Now, if he does it at school, he can be suspended.
Well, he can if someone decides that his nibbled pastry looks like a gun.
No, I’m not joking. Last week a seven-year-old Maryland kid was suspended for two days for turning his breakfast pastry into something that someone said was gun-shaped.
Here’s the link to the news story.
And here’s what Lowering the Bar has to say about this situation, which has so thoroughly eclipsed common sense. Lowering the Bar also has what appears to be the actual letter the school sent home to parents explaining how a student “used food to make inappropriate gestures,” and assuring parents that no threats were made and no students were harmed.
(Except for those that actually ate the sugar-filled, nutrient-barren thing. But that is a matter for another day.)
I’m not joking. I really wish I was.
I cannot imagine this actually happening.
I tried to picture a conversation wherein the Boy’s principal called me to tell me that the Boy had been suspended for nibbling a breakfast pastry masterpiece that may have borne a passing resemblance to a gun. It was tricky because the Boy’s principal is a sane and sensible woman… but I gave it a go.
So, it’s morning. Both kids are at school. Maybe I’m cleaning up the kitchen and dancing to music full of words and themes generally considered unsuitable for children.
The phone rings… and the screen displays the dreaded words: The School.
No good can ever come from a phone call from The School. Phone calls from The School end in trips to Urgent Care to have the Boy’s head stapled back together, or in trips to the dentist to make sure no permanent harm was done when his front teeth got up close and personal with the gym floor. Phone calls from The School mean the Boy wasn’t paying attention in Reading or that he didn’t do his homework for the third night in a row. Phone calls from The School mean that a medical professional or a punishment will soon be required.
“This is Mrs. Principal at The School. We have a situation here and I need you to come down right away.”
“Um… Okay.” There goes all hope for a clean kitchen. All right, who am I kidding? The kitchen hasn’t really been clean since we moved in. I sadly wave goodbye to the idea of writing that next blog article, grab my keys and go, wondering if I shouldn’t have grabbed a book or two—Urgent Care can be boring, and though Mrs. Principal did say he was “fine,” maybe she didn’t mean it as in “not bleeding,” maybe she meant “fine” as in “come take him to the hospital yourself” rather than, “you need to go meet the ambulance.”
I get to the school.
“Thank you for coming down, Mrs. C. We had a bit of a situation this morning. The Boy fashioned a gun out of his breakfast pastry. We’re suspending him for two days.”
Giggle. “That’s funny. I thought for a second that you said you were suspending him.”
“We are suspending him.”
“For playing with his food?”
“For turning his breakfast pastry into a gun. This school has a zero tolerance policy with regards to guns.”
I make what I consider to be a heroic effort to control my laughter. I try to maintain the image of a Responsible Parent around Mrs. Principal and feel that allowing myself to sink to the floor, red faced with tears streaming from my eyes, gasping for the precious bits of oxygen that seep into my lungs between bouts of hilarity would spoil that image somehow. “But it wasn’t a gun, was it? It was food.”
“This school has a zero tolerance policy with regards to guns.”
“The Boy has oral art skills impressive enough for you to think that a pastry is a gun? Maybe I should sign him up for that art class after all.”
“Mrs. C! This is a very serious matter!”
“No, it isn’t. It’s ridiculous.”
That’s the best I can do.
Honestly, I cannot even imagine having a conversation like this with anyone, much less an intelligent and educated educator. But this kid’s father did.
And he’s not the only one. A Pennsylvanian kindergartener was suspended for making “terroristic threats” because she was talking about playing with her Hello Kitty bubble gun. A fifth grader was searched and threatened in front of her classmates for having a piece of paper shaped like a gun. A six-year-old was suspended for pointing his finger in the classic “gun” shape and saying, “Pow!” I believe, at least in the case of the six-year-old, the suspension has been lifted. But these are not isolated quirks of the education system… they seem to be part of a growing trend to find danger where there simply isn’t any.
What is going on here? Have we all gone completely insane?
What, exactly, are we trying to teach with these policies? That people have to be so scared of guns that a breakfast pastry in the shape of a gun should send teachers and students into fits of hysteria?
That arbitrary, senseless, Draconian policies are the way of the future? And that we should be happy because they are being put in place for our own safety?
What’s being punished here is not a look-a-like gun. No one in his or her right mind could have confused a gun-shaped pastry (however talented its creator) with a real gun. What is being punished here is not the pastry, and not even some real or imagined harm. What is being punished, is the idea of a gun.
Is school the right place to punish people for having ideas?
Is it the place of school to punish children for having ideas?
Note: The pastry pictured above not the actual Offending Pastry. It is a strawberry Pop-Tart, and I fashioned it into a gun all by myself. (Seriously, I had to put it in my mouth; it was gross!) To the best of my knowledge, the Offending Pastry was a Danish of some sort. Though it was strawberry flavored. Whether or not it had sprinkles is unknown. It is reported that it was thrown away before it could be taken into evidence.
1-11-14 UPDATE: Title was changed from “Pastries Don’t Kill People” … Well, because, they do.