Pittsburgh schools have added another loony example of zero tolerance policies resulting in zero judgment. Five fourth-grade students at Fawn Elementary School have been suspended on weapons charges for making pencils into little sling shots to see who could shoot a paperclip the farthest. Principal Kathi Shirey (left) stands by the decision.
I have been a critic of these policies on drugs and weapons when they are used without logic or judgment by school officials. Obviously, no one disagrees with the need to aggressively prevent drugs and guns in our schools, but these draconian responses to innocent incidents are baffling. Pencil slingshots should be the subject of a stern warning and parental call — not a suspension.
Principal Kathi Shirey seems intent on not allowing thought or judgment to invade her decision: “Everyone uses pencils while in school, but you would never think someone would use them to create a weapon, but that’s exactly how the district sees it . . . It’s an object that could have caused serious injury.” They were shooting paper clips. They were not shooting them at students but just to see who had the best sling shot. Shirley insists :We took a lot of time to come to that decision and we really felt it was appropriate.” I actually would have felt better if this was the sudden decision without forethought because it indicates that adults can sit around and come up with a facially absurd response. It is not the kids but the teachers who need basic instruction and training.
Pencil slingshots are a common practice among kids and even adults with various websites showing how to make them.
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