Townhall Media/Beth Baumann
Over the years, I’ve made something of a hobby collecting idiotic cases of zero-tolerance policies being enforced in schools. While no one wants students carrying guns in schools, these policies often go beyond that fact and impact things like firearms depicted on shirts and many other places.
Couple that with things like the stigmatization of gun owners, and schools become a recipe for disaster.
Perhaps the latest example shows how idiotic all of this can be.
A Maryland eighth grader was suspended for three weeks and did not get to graduate with his class in June. This was his punishment for appearing in the background of a friend’s video in which said friend held a disabled airsoft gun. The eighth grader also posed for a photo with the friend, who held him in a headlock with the fake gun pointing at his head. The picture was shared with 13 other friends on Snapchat.
Are you silently giving thanks that social media didn’t exist when you were a middle schooler? Me too. The 14-year-old boy later admitted he was trying to look like a “badass.”
On Monday his dad—David Bernstein, a nonprofit director—wrote a piece about the incident for The Washington Post. He said he had asked the private Silver Spring school to reconsider the punishment. After all, his son did not threaten anyone with a gun. He did not own a gun. He did not say anything about wanting to kill students, or take his own life, or do anything violent. He was, his dad wrote, just being a “knucklehead.”
But the school insisted the incident was “very, very serious” and therefore warranted suspension through the end of the year.
My days of not taking school administrations seriously are certainly coming to a middle.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the kid should have done what he did. It was stupid. However, it was also an airsoft gun. It wasn’t a real gun.
Further, there were no threats made. As the boy’s father noted, there were no threats to the school, to other students, or himself. He was being a “knucklehead,” as the father termed it.
What 14-year-old kid isn’t a knucklehead sometimes?
But why the suspension?
Well, the school administration has some very skewed priorities. It seems this same student was hauled into the principal’s office earlier in the year after he told a friend he’d seen a teacher texting while driving. This upset the teacher, and the student was being chastised because he’d hurt the teacher’s feelings. When Bernstein asked if it was true, he was told that didn’t matter.
So the kid was punished for reporting something that might actually result in harm but then was punished for something that wouldn’t. Yeah…I’ve got nothing on this.
If there’s a saving grace, it’s that this is a private school, which means parents can pull their children out and place them somewhere else. In fact, after something like this, I’m damn sure I’d pull my kids out on general principle.
However, at the heart of this is something very troubling, and that’s how schools approach even the hint of a gun. I get that tensions are high with the media pushing the idea that we have a mass shooting epidemic going on, but there needs to be some sensibility among administrators. That’s not likely to happen with the ongoing stigmatization of guns and gun ownership.
You see, the media has pushed the narrative sufficiently that even the mere presence of a gun sets off alarm bells. There’s been enough fearmongering that now people see a gun-shaped object and freak out.
That’s something that needs to be fixed.