Reporting Gigi Barnett
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Zero tolerance for zero tolerance. That’s how one lawmaker feels about young children being suspended from school for forming their finger or food in the shape of a gun.
As Gigi Barnett explains, he has a bill designed to keep students in class if they’re caught.
State Senator J.B. Jennings says he does not intend for this bill to be a part of the growing gun debate in Maryland, but he does say he wants it to bring some common sense discipline to state schools.
Anne Arundel County school leaders suspended 7-year-old Joshua Welch last week for eating a pastry in the shape of a gun.
“When you compare the caliber of the offense to the caliber of the punishment, they don’t match up,” the boy’s father said.
Back in January, 6-year-old Rodney Lynch received the same punishment for forming his fingers in the shape of a gun. Montgomery County school leaders sent Lynch home for two days.
“These kids are 6 or 7 years old. They don’t understand what they’re doing,” said Sen. J.B. Jennings.
Jennings says zero tolerance rules on school campuses are going too far, so he wrote a bill. It bans school leaders from suspending students who make the shape of a gun with their fingers or food, or students who draw a gun on a piece of paper.
“If it’s done in a violent manner, then yes, we can take it to the next level. We can look at suspension,” said Jennings.
Jennings says his office has received several calls from parents who fear that a suspension in elementary school will mar their children’s academic career.
“So the parents are the one’s who’ve had concerns saying ‘OK, now my kid has to carry this.’ So when they get into middle school and they start placing them in classes, they’re going to look and say ‘Well wait a minute, this kid has been suspended when he was in second grade.’ And he’s always going to be looked at as ‘what did he do?’” Jennings said.
If the bill passes and a student is caught forming their food or fingers in the shape of a gun, they would be sent to a counselor’s office first–not suspension.
Jennings says the bill is heading to the Education Committee. If it passes, it goes to the full Senate for a vote.