The crimes of children

The crimes of children January 10, 2013

A six-year-old was suspended from the first grade in a D.C. suburb for pointing his finger like a gun and saying “pow.”  Alexandra Petri reflects on other crimes committed by children:

What about all the kids who get away, every year, with spreading “cooties”? Clearly, this is a threat of biological warfare. They should be expelled — then quarantined.

What about all the kids who climb into boxes and announce that they are rocket ships? This violates lots of building codes, and those crafts are clearly not spaceworthy.

What about the kids who simulate car crashes with their plastic cars? Cars are far deadlier weapons than finger-guns, and you need a license to drive them. Where are their licenses?

Do you know the number of innocent cruise ships, liners, and rubber ducks sunk by careless six-year-old children daily? It makes the regime of Pol Pot pale by comparison.

Hide and seek? Sounds Nazi.

What about all the kids who build block towers? Surely that’s a violation both of union rules and safety codes. Where are their helmets? Why aren’t they being compensated? How dare they do it on weekends?

What about all the children, six and older, who create Monopolies, control large swaths of Boardwalk, and charge onerous rates to hotel visitors?

Play doctor? That’s definitely malpractice. Ring around the rosy? That’s a reference to bubonic plague, which should not be taken so lightly.

Look at all the countless Operations performed by six-year-old kids in which the patient is carelessly left to die, nose flaring red. How can we stand by and allow this to happen?

Every day, children go rampaging through imaginary cities. Their tea parties are strafed by rogue dinosaurs, riding in bombers. In the middle of Very Important Telephone Calls From Hospitals or the president, they get bored and walk away. They create monarchies and destroy them. They bury teddy bears alive in exploding volcanoes. They strand endangered species in the middle of lagoons, take Furbies prisoner, and subject stuffed rabbits to unspeakable head traumas. They create multi-car pileups. Then, after arrogating such arbitrary power to themselves, they have the gall to go take naps.

via 6-year-old boy suspended for pointing finger like a gun got off easy.

Can you think of other heinous crimes that little kids are getting away with?

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  • Holy idiot complex, Batman!

    I’ve seen this firsthand as a teacher, and it’s embarrassing to see other teachers and school staff overreact to things like this. We had a kid come in once wearing a belt buckle with a pair of single action six shooters engraved in the buckle, and the kid was forced to lose the belt.

    Some people have too much time on their hands…

  • I think it’s terrible how we endanger our children.

    Safety first. Safety always. Ahead of liberty, the pursuit of happiness, or life.

    Can you believe that we still let children walk around without ‘walking helmets’? If I child were to slip and fall it could be catastrophic.

  • SKPeterson

    I remember all the boys who brought their brand new, shiny bb guns, or set of six-shooter cap pistols, or G.I. Joe action figures for show-and-tell. The teachers would smile politely and then confiscate the weaponry until after school. This was not so much for concerns for violence, but rather that boys playing with bb guns at school tended to get mud in them, leave them outside, and generally frustrate parents with the abuse heaped upon them. And cap guns had a tendency to suddenly “misfire,” so the offending ammunition was sequestered until Mom showed up at the end of the day.

    My absolute favorite though was in Mrs. Trometer’s Kindergarten class at Washington Elementary School in Sioux City, Iowa, when my friend Troy brought a large plastic trash bag, so large in fact that even a small child could be safely (okay maybe not safely) ensconced inside, and then proceeded to reach in a pull out…. a plastic ring he had won from the gumball machine the prior evening. Of course hilarity ensued as the sheer ridiculousness of the disparity between package and package was realized. We received greater condemnation from Mrs. Trometer for our derisive howls and hoots of laughter than we would have if we had suddenly engaged in a spontaneous bout of cowboys and indians during nap time.

  • Joe

    Zero tolerance policy remove the ability of school staff to actually think and react to different incidents with appropriate responses or (as in this case) non-responses. Not having to deal with this idiocy is one of the blessings of home-schooling.

