There have been a stunningly stupid amount of stories in the news in the past few months about school authorities ridiculously overreacting to children playing with, or even pretending to play with, weapons. The gun control debate is one thing, but this is insanity. Just a sample:
- Two six-year-old boys in Maryland were suspended for playing “cops and robbers” at recess
- A fifth-grade girl in Philadelphia was berated and threatened with arrest by a teacher who determined she had pulled out a piece of paper shaped like a gun
- A five-year-old Pennsylvania girl was suspended for “terroristic threats” for telling a classmate she would shoot her with a Bubble Gun
- A six-year-old Maryland boy was suspended for “threatening to shoot a student” by pointing his finger at a classmate and saying “pow”
- A seven-year-old was suspended in Colorado for playing “rescue the world” wherein he tossed an imaginary grenade into an imaginary box at imaginary villains
- An Arizona high school freshman was suspended for having a picture of a gun as the desktop background on his school computer
No one wants to minimize the tragedy of Sandy Hook or the other school shootings that have taken place over the years. But as I read each of these stories, I got more and more angry. How could school authorities be so hypersensitive that they would overreact to imaginary threats of violence? In what world do these policies make sense? What are we allowing schools to do to our children? Why are we allowing administrators and teachers to stifle their imaginations, one of the most precious assets young children have? When do we say “enough is enough” and start demanding common sense?
I teach kids how to use their imaginations for a living, and these policies are undoing all the good work teachers like me try to do.
So what did YOU do when YOU read the stories? Did you cluck your tongue and shake your head? Did you share the stories and pass on your indignation over Facebook or Twitter? Did you sigh and lament bygone days when kids could be kids?
Or did you resolve to do something about it?
You might well ask what you CAN do in the face of such insanity. Problems like this can seem unsolvable; out-of-touch administrators, no-tolerance policies, teachers applying said policies with brutal fervor out of fear or idiotic training. But there are things you can do to push back against this attack on our students’ childhood.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Call or e-mail every school and district where these incidents happen. Register your concerns and frustrations, and be sure to ask for a copy of the policy and then post it online so others can share
- Contact your local district and ask for a copy of their policy in cases such as these. If it mirrors one of the examples above, start recruiting people locally to fight it and get it changed.
- Share and mock these policies at every opportunity; online, in person, in casual conversation. Part of the culture change that needs to happen is to make these policies so ridiculous and unpopular that they get changed.
- Recruit or support school board candidates whose ideas include fighting policies that punish children for being children, and follow school board elections and debates carefully. Go to the candidates and ask them questions based on these incidents
- Talk to your children about these stories. As I recounted in a previous article, taking advantage of these relatable anecdotes to teach your children about liberty is a MUST. Ask your children how they would feel if their school did this to them or their classmates. Ask them if they think this kind of punishment is right. Drive home the points that school personnel make mistakes, and that it’s not only wrong what happened to these children, but that it’s harmful. Go wherever the conversation takes you, but get your kids thinking about this, and how they might react.
That’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s a start; and if you have more suggestions, please add them in the comments. I refuse to sit back and “tsk tsk” anymore when I see these types of egregious offenses against childhood. Administrators are using these policies to label normal children as “juvenile delinquents” and it’s outrageous. I’m ready to get Radical about it. I hope you’re ready to get Radical too, now that you know there are things you can do to fight it.