Parody is now reality when it comes to guns in public schools. In the name of preventing violence since the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., last December, schools across the country are suspending students for bringing toy guns to school, making gestures that look like guns and in one absurd case in Maryland, suspending a student for biting a toaster pastry into the shape of a gun. I can picture the documentary now: “An Inconvenient Pop-Tart.”The latest incident involves a sixth grader in Calvert County, Md., who was suspended for making a gun gesture while on a bus heading to school. According to The Washington Post, Carin Read, the mother of the 11-year-old student, filed an appeal of the suspension last week, following a principal denying her request to remove the incident from his school records. This follows an episode in May in another Calvert County school where a 5-year-old boy was interrogated for two hours — without his parents first being notified — for bringing a toy cap gun to school and suspended for 10 days, although the suspension was later lifted.In another incident in Prince William County, Va., last February, an 8-year-old boy pointed his finger like a gun at a classmate after his friend pretended to shoot him with a bow and arrow. The interchange followed a lesson on Native American culture and the class learning a song about deer hunting, according to reports. He was suspended for “threatening to harm self or others” – a punishment also reserved for bringing a weapon to school.Similar incidents have been reported in New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.In none of the incidents outlined above did the students who were punished pose a danger to their classmates or teachers. And in the Prince William County case, the student was role playing what he learned in a school lesson, showing the hypocrisy of a school policy that punishes elementary school students for re-enacting its own curriculum. Would the school also suspend students for practicing “Hamlet” or “West Side Story” off stage?Like forcing air travelers to remove their shoes in airport security lines, the zero-tolerance gun policies make no one safer, but cause a lot of harm. Chief among the casualties are the children charged with crimes they didn’t commit and labeled in their school records as troublemakers. They also teach all children subject to the rules that the law is arbitrary – a terrible lesson for a generation who will soon be entrusted with upholding and respecting the rule of law as adults. Children understand the concept of fairness well before they start school, so these rules will only grate at their sense of justice – at the same time indoctrinating them into a world where punishment does not fit the crime nor does the crime even deserve punishment.Back to the issue of safety: The common thread of the mass shootings in Newtown, Aurora, Colo., Tucson, Ariz., and Virginia Tech is mental illness. Unfortunately, however, as David Kopel wrote in The Wall Street Journal in December, “In the mid-1960s, many of the killings would have been prevented because the severely mentally ill would have been confined and cared for in a state institution. But today, while government at most every level has bloated over the past half-century, mental-health treatment has been decimated.”Mr. Kopel, research director of the Independence Institute in Colorado and co-author of the law school textbook, “Firearms Law and the Second Amendment,” advocates higher funding for mental health and strong civil commitment laws for the mentally ill who are violent.That makes much more sense than punishing children for being children and perpetuating the myth that zero-tolerance policies save lives and prevent violence.Marta H. Mossburg is an independent columnist. Follow her on Twitter at @mmossburg.
Since when is a toaster pastry a deadly weapon?
- MARK HEINIG: Will 'virtual schools' enrich or replace traditional education? When Hoo siers my age recall the school consolida tion struggle of the mid-20th century, we could say, "Been there, done that!" Until recently, I considered that battle finished. Maybe the interest in school consolidation is reviving. Does school co
House of Burgess: Like déjà vu all over again
A historic photo seared into my brain at an early age came back to me this week. It was taken May 28, 1963, in Jackson, Miss., by photographer Fred Blackwell of The Jackson Daily News. “Those are the bravest people I’ve ever seen in my life,” Blackwell told The Associated Press on June 2, 2013. “What they went through ... pictures don’t tell the story.”
- TOM LoBIANCO: Money pledge exposed in Indiana gay marriage fight A former Repub li can Party chairman's pledge to provide campaign cash to protect House members who were considering voting against a constitu tional gay marriage ban offers a rare look at the private power game that plays out on tough issues at the
- MAUREEN HAYDEN: Lugar's legacy: Cooperation to save the world In October 2012, at a dinner with friends, I found myself sitting next to woman who'd grown up in Russia. Finding out I was a reporter, she demanded to know why Indiana Republicans had months earlier cast aside longtime U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar. She c
- BILL STANCZYKIEWICZ: Poverty, inequality and opportunity in the Hoosier State New national research reveals America is still a land of opportunity, but many Indiana communities rank poorly in fostering upward economic mobility for children and youth. According to Harvard University's Equality of Opportunity Project, despite a
- CECIL BOHANON: Think carefully: Is health care a right? As a former cig arette smoker, I have a nightmare. Somewhere down the road I get a diagnosis of lung cancer. The doctor tells me the the cancer is treatable, the pros pects for a full recovery are better than 60 percent and the costs of the treatment
- BRIAN HOWEY: Bipartisan lessons from Sam Nunn, Dick Lugar There will never be a movie about the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. Leonard Nimoy will not play Dick Lugar. The reason is that over the course of the program that has been in place for two decades, arguably one of the greatest legi
- DICK WOLFSIE: Bacon, bacon, bacon Why do I write so many columns poking fun at maga zines? I have skewered Handyman magazine, Storage Solutions and Muscle Fitness, to name a few. This is because each month when I go to refill my cholesterol medicines at the pharmacy, I have to walk p
- ED VASICEK: Tylenol, attention deficit and alternative lifestyles Today's column deals with reversals in two completely unrelated realms: medicine and moral/social values. Let's begin with medicine. I take a baby aspirin every day as a blood thinner, which means I can no longer take aspirin or ibuprofen when I have
- MICHAEL HICKS: Assortive mating and income It is fair to conclude this double trilogy on income inequality with a brief review of some of the new research on the future of social mobility. I warn you, gentle reader, this topic might be unnerving. A century ago, most Americans married young. T
- More Columns Headlines