(Courtesy, Rick Jensen)
School officials all over the country are misusing zero-tolerance policies about violence in schools as a means to bully children and teachers. Their actions are over-the-top and they should be reprimanded or fired.
Consider Hunter Spanjer, a 3 year-old deaf boy in Lincoln, Nebraska, who was bullied by public school officials to change his name because the hand sign for "Hunter" looks like a weapon. The Grand Island school district's policy forbids children from bringing to school "any instrument ... that looks like a weapon." (Even though Hunter was not bringing anything to school; he was only using his hand to sign.) The sign for his name can't be changed because it's the official hand sign registered through S.E.E. (Sign Exact English).
Pressure from the National Association of the Deaf and the public compelled the district to allow Hunter to keep his name. How kind of them. Sadly, district authorities have expressed no sense of sense of shame for how they treated Hunter, who cannot help that he is deaf, nor can he control what he was named. Neither the district superintendent nor the school principal was fired.
In Baltimore, an 8 year-old student chewed his Pop-Tart into the shape of a mountain. It ended up looking more like a gun, so he said, "bang bang." Anne Arundel County authorities declared this to be an "inappropriate" use of his imagination and suspended him from school. Neither the district superintendent nor the school principal was fired.
Just a few weeks ago, a seven-year-old Suffolk Virginia boy was suspended for pretending that a pencil was a gun at his school. His father and neighbors were furious. Neither the district superintendent nor the school principal was fired.
What did he learn from being suspended? He learned that admitting to doing something he didn't know was bad behavior and apologizing for it got him the maximum punishment. He also learned that teachers and principals do not teach children that pencils can be dangerous. Instead, they teach children that using their imagination to pretend any object is a gun is a punishable act.
Kicking children out of school for harmlessly exercising creativity is what passes today for education in a world where parents and teachers feel they have no influence over their local schools.
And these are only a few of many examples. And it extends to teachers as well.
Most recently in New Jersey, a second-grade teacher was suspended without pay, charged with possessing, carrying, storing or using a weapon, for showing his students the proper way to use tools. According to Washington Irving Elementary School officials, these tools deemed as "deadly weapons," include wrenches, pliers, and screwdrivers, which were kept in a secured toolbox out of the children's reach.
Perhaps the Washington Irving Elementary School principal should hold an assembly during which she could deliver a PowerPoint presentation demonstrating how children should call police if they ever find an unattended wrench. Sadly, neither the district superintendent nor the school principal was fired.
These institutional "solutions" to alleged "violence" in schools are obvious failures to everyone except the principals and superintendents who are delightfully relieved of their responsibilities to educate and consider the context of each student's behavior.
It's time to show zero tolerance for these small-minded, short-sighted bureaucrats infesting our public schools.
Parents need to exercise their rights and duty to protect their children from this absurd behavior by protesting, lobbying and forcing the firings or resignations of principals and superintendents around the country who are misusing zero tolerance rules against children. Everyone would be better served if school administrators actually got to know each student and properly guided and directed students toward learning.