Baltimore, MD — The “pastry gun” suspension would be a thing of the past if a Maryland lawmaker has his way.
A bill introduced by State Senator J.B. Jennings (who represents Baltimore and Harford Counties) would prohibit disproportionate school discipline for minor, harmless incidents such as the case of seven-year-old Josh Welch.
You’ll recall that Josh was suspended after eating away at a strawberry tart in such way to lead his teacher to think it was meant to appear like a gun. Josh claims he was simply devouring the breakfast pastry, and his intention was to shape it more like a mountain. Josh said his teacher was visibly upset when she noticed the odd shaped pastry.
Educational institutions around the country have adopted zero-tolerance policies for threats or perceived threats of any kind after the horrific Newtown shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Senator Jennings evidently believes that while well motivated, some school officials are overreacting in certain instances such as the Josh Welch pastry gun incident. In another Maryland school, a six-year-old was suspended for forming a gun-like gesture with his fingers, pointing it at another student, and saying “Pow.”
In support of his legislation, Sen. Jennings commented that “We really need to reevaluate how kids are punished. These kids can’t comprehend what they are doing or the ramifications of their actions. These suspensions are going on their permanent records and could have lasting effects on their educations.”
His legislation, Senate Bill 1058, is actually called “The Reasonable School Discipline Act of 2013” sets forth a counseling and disciplinary protocol for public school administrators when handling student discipline that amounts to “children being children,” i.e., when kids are just innocently using their imagination. It would prevent minor incidents from going onto their permanent school record in most cases. Jennings’ bill — a measure that he expects will face stiff opposition from educators and school boards — would make no changes whatsoever to disciplinary procedures for actual acts of violence on school grounds.
What do you think of the legislation that would grant school officials some reasonable discretion in administering their zero-tolerance school safety policies?
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