I realize that gun control and guns in school are an extremely touchy subject at the moment. I know that tension is still high and emotions are still heated after the national tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. But can we please take a step back and acknowledge the ridiculousness of a 5-year-old being suspended from school for threatening to shoot her classmates… with a bubble gun?
That’s right. A kindergartner was suspended from school for 10 days after suggesting that she and her friends “shoot each other.” While I’m sure that hearing a child propose shooting other kids is a little scary, we’re talking about a very young child. And her bubble gun. A Hello Kitty bubble gun. Please, let that sink in.
The child has not been identified in the press, which I completely understand and respect. The little girl had to undergo a psychological evaluation to ensure that she was not a threat to her peers. According to her mother, she was told that she could go to jail for making the threat. Eventually, her punishment was reduced to 2 days of suspension. Her parents are now suing to get the entire incident removed from her permanent records.
There is simply no doubt that this whole case is just preposterous. There’s no debate here. This was a ridiculous overreaction by the girl’s Pennsylvania school. Yes, a kindergartner could bring a gun into school, not understanding just how dangerous a real weapon is. The girl’s comments deserved to be investigated. The parents should have been talked to. But this child should not have been punished for something so obviously innocent.
We have seen these overreactions before. We’ve seen parents who send their middle schoolers to class with guns “for protection.” We seen kids suspended for making a gun gesture with their hands. People are losing their minds in an attempt to keep their kids safe. And none of that is helping. It’s distracting from serious issues that deserve discussion.
A little girl who wants to “shoot” her friends with her bubble gun is not a threat. She is especially not a “terrorist threat” as the school classified it. She’s an example of why we should think critically about toy guns before we buy them for our kids, but she is not a threat. And focusing on her is taking away from real threats that we could be talking about.