Sometimes, reading something lacks the impact of actually seeing it for yourself. That’s the case with the story of a seven-year-old second-grader at Driver Elementary school in Suffolk, Virginia, who was suspended from school for two days because, when playing with a fellow second-grader, he pointed a pencil at his friend and made shooting noises.
In the video, you can see that Christopher Marshall is a very little boy indeed, and he was trying to emulate his father, who had served in the Marines for several years. It was classic childhood play.
What’s fascinating is listening to — and watching — school spokesman Bethanne Bradshaw explain why what Christopher did was wrong. While she speaks, she shapes her fingers into a gun shape, and then points that “finger gun” at the reporter and cameraman. Fingers, of course, can be dangerous weapons when poked into people’s eyes, temples, the soft tissue in the roof of their mouth, their neck, etc. Students have gotten suspended for holding their fingers in the shape of a gun.
Interestingly, neither reporter nor cameraman, when faced with Bradshaw’s finger, ran from the room screaming about a “terrorist attack.” Instead, both understood the context: Bradshaw was using her fingers symbolically, rather than as a real weapon. In a normal, sane world, the school would have appreciated precisely what Christopher and his playmate understood, namely, that the context for his pencil-pointing was a game and there was nothing to fear from a pencil. The most that Christopher should have received was the age-old reprimand for pointing a sharp object at someone.
Christopher’s normal play is not what’s disturbing here. What’s disturbing is the fact that a school district suspends a seven-year-old from school for two days for engaging in typical childhood play that showed no signs of hurting anybody – or at least, no sign of causing any more harm that Bradshaw’s finger wagging did.
This story is not an outlier. Sadly, it’s typical for the way in which Progressively-run schools are engaging in a war against boys. Even though girls periodically get swept up in the “zero tolerance” mania, the main victims are boys who are engaging in typical boy play – play that spans centuries and circles the globe. It’s boys who think a pizza slice looks like a gun or who take their Lego pieces and construct guns out of them.
Nor is there any merit to claims the various schools make to the effect that these hysterical, anti-male overreactions are an appropriate response to the rising gun terror in America’s public schools. You see, there is no rising gun terror in America’s public schools. As a recently released Justice Department report, based on numbers from the Bureau of Statistics, demonstrates, American schools are fairly safe places. Indeed, overall America is a safer place than it was twenty years ago – and this rise in safety coincides with the increased number of law-abiding Americans owning guns.
Paranoid overreactions to normal behavior do a profound disservice to America’s young people. To the extent Ms. Bradshaw claims that they live in fear, that fear is more likely to stem from the anti-gun hysteria that characterizes America’s media and its educational system than from any rational response to very rare acts of school-based gun crime.