  • WebMonk

    I would be interested to know how much of the reaction was initiated by a teacher on his own initiative, and how much it may have been a requirement of policies set in place by the school board, or principal, or school lawyer.

    Not that it is any less idiotic, but it does make it more explainable if it came from a committee (IQ drops with multiple people making decisions) or a lawyer (not familiar with school reality and trying to cover legal asses by using a super strict interpretation of regulations).

  • helen

    So, to “protect” these little ones, we incarcerate them in desks all day, sometimes omit recess (and often forbid running on the playground if they have it); give them 20 minutes to eat a gov’t prescribed lunch (the prescribers probably wouldn’t touch themselves), then back to prison (the desks).

    Then teachers wonder why so many of them are fidgety and demand that they be put on drugs to make them quiescent!

    And note that most “kids” have a 12-14 hour “work day” (counting travel time and the “makework” that is sent home) although those hours were considered inhumane about a century ago. Half the disciplinary problems in school would be solved by enough sleep and a decent breakfast.

  • DonS

    When I was a kid we played on metal “jungle gyms” on blacktop playgrounds. They took those away, now they take away finger guns? What’s next?

    Seriously, what boy of age 6 doesn’t use a finger gun? As Joe said above, “zero tolerance” policies result in moronic outcomes and are an insult to the school administration, and its ability to govern intelligently, the students, and parents. They’re bad enough in high school, but such policies have no place whatsoever in elementary school. Our society has seemingly lost all semblance of common sense and the concept of a measured and thoughtful response.

  • WebMonk

    Helen, I don’t think you have the foggiest idea of what school is like these days. Maybe that’s what school was like for you who knows how long ago, but what you wrote has as much similarity to the typical 21st century class as Moby Dick has to modern whaling.

    – Most classes for the earlier elementary levels do not have desks in rows, but are rather gathered around activity centers and rotate topics every twenty minutes.
    – There are multiple “recess” times, but they are shorter and tend to have structured activities in them, often with the goal being physical exercise.
    – Mystery Meat lunches are mostly gone, and instead there is a strong emphasis on healthy foods being provided.
    – Kids get on the bus around 7:30-ish and are back home by 3:00-ish (special activities varying) and there is rarely more than a half-hour of homework each day for elementary students.

    I think you might be 20/30/40/50 years out of step with the typical practice in schools these days. I can’t think of a single thing you said that accurately describes the typical elementary school experience, especially at the younger levels.

  • tODD

    Oh people do love to be outraged. And sometimes, it’s warranted. But usually not.

    Look, it’s not like we know the full facts here, nor will we, nor should we. So already, a lot of caution is recommended in how you respond to the scarce details available. Here’s the parents’ take, from the opening paragraph:

    The parents of a 6-year-old Silver Spring boy are fighting the first-grader’s suspension from a Montgomery County public school for pointing his finger like a gun and saying “pow,” an incident school officials characterized in a disciplinary letter as a threat “to shoot a student.”

    And here’s the school’s response, which is necessarily and appropriately short on facts:

    Montgomery schools spokesman Dana Tofig said he could not discuss individual students for privacy reasons. But in a written statement, Tofig said the suspension “was not a kneejerk reaction to a single incident.”

    So the family appears to be claiming this is all about the kid saying “pow” once, but the school appears to be saying that the kid repeatedly threatened to shoot his fellow students.

    I think we can all agree that, even if suspension may not have been necessarily required by that latter interpretation, it wouldn’t exactly have been shocking, either. I think it’s also understandable that the two parties have staked out this position. Either it was a completely ridiculous, unwarranted reaction, or it was perfectly justified.

    But, again, no one here really knows the facts, do they? So, of course, as we are prone to do, we fill in the gaps with our predisposed biases. And, not surprisingly for this blog, those tend towards opposing the government.

