Judge Upholds Boy’s Suspension Over Pop-Tart Gun
Zero tolerance wins in court.
You may remember a story we wrote about back in 2013 which detailed the school suspension of a 7 year old boy for biting a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun. We also covered his first appeal, which he lost.
Now a judge has upheld the suspension. Reason reports:
Judge Upholds Suspension of the Pop-Tart Gun Kid
Remember the Pop-Tart gun kid? He was 7 years old when he was suspended for chewing his breakfast (not actually a Pop-Tart, as it turned out) into the shape of a weapon and pretending to fire it at his classmates. Now he’s 11, and Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Ronald A. Silkworth just upheld his suspension.
In the end, the case hinged on whether the pastry incident was, in fact, the last straw in a long line of disciplinary problems. The Maryland school says yes; the parents say at the time of the suspension they were told that the two day suspension was a direct result of the deployment of food weaponry and that no other incidents were mentioned.
The story got national attention. The Florida legislature even passed a bill specifically protecting the act of “brandishing a partially consumed pastry or other food item to simulate a firearm or weapon.”
Last year the Maryland State Board of Education backed the school’s narrative, finding that: “The student in this case had a long history of behavioral problems that were the subject of progressive intervention by the school. He created a classroom disruption on March 1, 2013, which resulted in a suspension that was justified based on the incident in question and the student’s history.”
Here’s a clip from FOX News in 2013 which explains the back story:
Of course, there was one upside to this story. The Washington Times reported in 2014:
NRA gives lifetime membership to boy suspended for Pop-Tart gun
The 8-year-old Baltimore boy who was suspended for chewing his Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun was awarded a lifetime membership with the National Rifle Association Wednesday night.
At a fundraiser for Anne Arundel County Republicans, House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke presented Josh Welch with the $500 membership during a tongue-in-cheek presentation that involved a Pop-Tart fashioned into pistol and gun safety tips, The Baltimore Sun reports.
Josh, who suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, was suspended from Park Elementary School in March after he ate his breakfast pastry into something that administrators thought resembled a gun.
“It was already a rectangle, and I just kept on biting it and biting it and tore off the top and it kinda looked like a gun but it wasn’t,” he told Fox Baltimore at the time of the suspension. “All I was trying to do was turn it into a mountain.”
But now the little boy has become an icon among gun rights activists, even receiving a standing ovation at Wednesday’s conference.
It’s amazing that this ever became a national news story in the first place.
Our zero tolerance policies make educators look really dumb.
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The “long line” of disciplinary issues certainly adds an interesting twist to the full story. It still seems like harsh punishment for shaping a piece of food, though.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, maybe this wasn’t really a crime, but he has a criminal record, so you should convict him anyway.”
I wonder if Aleister read this: http://marylandpublicschools.org/MSDE/stateboard/legalopinions/2010/docs/B.J.andKimberlyW.Opin.No.15-08.pdf
I wonder if anyone read the first ruling…
We should hold the administrators to their OWN zero tolerance rules for ineptness.
OK. I clicked on the Reason link, and I shall quote.
“And, at least according to the state review board decision, the kid’s behavior log looks pretty clear—this wasn’t the first incident where he disrupted the classroom, and his parents knew that.”
This is not a zero tolerance case, this never was, and I resent my sympathy being played with by the parents. The entire premise of it being a zero tolerance case is that there was only one incident. As this is not the case, my sympathy spigot is officially turned off.
But the way the state review board words it, it sounds like the school maliciously targeted the boy because he had caused problems in the past. They used his disciplinary history as an excuse to punish him for this innocuous incident.
It makes me wonder if the school would have acted so foolishly if another child, with no history of disruptions, had done the exact same thing.
Are you arguing with a straight face that as a matter of law, a school should not consider the disciplinary history of a student when rendering judgment? It’s a school, not criminal court.
I gave this family a lot of sympathy two years ago. I feel like a fool.
Did you not read the rest of the article? Yes, the kid had a long history of genuine incidents, for which he could (and perhaps should) have been suspended; but he wasn’t suspended for those incidents, he was suspended for this one, in which he did nothing wrong. It’s perfectly reasonable for a straw to break the back of an already-overburdened camel, but it’s not reasonable for an imaginary straw to do the same. The school didn’t just overreact, which requires that there be some level of appropriate reaction that it vastly exceeded; the appropriate reaction to the pastry incident was nothing. The teacher should have said “that’s interesting” and moved on; instead the school treated it as if he’d been brandishing a weapon, because of its “zero tolerance” policy. If they were looking for an excuse to get rid of him, that’s fine, but they should have waited for a genuine excuse, not this.
