We have previously followed the suspensions and discipline of students under zero tolerance policies that are used by teachers to justify zero judgment or responsibility. I have long criticized zero tolerance policies that have led to suspensions and arrests of children (here and here and here and here). Here is a prior column on the subject (and here).Children have been suspended or expelled for drawing stick figures or wearing military hats or bringing Legos shaped like guns or even having Danish in the shape of a gun. Despite the public outcry over the completely irrational and abusive application of zero tolerance rules, administrators and teachers continue to apply them blindly. If you do not have to exercise judgment, you can never been blamed for any failure. That seems to be the logic out of Harmony, Florida where teachers have suspended eight-year-old Jordan Bennett for using a finger as a play gun. This is only the last of such absurd finger gun cases. In the meantime, a student in Rhode Island was suspended for having a key chain with a tiny gun the size of a quarter on it.
Jordan was playing cops and robbers at Harmony Community School in Osceola County when teachers spotted them. Apparently appalled by the image of this standard childhood game, the teachers moved to suspend Jordan for forming his fingers into a gun. The school district declined to respond but said that the game was a clear violation of the code of student conduct. Exactly how bad could a finger gun be? Did he do a pretend mob hit to the back of a head or reload and use and excessive number of pretend rounds?
Regardless of the details, it appears to have been a game in the playground between eight year olds. Surely, even in a place called Harmony, boys play such games. If he went too far, is such a game really a cause for a suspension?
Clearly, we need bumper stickers reading “I’ll give you my finger gun when you take it from my cold, dead hands.”
What do you think?