Guns don’t belong in schools — that’s a given. But what about a gun that shoots bubbles instead of bullets? That’s nothing more than a harmless toy, right?
Um, not quite. A 5-year-old girl in Colorado took her toy bubble gun to school and ended up getting suspended.
"The bringing of weapons, real or facsimile, to our schools by students can not only create a potential safety concern but also cause a distraction for our students in the learning process," wrote Southeast Elementary School in a statement, adding that while it understood the concerns of the child's mom, Emma (it’s a 5-year-old with a toy), the suspension is consistent with its district policy, and other students have received one-day suspensions for carrying similar items, like Nerf guns.
It’s not the first time a school has freaked out over a bubble gun. In 2013, a 5-year-old girl in Mount Carmel who reportedly told a classmate she was going to shoot them both with her Hello Kitty bubble gun was suspended for 10 days for "making terrorist threats." She didn't even have the toy on her at the time.
In 2013, 7-year-old Maryland student Josh Welch chewed his Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun and pointed it at some classmates. He was suspended for two days. In 2014, a 10-year-old boy was suspended from school in Ohio for holding a finger gun to a classmate's head and shouting, "Boom!" (Yes — that's a gun made from a finger and a thumb.)
Of course schools should have a zero-tolerance policy against weapons of any kind. But bubble guns (Hello Kitty or otherwise), Pop-Tarts and fingers are not weapons. Sure, don't allow toy guns on school grounds. Discourage kids from fashioning imitation guns out of their snacks and fingers. But suspending a kid who has absolutely no intention of causing harm sends the wrong message.
By freaking out about all of the above, we risk diluting the message we should be sending our kids — that guns, real guns, are potentially extremely dangerous. They need to know the difference between a toy and a gun, and schools do too.
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