Second Grader Nibbles Pastry to Gun Shape and is Suspended

Posted on March 19, 2013


According to the Washington Post, A 7-year-old schoolboy has been suspended in Anne Arundel County, Maryland for nibbling his breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun. The son of William Welch was suspended for two days in early March after he aimed his production at other children, and cried out, “Look, I made a gun.”

The boy’s father has filed an appeal with the Anne Arundel school superintendent, asking that his son’s record be cleared. So far, the superintendent has refused. Welch has now hired a lawyer to pursue the matter.

In his appeal Welch argues that the chewed pastry could not possibly hurt anybody, even if his son had thrown it at another child, which he did not. “It was harmless,” the Post quotes Welch as saying. “It was a danish.” The appeal also points out that the shape the child created is very similar to states such as Idaho, Florida and Oklahoma, which it says are available in every classroom in the state.

A spokesman for the school system characterizes the boy’s offense as a “Level 3 violation,” which is the lowest level in their six-tier system that can trigger suspension.

Does this make any sense? We have all been sensitized to the glorification of gun violence, and the fact that immediate action is required if a student threatens another with violence of any sort is not in dispute. But when a second-grade child who has done nothing more that chew on a pastry and notice that it looked like a gun is suspended, with a presumably permanent negative mark on his record — to me that makes no sense at all.

Children have imaginations, and they love to play. Does anyone actually believe this child was intending to harm or even to threaten harm to anybody? I seriously doubt that even those who suspended him believe that. Since he intended no harm, did no harm, and didn’t even threaten anyone with harm, why was he punished? What actual offense is he guilty of?

To my mind this type of overreaction is far more dangerous than a 7-year-old’s imaginary gun. This child has been subjected to real trauma for doing nothing more than acting like a child. In a very real sense, he is the victim of child abuse by those whose job it is to protect him.

I wonder if the Anne Arundel school superintendent would like to be judged by the same standard. What would he say if some innocent action of his was said to run afoul of some invisible standard (I doubt the school has posted any rules against chewing pastry into the wrong shape), and he was thrown in jail for several days?

If that happened, I think he’d quickly see the point of the boy’s appeal.

– Ron Franklin