Zero Tolerance Run Amok

Back to June 2013 Ed Reporter

Zero Tolerance Run Amok

A 2nd-grader who pointed a pencil and made shooting noises in a Suffolk, Virginia elementary school is the latest to be suspended in zero-tolerance “gun” incidents. Although the teacher wrote on the suspension notice, “I told him to stop and he did,” she carried the incident to the next level, and the principal suspended the 7-year-old and his fellow pencil-wielding classmate for two days.

A school representative, Bethanne Bradshaw, said, “A pencil is a weapon when it is pointed at someone in a threatening way and gun noises are made.” Despite community outrage and dozens of calls to the school, school administrators continued to defend their actions.

The father of the suspended boy, a Marine Corps veteran, said his son is a good student and has never had any discipline problems. His son told him, “Well, I was being a Marine and the other guy was being a bad guy.” (, 05-06-13) The school in Suffolk is located in the Tidewater, Virginia area which is home to many military bases.

Plastic Hello Kitty bubble guns, Pop Tarts bitten roughly into the shape of a gun, toy World War II soldiers atop cupcakes, and now pencils are scaring educators across the nation into taking actions many consider ridiculous. Critics say zero tolerance policies enforced with no reflection, discernment, or common sense are making a mockery of the real issue of school safety.

Forbidding little boys to express their natural instinct towards creative play, imagination, and their masculine tendencies is harmful to their development. According to his mother, the youngster in Suffolk was worried sick after the incident. “He said he was a little nervous,” said Wendy Marshall. “His stomach was hurting and my husband and I reassured him, ‘You have nothing to worry about. You did nothing wrong. You’re not in trouble.’” Children are perceptive and the boy certainly knew he was “in trouble.” Stripping little boys of the masculine tendency toward military play could even result in a devastating emasculation of males that could harm the nation when called upon to field an army.

When school administrators take zero tolerance to this extreme, they become fear-mongering strangers to common sense rather than responsible adults looking out for the safety of all students.