Guns have no place in schools. I think that most of us can agree on that. Whether carried by staff or students, the likelihood of a tragic outcome is, I believe, fairly high. Even if the weapon is never fired, its presence alone is enough alter the atmosphere and have a negative impact on the ability of students to learn. And so we have zero-tolerance policies in place at schools across the country. But how “zero” should they be?
Certainly, toy guns that look real should not be allowed, nor should guns that are obviously toys, but are still the approximate size and shape of the real thing, in my opinion. But should a zero-tolerance policy include a two-inch hunk of plastic designed for use by a LEGO minifig? According to an elementary school in Staten Island, New York, the answer is a resounding yes. Nine-year-old Patrick Timoney was playing with his LEGOs in the school cafeteria when he was suddenly hauled off to the principal’s office. The reason? One of his LEGO minifigs — the little people that inhabit the LEGO world — was a policeman with a rifle.
“You don’t traumatize a child who loved to go to school,” said Patrick’s mother Laura, “who wanted to be early every day to school, you don’t make him cry, you don’t make him fill out statements. You don’t do it.” It turns out that Patrick’s father is a retired police officer; he was understandably upset as well, having dealt with people who used toy guns when committing crimes. This was not such a situation. In the end, the toy was confiscated by the principal, Patrick and his folks met with her, and that was the end of that.
But is it really the end? Will a child with a rolled-up poster be on the most-wanted list for carrying a replica of a bludgeon? I still have a scar on my arm from when my sister stabbed me with a pencil; are those next on the list of proscribed items? I’m certainly in favor of zero-tolerance towards weapons, even if they are toys, but there has to be some semblance of sanity applied or else we’ll end up clothing our kids in bubble wrap for the first 20 or 30 years of their life.