined with the word “pow” as a threat.