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NRA-Backed Bill Would End Zero-Tolerance Punishment of Students Play-Acting Guns at School

| February 6, 2014

It's open season on fake gun-play. (Anthony Crider)

It’s open season on fake gun-play. (Anthony Crider)

A bill backed by the National Rifle Association that lawmakers said would add “common sense” to zero-tolerance policies for guns in public schools sailed through a House education panel on Wednesday.

The measure (PCB KTS 14-02) by House Judiciary Chairman Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, would prevent children from being disciplined for simulating a gun while playing or wearing clothes that depict firearms.

Baxley called the measure “the pop-tart bill” — a reference to a widely reported news story about a Maryland 7-year-old who was suspended from school last year for chewing his breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun.

“Obviously we don’t want firearms brought to school in a backpack,” Baxley said. “But we were definitely having some over-reactions.”

According to national news reports, incidents have included punishing students for drawing a picture of a gun, using a finger as an imaginary gun while making the sound of a gun, owning a miniature gun on a keychain, owning a gun made of Legos and wearing a National Rifle Association T-shirt to school.

In Florida, Fox News reported, an 8-year-old boy was suspended from Harmony Community School in the Central Florida community of Harmony after using his finger as a gun while playing cops and robbers with friends. Jordan Bennett was suspended for a day after school administrators said the gesture was an act of violence.

The stories didn’t sound far-fetched to members of the House K-12 Subcommittee, who added their own.

Rep. Carl Zimmermann, a Palm Harbor Democrat and high-school journalism teacher, recalled a student who — weeks before her graduation — was found to have a pink water pistol in the back seat of her car and “wasn’t allowed to walk to graduation” as a result.

Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, a Maitland Democrat and a public-school teacher, said the zero-tolerance policies often prevent administrators from using their common sense “because their hands are tied. I support the bill so that people will be able to have that flexibility.”

Florida law requires district school boards to adopt policies of zero tolerance for crime and victimization, requiring, among other things, that students found in possession of firearms or weapons at school, at school functions or on school transportation be expelled for a minimum of one year and referred to the criminal-justice or juvenile-justice system.

Critics have called the zero-tolerance policy the “school-to-prison pipeline” for criminalizing childish or adolescent behavior. The American Civil Liberties Union called the policy “a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal-justice systems. Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse or neglect. …Students of color are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the discriminatory application of discipline.”

Rep. Ronald Renuart, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, said the bill would give guidance to school boards and school officials that they should “take a step back, take a breath and realize that decisions they’re making are really affecting our students.”

Rep. Gwyn Clarke-Reed, a Deerfield Beach Democrat and a retired educator, asked Baxley whether the problems he was trying to address could have been handled internally within the school districts.

“I suppose there’s always a way things can be handled,” Baxley replied. “But this is the way a legislator can handle it.”

The K-12 Subcommittee passed the measure 13-0.

After the vote, NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer said the bill isn’t about guns.

“This bill is about children, and stopping children from being traumatized when adults lack good common sense or the capacity to make rational judgments,” she said. “Zero tolerance should not mean zero common sense. Unfortunately, it seems to.”

The Oklahoma Legislature is considering a similar measure, called the Common Sense Zero Tolerance Act.

–News Service of Florida

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11 Responses for “NRA-Backed Bill Would End Zero-Tolerance Punishment of Students Play-Acting Guns at School”

  1. Florida Native. says:

    Somebody threw an assault rock at me as I was walking down Belle Terre. Good grief at the paranoia in these government schools. Why just the other day some first graders were making assault paper airplanes.

    • barbie says:

      Why are they “government” schools? They are PUBLIC schools. Government doesn’t run them, they pass certain laws that apply to them. Firearms laws are federal, state and/or local; therefore, a subset of them must be written to apply to school districts. It is school districts which run schools.

      The question we should ask ourselves is “which knee-jerk reactionaries are responsible for getting these over-reaching zero-tolerance laws put in place to begin with?”. Administrators? Those who wish to divide us all? Those who are looking to move more people into our prison system? My money’s on *administrators* unless someone can show me otherwise in this case. The stupid always seems to start there, yet we’re all okay with them pulling in six-figure salaries while teachers don’t get paid much above poverty wages.

      Glad to see this idiotic policy fall by the wayside, but I tire of the “It’s All The Government’s Fault” meme. That’s simply not always the case. If we’re going to point fingers, let’s point them at the right things.

  2. Genie says:

    Finally, a little common sense.

  3. Steve Wolfe says:

    Two thumbs up. Wish it wasn’t necessary. But this addresses an all too common over-reaction by government in the era of Political Correctness, which ties people in knots of lingual contortions and rationalizations of absurd concepts. Perhaps we are reminded herein to keep more of our government local, where we can more readily access it, and less of it in the hands of larger bodies, where big influences cast an impenetrable cloud around governance. Yes, that would include the NRA among the more influential. But at least the NRA attempts to protect one of the rights we already have been guaranteed, as opposed to lobbyists for changing or repealing those rights. Good topic for another discussion, I’m sure. This one really gets passionate.

  4. Jake Spicer says:

    how can you suspend a little kid for making his pop tart into the shape of a gun? using his fingers to make the shape of a gun? wearing a NRA shirt? these are all just stupid. oh he’s going to shoot you with a pop tart? the only damages he can do to you with his fingers is poke you in the eye. and wearing a shirt supporting the 2nd amendment is in no way dangerous. i used to wear them to school before the dress code was in effect (i graduated before the dress code) the teachers would say we couldn’t wear them but i never got suspended for it. and just pointing out if, and i say if, not when, they TRY to take guns away how are the good people going to protect themselves from the bad people? just because some people turn in their guns doesn’t mean everyone will.

  5. orphan says:

    Hallelujah!
    So maybe there IS a bit of intelligence at the Capitol level after all. I find that fascinating to the extreme since the VAST majority of trash coming from our elected dopes bear signs of zero intelligence/common sense.
    Maybe-just maybe-nah! No way will this turn into a trend. Sad and sick we are to turn children who are simply doing things that WE AS GENERATIONS HAVE DONE into criminals with a police record.
    My total support goes to Baxley, Zimmermann, Dentel and Renuart! They have addressed this issue with open and intelligent minds.
    There! I said it and by God I mean it! We have (as a country) no common sense any longer!

  6. BHirsh says:

    “take a step back, take a breath and realize that decisions they’re making are really affecting our students.”

    I would phrase that a slightly different way: “take a step back, take a breath and realize that decisions they’re making are really STOOPID.”

  7. Diana L says:

    It’s a local issue why do we have to LEGISLATE it. Work it out at the schools. BTW not all of us carved our toast or pop tarts into guns or played guns games. It says more about our dangerous gun culture. Teach your children kindness not to glorify guns.

  8. James says:

    My grandson is 9. This year he will be taught how to safely handle and use a deer rifle for the first time. My son was 8 when I taught him . I was 8 years old when my father taught me. My father was 8 when my grandfather taught him. We are Americans that have Constitutional Rights and we use them . This will continue as long as We the People have Rights !

  9. Bill says:

    Great about time !!! Kids being kids and PLYING should not be seen as criminals by our Government schools and the extream left in them.

  10. hmmmm says:

    “take a step back, take a breath and realize that decisions they’re making are really affecting our students.”

    And with these said decisions, they are now off to waste even more tax payers dollars on other peoples stoooopid decisions, that should have never been made to begin with! Are you kidding me, make her miss graduation and suspend for pop tarts and playing… Each of these adults should be ashamed of themselves.

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