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Guns, children and schools: 5 reactions that lacked common sense

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We were all kids at one time, and as kids we did kid things. Like playing outside until mom called you in for dinner. Like building club houses for no good reason. Like playing with Super Soakers, and cap guns and little smoke bombs you bought from the ice cream truck.

Of course we made stupid decisions as kids, too. Like that time you took a smoke bomb to school to show your friends. Or that one time you and your friends had a water gun fight in the cafeteria after talking about Batman and Superman.

But back then, you didn’t get suspended for these things, and you definitely didn’t get accused of making “terroristic threats.” At best you got detention, and at worst you had to face the wrath of your parents when you got home.

These are days gone by. And as someone who was a kid in the late 1980s and most of the 1990s, I’m floored at how fast attitudes toward kids being kids has changed, especially in our schools.

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Here are five examples of mountains made out of a molehills that remind us some school officials just need to chill out when it comes to their students.

Like that time when…


5. A LEGO-sized toy gun caused a ruckus (so says the bus driver)

What could have possibly led a 6-year-old to be threatened with detention, suspension from the school bus, and a ticket? Why, this, of course:

Do not attempt to adjust your monitor because, yes, the gun is about the size of a quarter.
Do not attempt to adjust your monitor because, yes, the gun is about the size of a quarter.

If you asked the bus driver what happened, he’d tell you this: A kindergartener “traumatized” other students on a bus because he brought a plastic toy gun to school. After the kid got busted and school officials got involved, he was forced to write an apology letter to the bus driver and the school, and was threatened with the aforementioned consequences.

Then school officials wised up and reviewed security footage from the bus’ camera, and found that, no, nothing dramatic happened after all. The school eventually “dropped the charges,” so to speak.

But still, the damage was done, and a mountain was made out of a molehill. I’m no child psychologist but I imagine the situation was pretty intense for the pint-sized suspect. Instead of immediately going into red alert mode, the school could’ve handled it with little fuss had they reviewed the evidence. Just ask the 6-year-old’s grandma, who is a former school principal:

I would’ve said, ‘Put it away’ or ‘take it home’ or ‘I’ll hold onto it until the end of the day. … I really think they overreacted. The problem is, we don’t use our heads. — Margery Eagan

You think that’s bad? Well, what about …


4. That time where a fifth grader was searched because of a piece of paper

Remember the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and how he had to escape Philly because of all the bad dudes there? I wonder if he was running from people like fifth-grader and criminal extraordinaire Melody Valentin, who was questioned and searched by school officials after she was spotted with a piece of paper in the vague shape of a gun.

After officials scolded her and searched her in front of her peers, the meaner kids in her class began calling her a murderer. And even after Valentin tried to explain it wasn’t a real gun, one official told her she “could be arrested” for bringing it to school.

Valentin’s mother kept her out of school for a bit because the harassment was so severe. And, rightfully so, mom was irate at how her daughter was treated. The search never should’ve happened, and the public scolding never should’ve happened.

While I completely understand rules are rules, and that there were allegedly some frightened kids, this story is an example of overreaching and overreaction to the nth degree. Enforce the rules but do it wearing kid gloves, because you’re dealing with children here, not hardened career criminals who might be hiding a shiv in their waistband.

Then there’s…


3. That time the ‘insensitive’ cupcakes forced a confiscation

If you were 9 years old, had a love for the military and a love for cupcakes (who doesn’t?), how do you think you could combine the two things? Well, by decorating some cupcakes with green plastic Army men, that’s how.

And that’s what birthday boy Hunter Fountain did: He put some plastic toy Army men on top of cupcakes and took the cupcakes to his class, to celebrate his birthday.

Upon revealing the sweet treats, the “insensitive” cupcakes were confiscated and Hunter’s mother was called. The school deemed it “too soon” after Sandy Hook to have plastic Army men in school. The kids were still able to eat the cupcakes, and the toys were sent home with Hunter in a baggie.

Here’s how the school’s principal explained the decision:

These are toys that were commonplace in the past. However, some parents prohibit all guns as toys. In light of that difference, the school offered to replace the soldiers with another item and the soldiers were returned home with the student. — Susan Wright

I’m sure some parents also don’t allow their children to eat sweets, so why not just forbid the cupcakes altogether?

Look, I know political correctness has its place, like in public education where you have not only the government on your back but parents, too (which is infinitely more terrifying than the government), but where does it end? When I think of plastic green Army men, I think of my childhood and I think of the “Toy Story” series. And the only time I ever hurt myself playing with them is when I accidentally stepped on one.

But, it gets worse. Like …


2. That time when a child wet himself while being interrogated by

a school official over a cap gun

When it comes to children’s toys, the cap gun is about as popular and recognizable as the Slinky, yo-yos and plastic Army men. But it was the orange-tipped menace that caused a cowboy-loving 5-year-old to get interrogated by a school official for two hours before his mother was called.

Oh yeah, and the questioning frightened the kid so much that he wet himself.

The kid broke the “no toy guns at school” rule, so his mom is totally cool with him being punished. But she, like any mother, is taking serious issue with the severity of the punishment (a 10-day suspension and a mark on his permanent record) and the fact that she was treated as an afterthought to the disciplinary action.

Oh, and! The principal told the mother that, if the boy had brought caps to school, then it would have been considered an explosive device and the police would have been called.

Oy vey. Seriously: Oy vey.

Of all these stories, you’ll never forget…


1. That time a Hello Kitty bubble gun led to a ‘terroristic threat’

Take a look at that image. Chances are you know all about Hello Kitty if you have kids in the house. Chances are you have bought your little Hello Kitty fan a bunch of Hello Kitty school supplies, clothing and toys. Chances are you might have even bought your mini-me one of these:

Good job, you just armed a terrorist.

OK, we all know that’s going a bit overboard, but one school in Pennsylvania didn’t think so.

A 5-year-old girl named Madison told her friend that she was going to shoot her, then herself, with a pink bubble gun while waiting for the school bus. The girl didn’t actually have the toy with her at the time, but she was ultimately suspended after being questioned about the incident by school officials.

According to the girl’s mother, the child was questioned for three hours before parents were notified. The mom also said officials told her daughter she could go to jail for what she did, which was making a “terroristic threat.”

The tiniest terrorist, Madison. (AP Photo)
The tiniest terrorist, Madison. (AP Photo)

Last it was reported, the parents got a lawyer and are discussing the matters with the school via litigation.



All of these events happened post-Sandy Hook, so it’s easy to see how the heightened sensitivity about guns played a role in all of the overreaction. But it doesn’t excuse the overreaching. Who in their right mind treats 5- and 6-year-olds that way?

No child should be questioned without parents present, and no parent should have to go hours without a phone call from the principal informing them about what happened.

Some of the parents admitted their child made a mistake, broke a rule and deserve punishment. But all of the parents are correct in that common sense needs to be applied to these situations.

That saying “kids will be kids” is true for this new generation as it was for your generation, and my generation. Causing mental and developmental harm to impressionable children results in zero positive gains for all involved.

Zero-tolerance policies on weapons in school (even the toy kind) shouldn’t be an excuse for zero common sense.

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Related Photos

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Richard Hall

Richard Hall is an award-winning newsroom developer, editor and blogger for NewsOK. He was born in Austin, Texas, spent his childhood in southern California and has lived in Norman since 1999. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2008. Read more ›