Reports of overzealous enforcement of "zero tolerance" policies in our nation's public schools have become extraordinarily commonplace. This week's outrage, however, is remarkable for its severity.
According to a recent Washington Post article, the target of the Calvert County, Maryland school system's wrath is a 5-year-old, who is "all bugs and frogs and cowboys," according to his mother. The little boy brought a cowboy-style, orange-safety-tipped toy cap gun onto his school bus to show to his friend, who had allegedly brought a water gun on the bus a day earlier. As a result, the kindergartner was questioned by school officials for more than two hours before his mother was called.
According to the Post article, a major concern of the family is, obviously, the long period the 5-year-old was questioned without parental guidance or support. How long does it take to ask a 5-year-old a few questions? His sister--a first-grader--was also questioned.
"The school was quite obviously taking it very seriously, and he's 5 years old," she said. "Why were we not immediately contacted?"
The boy was also threatened with a 10-day suspension--which would keep him out of classes the rest of the school year--and the prospect of the matter becoming a part of the his permanent school record.
The mother, who is a high school teacher in the county and strongly supports the school system, said the principal told her that if the cap gun had been loaded with caps, it would have been deemed an explosive and police would have been called in.
"I have no problem that he had a consequence to his behavior," said the mother. "What I have a problem with is the severity."
Everyone should have a problem with that.
As we have repeatedly noted, all of us agree that we want our children to be safe at school, and that reasonable safety measures should be followed. But this continued unreasonable, zero-common-sense enforcement of "zero tolerance" policies not only encroaches on our freedom, but, in this case and many others, places an extreme and unfair burden on innocent children and their families.