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First-Graders Suspended for Using Fingers as Guns While Playing

kid-finger-gun  First-Graders Suspended for Using Fingers as Guns While Playing kid finger gunTwo 6-year-old students were suspended Thursday from White Marsh Elementary School, according to one boy’s parents, for using their fingers as imaginary guns in what one parent calls a “childish game of cops and robbers in the school yard.” [2] The young Rodney told CBS Baltimore: ‘Just pointing your fingers like this and then she did the pow sound and I just went like that and then I got sent to the office again.’ [3] [6] Some believe gun play of any kind is not appropriate for school.  They say in today’s world it’s hard to tell how far is too far. [8]  Principal Marcia Sprankle’s decision to suspend the boys came a month after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which cost the lives of 26 people including 20 young children, and less than three weeks after another six-year-old boy in the state was suspended for making the same gesture. [3] One of the boy’s father, Army Staff Sergeant. Stephen Grafton, says the schools decision to suspend the boys crossed the line.  ‘They’re saying he threatened a student, threatened to shoot a student. He was playing,’ said Rodney’s father, Rodney Lynch Sr. [3] “This is easily the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard of.” [1]  Some parents on the Eastern Shore agree with him. [8]  This […] was by no means an offense that warranted a suspension. It was a pair of 6-year-olds playing with imaginary pistols. [1] [2] According to Grafton and Teri Bildstein, the child’s mother, their son was playing at recess with another child and they were using their hands as imaginary guns. Another student reported them to staffers, who called Principal Marcia Sprankle. Sprankle recommended the boys be suspended, said Bildstein. [1]

The biggest concern we have right now is the consistency in discipline practices: What deserves a note home? What deserves a phone call to a parent? If he is in trouble for something like this now, what does this bode for the rest of his education at this school?” Bildstein said. “These are situations he could learn from and this is a severe punishment for this age. I want to know what the school board considers appropriate behavior and the appropriate consequences for a child his age. [2]

finger-gun-kid-3  First-Graders Suspended for Using Fingers as Guns While Playing finger gun kid 3When Bildstein and Grafton questioned their son, he said, “I was just playing. I don’t understand …” [1]  Bildstein said she and Grafton have a meeting arranged with Sprankle and other school administrators to discuss a situation she says has escalated beyond what she thinks is healthy for her child. [1] This is her son’s second suspension in his first-grade year, the other suspension for something she said is equally difficult to understand. [1] “He’s so distressed at being sent home,” she said. “It affects his self-esteem and his performance. If you tell him he is bad over something like this, how can this be the best learning environment for him? All of the work he has done and the efforts he and his teacher have made are gone in a minute when he gets kicked out of school. It’s like saying, ‘We give up on you.'”  Grafton said he is just as mystified over the suspension. [1]

As a squad leader in the U.S. Army Airborne Infantry, a large portion of my job for the last 11 years has been instilling discipline in young men and developing them into professional paratroopers, men their families and country can be proud of,” he said. “While under no circumstances do I claim to be an expert in (school policy), I’d like to believe that the NCO’s and officers … imparted enough wisdom to me that I can do the same for the next generation. That being said, I take the gravest issue with the course of action which Talbot County Public Schools has taken.  [2]

white-marsh-hell-hole-schoo  First-Graders Suspended for Using Fingers as Guns While Playing white marsh hell hole schoo

The Talbot County Board of Education released a statement on the suspension saying:

It is frustrating for school systems because a complete explanation of events cannot be provided due to confidentiality  requirements under the federal educational rights and privacy act. [8]

White Marsh Elementary parent Julia Merchant agreed with Grafton that the boys’ punishment was an overreaction. [3] Bildstein said Sprankle called her and told her the suspension would be withdrawn and removed from her son’s record. But she said she felt like Sprankle’s action was more of a placating olive branch rather than the school saying they found no fault with her son. [1] “I’m not trying to make this a gun thing it takes away from the point,” she said. “I understand (the administrators) are being sensitive to the circumstances. But these are children. They were playing at a game at recess and being kids …” [1]

Grafton drove home his own point: “If anything, this was a teaching point, an opportunity to discuss with the boys and the remainder of the class the importance of not shooting at one another,” he said. “Instead, the boys were removed from the playground and their parents instructed to immediately pick them up and any teaching opportunity was lost, an action which I interpret as either not having the ability to address the situation or not having the desire to. Neither of these are acceptable answers.”

kid-finger-gun-2  First-Graders Suspended for Using Fingers as Guns While Playing kid finger gun 2

The suspension in Talbot County comes on the heels of another Maryland student, also 6 years old, who was suspended from Roscoe R. Nix Elementary School in Silver Spring. This child was removed from his school for one day for aiming his finger at another student and saying “Pow.” The student’s parents hired an attorney, and the school reversed the suspension decision and removed it from his school record. [1] The decision to suspend the White Marsh first-graders also comes in the midst of a Maryland school board effort to alter disciplinary policies statewide so fewer students are suspended. The Talbot County Board of Education voted in November to oppose the proposed changes to the state’s discipline regulations, with local officials’ noting concerns about several changes, including language that would prohibit “disciplinary policies that trigger automatic discipline without the use of discretion.” [1]

[1] Jennifer Allard, White Marsh Elementary first-graders suspended for using fingers as guns while playing, My Eastern Shore MD, Sunday, January 13, 2013 12:22 pm
[2] White Marsh Elementary first-grader suspended for using fingers as guns while playing, The Star Democrat, Saturday, January 12, 2013 3:00 pm
[3] Helen Pow, Dad’s outrage as son, 6, and friend are suspended for making imaginary guns with their FINGERS, DailyMail, 18:44 GMT, 16 January 2013
[5] Michael Walsh, First-graders reportedly suspended for using fingers as ‘guns’ while playing cops and robbers, New York Daily News, Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 3:13 PM
[6] 2 Md. 6-Year-Olds Suspended For Pointing Fingers Like Guns, CBS Local, January 14, 2013 10:58 PM
[7] Mayra Cuevas, 10-year-old suspended for making fingers into shape of gun, CNN, 9:26 PM ET, Tue March 4, 2014
[10] Yamiche Alcindor, Schools sensitive to guns target child’s play, USA Today, 4:27 p.m. EST March 6, 2013
[11] RICH LOWRY, The Littlest Perps, National Review, March 12, 2013 1:00 AM
[12] Boys Suspended For Playing Cops And Robbers At Recess, Inquisitr,  January 16, 2013
[13] Two Six-Year Old Students Suspended for Pretend Gun Gesture, WTVY, Tue 7:17 AM, Jan 15, 2013
[14] Michael Rubinkam, Kids’ Suspensions Renew Debate Over Zero Tolerance, NBC Washington, Monday Feb 18 2013
[15] Cheryl K. Chumley, Zero-tolerance policies in schools face backlash in wake of gun violence, The Washington Times, Monday, February 18, 2013

About Bill Wallace

Bill Wallace is a self-fashioned writter, a computer programmer and cybermarketer from Quebec City, Canada who decided to enter the political arena after his disillusionment with the socialist system under which he was living in the French Canadian province of Quebec.

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