And as the article points out, if this were the only such incident of a school’s “zero tolerance” policy producing an absurdly unjust result, the nationwide reaction to the news would have been grossly overdone. At the end of the day this was not a good kid, and he needed some discipline. But considering the long line of such incidents from schools with the same insane policy, the reaction seems more appropriate. We should have zero tolerance for “zero tolerance”.
“Our zero tolerance policies make educators look really dumb.”
Good one. They look dumb because they are dumb. “Education” majors on campus take the least challenging course of “study.”
What particularly cracks me up are all these PhDs running around colleges, and, because the PhD has become so watered-down, increasingly even in high schools, who insist that you address them as “Doctors.” Then you find out their so-called doctorate is in “education” or some other just foolish touchy-feely area (e.g., in any area that ends in “[fill-in-the-blank] Studies”).
Umm no…that would belong to gender and race studies majors as well as some disciplines of communications majors.
And to think that despite having my own doctorate in Chemistry (awarded to me in 1982), these metal midgets in education look down their noses at me for being poorly educated and possessing no opinion of any value.
When I inquired about the possibility of teaching high school chemistry upon my retirement from research, I was told that, despite teaching college for 30+ years and teaching HazMat to firemen for 20+ years (and always receiving very high marks from my students in both cohorts), I would need to go back to college for 3-4 years and earn a teaching certificate. It seems that I cannot teach high school no matter what my qualifications are if I do not have their secret sauce in my resume. Such undeserved arrogance!
Evidently, it takes two to three years to convert an intelligent person into one of them.
If there was “long line of disciplinary problems,” then the child should have been punished or suspended for his real transgressions.
What I think is that probably the teacher was fed up with the student’s “long line of disciplinary problems” and lost it over a tiny non-issue.
She (or he, or they) lost control over this non-issue and made a storm in a glass of water. This was a non incident and should have been ignored.
I can’t swallow the “disrupted the class” nonsense. It doesn’t appear to me that they kids were “in class” but having breakfast, right?
What do they expect? Do they want children to stop being children? Well, we know the answer. Our public schools are a shameful disgrace.
Public schools are run mostly by incompetent morons more interested in politics than in real education, and they are controlled by unionized parasites that want to exploit the taxpayer’s coffer without giving enough in return.
Now apparently, the courts are supporting this charade too.
Exactly. The kid probably did need to be suspended, but over a real incident, however minor; not this. By making it over this non-incident the school put itself in the wrong. There’s a huge difference between throwing the book at someone for a minor infraction that comes at the end of a long record, and doing so for no reason at all. Consider “three strikes” laws. Sometimes the third strike is something quite minor, and the sentence appears unjust, but when you consider that it’s really for the long history of crime it appears more reasonable. But what would we think of someone being sentenced to life for a “third (or twentieth) strike” that was not a crime at all?
He should have attached some wires and displayed it in a pencil case.
Generally, parents with children in monopoly public schools are committing child abuse.
I don’t call them “public” schools anymore. I call them government schools, which frequently makes people do a double take and actually reflect.
Actually, it is the government committing the abuse. Sometimes parents don’t have much choice.
If parents were allowed to receive a voucher and place their kids in the school of their choice, that would be a different story. But of course, educrats, unions thugs and progressive thugs would never, ever allow a voucher program.
Parents have choices. They can choose to homeschool or to send their children to private schools. They can choose their financial priorities. They can choose whether or not to wait for politicians to create voucher programs. They can choose to help other parents who have fewer resources.
5 “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. 6 He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”
Maybe you and I live in different worlds, or in different galaxies.
In the galaxy and world where I live, not all private schools are good enough. And the ones that are good enough are usually expensive enough too.
In this world, not every family can afford to pay those prices, and not every family has, realistically, the possibility of home schooling their kids.
Truth is, the government taxes the blood out of our veins, but will help pay for our children’s education only if we agree to send them to “their” schools.
That, my friend, is wrong. And it has nothing to do with “financial priorities”.
