American Elephants


Paranoia Persists: Pointing Fingers and Saying “Pow” Gets Suspension by The Elephant's Child

This last month, a six-year-old boy in Silver Spring, MD was suspended from a Montgomery County public school for pointing his finger like a gun and saying “pow.” This was an incident that school officials characterized in a disciplinary letter as a threat to “shoot a student.” Oh please.

I’ve done that, haven’t you? I have also fired weapons and know the difference. I’m a real dead-eye when it comes to woodrats.

The first-grader was suspended for one day. The family found it necessary to hire an attorney, asking that the incident be expunged from the child’s school record amid concerns about potential long-term fallout. (Smart parents, but this is the most alarming point about the whole incident).  Attorney Robin Ficker said:

The boy had no intention to shoot anyone. He is skinny and meek, In his words, he was playing. She described the child as soft-spoken.

Of course he had no intention to shoot anyone. A finger is not an assault weapon.  But similar incidents have taken place in Oklahoma and elsewhere. I don’t think I was ever instructed in how to align my fingers to represent a pistol. It comes pretty naturally. Also note water-pistols, cap-pistols, NERF guns and carbide cannons.

The child’s parents received a letter from an assistant principal saying that their son “threatened to shoot a student” and that he had been spoken to earlier about similar behavior. A counselor “had an extended conversation” with the child to emphasize “the inappropriateness of using objects to make shooting gestures,” and an assistant principal had talked to the boy about the “seriousness” of the issue, the letter said.

“Yet, after the meeting with the counselor and assistant principal [the boy] chose to point his finger at a female classmate and say “Pow,” wrote the school system’s attorney. OMG. Call the cops, send him right to juvenile detention. What is the matter with these people?

In the meantime, there seems to be a little common sense at the Maryland State Board of Education which is preparing for a final vote on a proposed regulation that would transform the use of out-of-school suspension for minor offenses. [Please define minor]. The new regulation ban zero-tolerance approach and require school systems to “adopt a rehabilitative philosophy toward discipline, with the goal of limiting suspensions and teaching positive behavior.” Sigh. There’s some nice bureaucratic language intended to absolve anyone from blame for anything.

Ridicule is still the best weapon. When our schools get all paranoid about such trivial stuff, you realize why our education system has fallen so far. These schools should be made national laughingstocks.  Just try a little common sense.

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