You know you’re insane when you hear imaginary voices in your head.

You know you’re REALLY insane if you hear imaginary voices in someone else’s head.

So who’s insane in this situation?

On Wednesday, the Rutherford Institute announced it has come to the defense of a 10-year-old boy who was suspended under a school zero tolerance policy for shooting an imaginary “arrow” at a fellow classmate, using nothing more than his hands and his imagination.

Additionally, Rutherford Institute says the student has been threatened with expulsion for his make-believe actions, which were a response to another student “shooting” an imaginary gun at him:

“Johnny Jones, a fifth grader at South Eastern Middle School, was suspended for a day and threatened with expulsion under the school’s weapons policy after playfully using his hands to draw the bowstrings on a pretend ‘bow’ and ‘shoot’ an arrow at a classmate who had held his folder like an imaginary gun and ‘shot’ at Johnny.

There might — in some attenuated sense — be some nearly legitimate reasons to suspend children for this sort of activity. Maybe it’s a school dedicated to pacifism or something. Maybe there are other circumstances that could bear on the situation.

But I can think of no circumstance where a zero tolerance weapons policy is applicable here — if that is indeed what motivated the suspension in the first place. (It seems likely, but it’s not entirely clear, at least from what I’ve read.)

Another article
on the incident, which took place some months ago, gives this little gem:

A girl in the class reported the exchange to the teacher, who pulled the boys out of the classroom to reprimand them for the disruption.

You have to wonder where this girl, if the report is true, learned that reporting other kids for playing make-believe soldier or make-believe Hunger Games or whatever was the thing to do.

Someone taught her that, either explicitly or by example.


  1. “Tyranny” is a more useful diagnosis than “insanity.” An ideology is being imposed. The book to read is *The Captive Mind* by Milosz.

  2. The common term for this variant of tyranny is “political correctness.” It’s an intentional strategy to implement a political goal–though it’s a question whether or not the particular players in this little event are conscious of what’s happening or not.

    It’s been effective. Lots of people who have been through these processes feel a physical loathing at the sight of a gun. Last week at work I took a knife out of my pocket to open a package, and the student who was in the room physically recoiled.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      There’s a word for everything. The word for that numbnuts student’s reaction is “hoplophobia”.

  3. I would suspect from the level of the penalty, that one of the boys had been down this road before, and was not understanding the meaning of the word ‘harassment’ or not willing to cease and desist.

    I would suspect the gal had seen an anti-bullying assembly, recognized that one of the parties was again bullying, and took action in the victim’s defense.

  4. Michael –
    Why do you take at face value the claims of the parents?
    Indeed, we have two possible scenarios:
    1. Principal crazy.
    2. Totally different fact pattern, which by the way, principal can’t easily just announce to the media under privacy law, the way Rutherford can.
    I’ll bet a beer on #2 if you’re ever in Boston, and I’ll give you 2-to-1 odds to boot.

    • Michael E. Lopez says:

      Mike G-

      Why don’t you take what *I* say at face value?

      As I explicitly said, if there are other circumstances at issue, then maybe the disciplinary action can be justified.

      But using a zero tolerance weapons policy WHEN THERE ARE NO PHYSICAL OBJECTS is just silly.

      And also, you left out at least three possibilities:

      1) Principal malicious, either capriciously or specifically antagonistic to the student/family in question;
      2) Principal scared not to enforce policy;
      3) Principal attempting to set policy precedent (for any of a host of various reasons).

      • The article states that it is a ‘zero tolerance policy’ not a ‘zero tolerance weapons policy’. Around here, it would be the former. The classroom is not for bullying or horseplay, especially in the era of full inclusion where some may not understand what bullying or horseplay is, and need every minute of the teachers’ time that they can get for their academics.

        Additionally, have you seen the “Dignity for Students” type of statements that School Boards are adopting to promote civil behavior on campus? Given the amount of money spent on the legal defense once these bullies start real fist and knife fights in the middle school, I am happy that my district attempts to reduce it by using suspension for those who don’t want to treat others with respect.

      • 4) Or the principal, in common with many public education administrators, doesn’t want to have to exercise any judgment if there’s the slightest chance that it might boomerang.

        Far better to expel a child, or a thousand children, then that the administrator run the slightest risk attendant with the exercise of judgment.

        Unfortunately, that sort of cowardice isn’t an anomaly. The public education selects for just that sort of behavior because an exercise of judgment will inevitably result in misjudgment some day. Then it’s hasta banana, baby and all the administrators who keep their heads down and take no chances breath a collective sight of relief and vow to avoid any situation that requires them to demonstrate backbone.

  5. Don’t these people applying stupid “Zero Tolerance” policies realize that they are helping to drive the bus over the cliff? Come the revolution, they’ll be the very first ones up against the wall and it will be pretty hard to must any sympathy for them.

    • I’m not adjudicating the present example of a rather widespread phenomenon. Perhaps there are facts that will come to light showing the admin is reasonable and the parents distorted the story.

      If so, my comments about political correctness and the larger game that is being played will remain accurate. There are dozens of other illustrations.