A Maryland state senator has crafted a bill to curb the zeal of public school officials who are tempted to suspend students as young as kindergarten for having things — or talking about things, or eating things — that represent guns, but aren’t actually anything like real guns.
Sen. J. B. Jennings, a Republican who represents Baltimore Harford Counties, introduced “The Reasonable School Discipline Act of 2013” on Thursday, reports The Star Democrat.
“We really need to re-evaluate how kids are punished,” Jennings told The Star Democrat. “These kids can’t comprehend what they are doing or the ramifications of their actions.”
“These suspensions are going on their permanent records and could have lasting effects on their educations,” he added.
A nationwide flurry of suspensions seemed to reach an absurd level recently when Josh Welch, a second-grader at Park Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland, was suspended for two days because his teacher thought he shaped a strawberry, pre-baked toaster pastry into something resembling a gun. (RELATED: Second-grader suspended for breakfast pastry)
“I just kept on biting it and biting it and tore off the top of it and kind of looked like a gun,” the seven-year-old told Fox News.
“But it wasn’t,” he astutely added.
As Reason’s Hit & Run blog noted, Park Elementary School officials later offered counseling to other students who may have been traumatized by the pastry.
Senate Bill 1058 restricts the disciplinary options Maryland public school officials can use for any student who “brings to school or possesses” an image of a gun or an object that might look like a gun but isn’t one.
Students could also form their fingers in the shape of a gun without fear of reprisal.
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.
Another provision of the proposed law would keep incidents involving non-threatening objects and images from going on a student’s permanent record. Elementary school-age students would be especially protected.
The bill also does not change any law or guidelines concerning actual violence or students who bring actual weapons to school.
Jennings admitted to The Star Tribune that his bill doesn’t have a high probability of becoming law.
For whatever reason, Maryland and neighboring Pennsylvania seem to be teeming with school officials who have reacted extraordinarily strongly to things that aren’t anything like real guns.
At Roscoe R. Nix Elementary School in Maryland, a six-year-old boy was suspended for making the universal kid sign for a gun, pointing at another student and saying “pow.” That boy’s suspension was later lifted and his name cleared. (RELATED: Pow! You’re suspended, kid)
At D. Newlin Fell School in Philadelphia, school officials reportedly yelled at a student and then searched her in front of her class after she was found with a paper gun her grandfather had made for her. (RELATED: Paper gun causes panic)
In rural Pennsylvania, a kindergarten girl was suspended for making a “terroristic threat” after she told another girl that she planned to shoot her with a pink Hello Kitty toy gun that bombards targets with soapy bubbles. (RELATED: Girl suspended for Hello Kitty bubble gun)