Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Can We Legislate Common Sense?

Joshua Welch, the 7 year old boy in Maryland who was suspended from school last year for eating his pop tart into the shape of a gun and playing with it as such, isn't likely to recover from the suspension anytime soon.

Josh's parents and attorney have been trying to get the school to clear Josh's record but the school is refusing to do so. Josh's parents are concerned that this incident, to which the school clearly overreacted and handled entirely wrong (in my humble opinion), could negatively effect Josh's future if left documented in his school file. I must agree. The boy was seven years old and using his imagination in a completely non-dangerous manner.

Because the school refuses to relent on the suspension the parents and their attorney are appealing to a school system hearing examiner, Andrew Nussbaum. The case will be heard on Tuesday.

School officials apparently have told Nussbaum that Josh was suspended not for simply violating the no-gun rule at the school (he didn't have a gun - he had food) but said it was a culmination of several incidents involving the boy - something his parents were not told at the time. They were told he was being suspended for making a gun-shaped item. Now they are telling the examiner Josh was suspended for "ongoing classroom disruption," including an incident in which Josh actually struck another student. (He has already been suspended for that incident.)

Josh's father said he was led to believe the suspension for the pop tart incident was due to a heightened concern school officials had about guns and said many of the incidents the school referred to recently he only just learned about.

"There was no reference to previous situations," Welch said. "The big reference point ... was the whole gun issue, the presence of something shaped like a gun and Josh acting like what he had in his hand was a gun and pointed it like a gun. It was that there was no place for the subject of guns at school, and people get scared easily."

I think the school knows they overreacted and are now trying to find a way to justify the 2 day suspension. The right thing to do would be to expunge Josh's school record and forget it. Josh had a pop tart - not a gun. Not a toy gun or even a picture of a gun. It was a pop tart. And you need a little imagination to even pretend it was a gun. But imagination and make believe are being thwarted in today's school systems, it seems.

Any way you look at it - it's still food. I would shudder to think what would happen to a child who brought Chinese food with bamboo "shoots" in his/her lunch. We certainly can't teach kids to make an outline in English class and use "bullets." And if a teacher wants to tell a student to stick with his opinion and stand up for himself he/she certainly can't tell the child to "stick to your guns." See how far we've come. We've become ridiculous.

I know we can't legislate common sense. If we could there wouldn't be so many people without it because it would be a crime. But some things scream for common sense. This is one of them.

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