Brighton, CO — “They’re saying it was a fake weapon and that I need to come get her,” said the unidentified Colorado mother of a five-year-old girl who was suspended after bringing a clear, plastic, princess-themed bubble gun to school because she likes bubbles. “I appreciate that they’re trying to keep our kids safe, I really do. But there needs to be some common sense.”
A Brighton, Colorado, School District 27J spokesman refused interview requests, but told an ABC affiliate by email that the kindergartner’s suspension was “consistent with our district policy.”
That policy targets fake ‘guns’ which could be reasonably mistaken for actual weapons — but the district almost inarguably crossed the line into the absurd with a plastic, princess bubble gun.
Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, executive director of the ACLU of Colorado cited by the ABC affiliate, called such incidents a ‘national embarrassment’ — citing another five-year-old’s suspension in 2013 for a ‘Hello Kitty’ gun, another student for shaping his breakfast pastry like a gun, and a third where a student landed a suspension over pointing their finger like a gun.
It would appear overprotection has turned to outright paranoia, if not complete abandonment of reason. Could any reasonable threat be assumed from a plastic gun emblazoned with a princess theme — which shoots only soapy water?
On Tuesday, the school attempted to abate criticism with a statement about the girl’s suspension:
“While we hear and understand the parents of this student being concerned about this discipline in light of the student’s age and type of item, this suspension is consistent with our district policy as well as how Southeast has handled similar situations throughout this school year. This has involved similar situations where students have brought items such as Nerf guns to school and also received one-day suspensions. The bringing of weapons, real or facsimile, to our schools by students can not only create a potential safety concern but also cause a distraction for our students in the learning process. Our schools, particularly Southeast because of past instances with students bringing fake weapons to school, make a point of asking parents to be partners in making sure students are not bringing these items to school. this includes asking parents to check backpacks.”
Calling a plastic bubble gun even a facsimile of a weapon defies common sense, logic, reason, and the limits of intelligence. Our culture has, perhaps — and in no small part due to the war against the concept of terrorism — has coddled itself right into a laughable preposterousness.
In 1954, Indiana Conservation Officer Rod Rankin reacted to a growing number of children killed in careless firearm accidents by implementing a permission-based gun safety course for school students. The argument he employed still rings true now, particularly in light of such absurd fear of guns — education, in combination with a healthy respect for weapons, will reduce fascination and increase awareness and safety for any child who encounters a gun.
Though his plan certainly garnered critics, many students learned the safe and responsible use and storage of firearms, particularly, “never point a gun at anybody, even in play, and always check immediately to see if the gun is loaded,” as Life Magazine described that year.
But Colorado’s suspension of a kindergartner for an object about which it would take an enormous leap of logic to describe as a fake weapon counters anything to do with safety — or weapons.
Just because the district boasts the student’s suspension is consistent with others for similar incidents — a Nerf gun? — doesn’t make the policy any less a foray into the absurd.
In 2013, Huffington Post listed six highly suspect suspensions for so-called fake weapons brought to school be young children.
A seven-year-old Maryland second-grader was suspended for nibbling a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun. Another in the same state for a bright red cap gun — which, though the suspension was lifted, inexcusably remains on the student’s record. That student’s mother told the Washington Post her child was interrogated for two hours over the incident — which understandably scared him to the point he wet himself.
In Pennsylvania, a five-year-old girl caught a suspension for a bright pink-and-yellow Hello Kitty bubble gun. An eight-year-old in Florida was suspended — for playing cops and robbers. He pointed his finger at another student during the game, saying ‘pow pow.’
Perhaps most dystopically telling of all, two Virginia middle school students were suspended for a full year for playing with airsoft guns — at one of the student’s homes. A supposedly concerned neighbor called the cops — despite the fact she claimed she knew the guns were fake, which she told the dispatcher. What excuse, then, could she possibly have used to call police in that incident?
This is what happens when a cowed culture allows the State to decide what’s best — as if we, as a people, somehow possibly couldn’t parse that out on our own. It’s ludicrous. It’s nonsensical. And it needs to be reined in before a single other kindergarten’s record is permanently tarnished because of cultural paranoia surrounding guns.
Education and rationality, not confiscation and wholly unjustified fear, is key to gun policy — and to generally helping the U.S. get a grip.