  • tODD

    And sure, I think zero-tolerance policies are probably not the best idea. But I am sympathetic to the idea. I don’t think — as some here are prone to do — that they’re merely the result of administrators being lazy. Rather, they make the rules very clear so that parents and students know where the (exceedingly bright, rigid) line is.

    Yes, I think relying on the judgment of an administrator is likely to produce better outcomes — at least, if one assumes a competent administrator. But such an approach is also likely hard to defend against litigation. Which, I would suggest, is closer to the real problem.

    I mean, if you have a policy that spells out very clearly what the rules are, and you follow it to the letter, then you’re likely to win any lawsuits that come your way. Or at least most of them.

    Sure, you’ll have a few over-reaches like this one, but there’s a reason this sort of thing is in the news, you know: it’s rare, and it’s shocking. I’d bet that there are probably more actual school shootings than there are instances of kids getting suspensions for saying “pow” on the playground. Which seems telling.

    But you can imagine the headaches that would be engendered when a student is suspended for something that is merely considered “inappropriate” by an administrator, without transgressing any specific written policy.

    Ultimately, I just think this is the way our society is headed. We used to trust people to use their judgment. Now we spell everything out.

    As a last note, I will point out the irony that it is two lawyers on this thread who seem to complain the most about a culture that feels it has to spell everything out in rules and regulations.

  • tODD

    Also, while I realize the article, or at least the part Veith quoted, is dripping with sarcasm, I take issue with this part, which appears to be, as such, serious:

    Ring around the rosy? That’s a reference to bubonic plague, which should not be taken so lightly.

    Sorry, no. [1][2] Just wanted to quash that myth.


  • Are you guys kidding me? Didn’t you see Disney’s “Black Beards Ghost”? Finger guns are dangerous weapons and can cause serious damage. It’s a good thing the teacher intervened.

    Seriously though, I remember when I was in junior high, we had archery lessons on the play ground during PE. Do they still do that today? It’s a real shame if they don’t. That may have been the most fun I ever had during a class.

    As for the crimes of children, I remember when my sister was 2 she would hold her baby doll lovingly petting its head and then suddenly throw it down on the ground and walk away. That can’t be good parenting.

    I myself was in a constant battle with a myriad of invisible minions and assigns. Fortunately I had no shortage of arms, everything was a gun, or a sword or something else that explodes.

    A couple of years ago I came across a booklet that my 1st grade teacher put together for parents which contained various projects she had given our class to do. The projects were meant to demonstrate our development in reading, math and art (among other things). As I was reading in the math section I saw several kids had come up with word equations involving fruit and vegetables or bicycles and soda cans (i.e. I had 2 dollars, I bought 1 orange for 1 dollar now I have 1 dollar). Mine was unique. It read something like:

    “I had $5. I bought a gun for $2 and have $3 to buy more bullets.”

    I guess its amazing that I didn’t get arrested.

    Lastly I realize that my daughter has like 5 or 6 baby dolls. she has a couple of favorites and the rest lie in the bottom of a bucket for days on end with no one paying them any mind. Perhaps it is cruel of me and my wife to entrust the care of these helpless dolls to a 15 month old but they don’t complain.

  • Todd, you’re definitely right about the lack of details in the story. It is true that “pow” coming from one kid might be cute where as from another it might be alarming. Even so, I have long held a personal grudge against the public school I went to so I have a hard time being sympathetic and rather enjoy being outraged. Not saying that is the right attitude but its not like they ever cared anyway. Still, all things considered, it sounds like I had a much better experience than this kid is having.

  • Mary Jack

    A friend of mine took her little girl to story time at a library where a toy gun aimed its laser scope to the middle of her little girl’s forehead. I miss the simple finger and “pow.”

  • Michael H.

    Believe it or not, a daycare near where I live requires toddlers to wear helmets while riding tricycles, and goggles while playing in the sandbox. This was necessary to get a better rating as a daycare….