In 1961, Dennis the Menace wore (toy) guns in the school play. Times have changed.
A five-year-old kindergarten girl drew something that looked vaguely like a gun, then pointed a crayon at a classmate and said “pew, pew.” She wasn’t suspended! She was forced to sign a contract promising not to commit homicide or suicide, reports Reason’s Hit & Run blog.
The girl was able to print her first name.
Her mother, who’d been called to the school, was not present, she told NBC News.
The little girl was given a psychological evaluation, says the mother. “My child interrupted us and said, ‘what is suicide? Mommy, daddy, what is suicide?'”
I’ve just been visiting the step-grandkids, who are five and three. They may know that a spider is an arachnid and therefore has eight legs (that was from the preschooler), but they are little kids.
Schools in Argyle, Texas have armed teachers and other staffers to protect campuses from intruders.
Little kids will play with guns, even while telling each other “don’t touch” and “tell an adult,” ABC’s Young Guns report shows. And they’re good at figuring out where their parents have hid guns. (Two words: gun safe.)
When you “plant two real, unloaded guns among toys and a backpack in grade school classroom and then tell kids that, while unsupervised, they should indulge in some nearby candy,” they just might touch the guns, Reason‘s Hit&Run scoffs.
“Every other day, a child is shot to death,” says Diane Sawyer, citing a new study.
“But, the study doesn’t match the ABC’s far-fetched image of young kids finding guns among their playthings in school,” responds Hit&Run. It includes 18- and 19-year-olds who are legal adults able to buy rifles.
When her sons were young, Christine Gross-Loh gave them blocks, puzzles and cooperative games, but no guns. She’s changed her mind about toy guns, she writes in The Atlantic.
When her older son was four, he got a plastic toy gun in a birthday party goodie bag.
My son was utterly riveted. I tried to coax it away from him. “Bang bang!” he shouted, running around with the other kids. Just days later my shy little two year old fixated upon a toy sword that came with a pirate toy someone had given him, and would not go anywhere without it. I could see that the ludicrously small sword made him feel brave.
When the boys were three and five, the family moved to Tokyo, where boys play “all sorts of rough-and-tumble war games.”
Our Japanese public elementary school even gave out water guns to all the kids at a summer festival every year. Every single child got one — even three-year-old siblings. The first time I saw the kids screaming with laughter as they shot at each other over and over in the schoolyard, I was surprised by how the adults could be so blasé. They didn’t just tolerate the play: the teachers and even the principal helped fill the kids’ guns with water and ran around shooting and battling alongside their students. They actually encouraged the children, both boys and girls, to play with toy guns.
Almost no Japanese adults own firearms, Gross-Loh writes. There are very few shooting deaths.
. . . ever since living abroad in a society where young kids are allowed so many outlets for their energy, I have come to believe that one of the secrets of Asian boys’ self-regulation is the way that aggressive play is seen as a normal stage of childhood, rather than demonized and hidden out of sight.
Research doesn’t show that gun play desensitizes kids to violence, Gross-Loh writes. “Play helps children learn how to signal each other: this is fantasy.”
Imaginary play hones self-regulation, which is essential for school success but has declined in recent decades. (Today’s five year olds have the self-regulation skills of a three year old 60 years ago). Research has found that incorporating preschool boys’ interest in weapon play rather than banning it entirely leads them to play longer, more elaborate games that go beyond mere weapon play.
Worried about boys falling behind girls in school, the British education ministry has urged preschool teachers to allow boisterous play, including play with toy weapons, Gross-Loh writes.
Zero tolerance for imaginary gun play is “psychotic” as in “out of touch with reality,” says Dr. Leonard Sax, a Pennsylvania psychologist and family physician.
“Out-of-touch policies such as these, which criminalize behaviors which have always been common among young kids, are contributing to the growing proportion of American kids, especially boys, who regard school as a stupid waste of time and who can’t wait to get out of school so that they can get back to playing their video games,” Sax said.
Remember the five-year-old interrogated and suspended for bringing a cap gun on the school bus? Maryland school officials have refused the parents’ request to remove the suspension from the kindergartener’s permanent record.
A California elementary school is holding a toy gun exchange, offering students a book and a chance to win a bicycle if they turn in their play weapons, reports the Hayward Daily Review.
Strobridge Elementary Principal Charles Hill sees toy guns as a gateway to the real thing. “Playing with toys guns, saying ‘I’m going to shoot you,’ desensitizes them, so as they get older, it’s easier for them to use a real gun,” Hill said.
A police officer will demonstrate bicycle and gun safety, a fire crew will discuss fire safety and parents will be offered fingerprinting and photographing of their children.
It’s bad enough when little kids are kicked out of school for bubble shooters, cap guns, gun-shaped pastry and Lego guns, etc. In Washington state, a 6-year-old was suspended for talking about the Nerf guns his family had bought on a recent trip. A classmate told the teacher that Noah had a gun with him. Even when it was clear he did not, he was suspended for a “threat.”
(Mike) Aguirre said he and his wife were told their son was suspended for talking about guns at school, and because the girl who reported him felt her “health and safety were threatened” when they were called to the school last week. Officials said the issue is addressed in the district’s discipline handbook in the section on student rights and responsibilities.
But Aguirre said there’s no provision that students are prohibited from talking about guns at school, nor did the district provide evidence that the boy threatened to harm a student.
After meeting with the parents, district officials downgraded Noah’s suspension to a “disruption.”
Via Legal Insurrection, which also links to the many recent cases of zero tolerance for common sense.
Persecuting boys for being boys is “a kind of quasi-religious fanaticism,” writes Glenn Harlan Reynolds in USA Today. “I think it’s about the administrative class — which runs the schools with as little input from parents as possible — doing its best to exterminate the very idea of guns. It’s some sort of wacky moral-purity crusade.”
To prevent the criminalization of boyhood, a Maryland legislator has proposed the “Toaster Pastry Gun Freedom Act” banning schools from punishing children for having something that might look like a gun but isn’t, reports The Daily Caller. (Really, it’s called the Reasonable School Discipline Act.)
The bill also includes a section mandating counseling for school officials who fail to distinguish between guns and things that resemble guns. School officials who fail to make such a distinction more than once would face discipline themselves.
Sen. J. B. Jennings, a Republican, worries that suspensions will go on children’s “permanent records,” he told the Star Democrat.
Recently, a second-grade boy at a Baltimore school was suspended for two days because his teacher thought he’d nibbled a strawberry toaster pastry into the shape of a gun. School officials sent a letter to parents — for real — offering counseling to students traumatized by the incident, reports Reason’s Hit&Run, which notes it’s not clear whether students were expected to be troubled by the snack or the suspension.
In the last few months, six-year-old boys at two Maryland elementary schools were suspended for pointing fingers and saying “pow” while playing.
Of course, not-gun hysteria is a nationwide phenomenon.
In Colorado, a second grader was suspended for pretending to throw a grenade at “evil forces” in order to “save the world.” The school has a zero tolerance policy for real or pretend fighting. His mom thinks a child shouldn’t be suspended for trying to save the world — and maybe it’s not realistic to ban little boys from playing at soldiers.