Exiliado, Thanks for responding.
First, you are absolutely correct that forcing indoctrination and incompetence on our children using our own money is despicable and must end. The “common school” was originally instituted by the Protestant and Humanist elite to indoctrinate the children of Irish Catholic immigrants, using the latter’s taxes. Now the leftists are in charge. This is against the founding principles of this country. We should do everything in our power to get government out of the education business.
However, we don’t live in a world where that has happened, and we should not use that fact as an excuse to do nothing. And that has everything to do with financial priorities.
Those who can afford to homeschool or send their children to a good private school should do so. Those who don’t have children should contribute to scholarship funds for those who do.
It is my belief that any church which is not either running or supporting a school is failing its members. And a pastor who is not warning his flock that they are placing their children under the power of a different religion is failing them.
Finally, many people believe that a side effect of vouchers would be to give government power over private schools as well as government schools. Look at the results of federal funding for higher education under the Obama administration. Hillsdale College is rightly proud of its refusal to accept federal funds.
One of the annoying rules of life is that in many cases, you can pay now – or you can _pay_ later.
Why didn’t it get him a visit to the White House?
It would have, if he’d chewed it into the shape of a radio.
Or if his name was Mohammad.
It makes the legal system look pretty dumb too, giving some illustrative meaning to the expression, “the law is an ass.”
I’ll have to side with the judge on this one. After all, that pop-tart was BITTEN into that horrible aggressive shape by the miscreant’s own teeth! How savage. And, if you examine the evidence carefully, you can tell that not only is the innocent pastry formed into a horrible bullet-spewing machine of death, but an ASSAULT weapon, fully-automatic and most likely an AR-15 of some sort, able to hold a giant clip of fruit-based ammunition and a bayonet launcher, too. It’s a good thing the school caught this malcontent before he advanced to fruit-based weaponry, or even (gasp) political satire.
Josh should have chewed his Pop-Tart into the shape of a “clock”. He would have gotten a invite to the White House!
“Zero tolerance policies make educators look really dumb”
The judge looks pretty dumb.
Pop tart = weapon of war
First impression. So if a child has a history of “behavioral problems”, he can be suspended if he sneezes in class?
Second. What is this history of “behavioral problems”? Playing cowboys and indians at recess?
Did you read the article? His record included punching another kid in the nose. He should have been suspended for that.
Rebelling against the jackasses?
“Our zero tolerance policies make educators look really dumb.”
Not to mention judges and school boards.
My Brother-in-law’s boy was suspended from school for drawing a picture of a bomb.
For the entire remainder of the year.
My Brother-in-law was advised not to file suit as things had the potential to get worse.
He had to change his work and home school the boy, who is now introverted and obviously no longer comfortable at any time he is away from home.
When I was his age, I wasn’t drawing bombs, I was actually making firecrackers…
Yes, it sounds a bit dangerous, however, it was supervised. And I can make some dandy’s.
But, that is aside.
This PC climate directly affected this young man’s development, and I can only hope he can overcome the set-back.
I find it impossible to respect the view of this Judge, especially in light of the boy’s very young age and taking into account all the exposure to violence that is likely available to him, even on the nightly news…much less video games and what-all…
How can you possibly hold anything against the young fellow? A pop-tart pistol????
It is just nuts.
How about all the other things the kid did? Did he not deserve suspension for that long string of offenses? This was not a good kid. But this non-incident should not have been the trigger for the punishment that was long due him.
I think the much repeated line that sending children to a public school is child abuse is defeatist. Public schools are a cultural battleground that conservatives cannot retreat from. It’s also a winning issue because even though many people are liberal on abstract issues, on issues that affect them and their family they tend to be conservative. And school reform is a local, state, and national issue which means you can have an impact wherever you are.
And if you think the situation is hopeless, take a look at some places that incorporated into a new city and created their own school system. Kids in Beverly Hills don’t go to LA Unified, they go to their own school district that the parents there control. Thats an old one but there are many new ones too. The better they do, the more people will consider it as an alternative for their towns. Good schools also have a big impact on property prices.
The alternative, ceding the schools to the left doesn’t solve anything since you’ll still be taxed to fund them and called heartless if you don’t. And each generation that goes through will be one more generation that doesn’t know American & European history, the constitution, the true story of communism, etc.