Fifth-graders in California who adorned their mortarboards with tiny toy plastic soldiers this week to support troops in Iraq were forced to cut off their miniature weapons. A Utah boy was suspended for giving his cousin a cold pill prescribed to both students. In Rhode Island, a kindergartner was suspended for bringing a plastic knife to school so he could cut cookies.
It's all part of "zero tolerance" rules, which typically mandate severe punishments for weapons and drug offenses regardless of the circumstances.
Lawmakers in several states say the strict policies in schools have resulted in many punishments that lack common sense, and are seeking to loosen the restrictions.
I hope they are successful. I personally am insulted that a child was forced to "disarm" his plastic soldiers. Though, this sort of silliness is not limited to schools. I'm embarrassed to admit that the homeschool park day group that I attend bans squirt guns at the park, and all weapons play, or anything that looks like boys rough housing. Even at Halloween, the police officer and the knight costume had to go sans weapons.
Since we meet in public parks, the rule is technically unenforceable. I tell my kids to play on the far side of the park if I think that someone is going be upset by their style of play. I feel ridiculous every time I have to explain this policy to a homeschooler who calls for information about our group. I usually preface it with, "This is a really quirky group. They are very nice people, but..." It is sad the this policy, which caters to a small minority, has pushed more than a few homeschool families to find another homeschool support group.
I can't tell if I'm being considerate of the small minority or a coward for letting it go on like this. A few years ago I surreptitiously reworded the park day guidelines so that they weren't quite so extreme, but I didn't nearly go far enough.
When I was new in the group, I didn’t think it was my place to change things. Now that I’m one of the old timers, it is time for me to take a stand. But first, I will need to go out and buy some squirt guns.
Related Tags: zero tolerance, squirt guns, homeschool