Outrage of the Week: Boy Almost Suspended for Lego Gun The Size of a Cheeto

Hi Readers — I am ashamed to say this incident happened in my own city, New York. (Well, Staten Island, anyway.)

A Staten Island fourth-grader was reprimanded and almost suspended yesterday when the principal spotted him playing with a LEGO policeman and a two-inch-long toy gun during lunch, the Advance reports.

Under the city’s no-tolerance policy regarding guns in schools, PS 52 Principal Evelyn Matroianni brought 9-year-old Patrick Timoney to her office and called his mother to say the boy might be suspended for carrying the miniature toy gun to school.

Hallelujah, he avoided that fate, which I suppose should be considered a great victory. But a greater victory would have been a principal who figured that a teensy Lego gun is a teensy Lego gun and not the sign of a psychotic tween or threat to  the human race. — Lenore

43 Responses

  1. *facepalm* I’m pretty sure the no toy guns policy means no toy guns for the KIDS to play with, and doesn’t include the accessories that might come with action figures or Lego.

  2. Jen, you’d be surprised. I’ve heard of no guns allowed in dioramas of pioneers in covered wagons, etc.

  3. Thanks for the belly laugh, Lenore. Just reading your description was hilarious!

  4. And then two little twits in my neck of the woods go and make everyone all jiggy again by bringing guns to school (5th grader with a BB gun, middle-schooler with a gun gun). http://wbztv.com/local/newbury.gun.in.2.1467067.html

  5. Why don’t they just ban bringing any toys to school? Honestly, that would sound less idiotic than a “no tolerance” rule against gun-oriented toys.

  6. This story made http://detentionslip.org ! Check it out for all the crazy headlines from our schools.

  7. Yeah, well there was the time my sweet-natured, totally well-behaved 12 year old son was hauled off the train on the way to school, roughed up and dumped on the side of the road by the (heavily armed and armoured) tactical response police because some idiot saw his PINK PLASTIC water pistol and reported it to the even more idiotic guard on the train as ‘a man brandishing a gun’ and idiot guard put out an emergency call to the police.

    It happened in Australia, so you won’t see news reports in your press.

    But, oh, don’t get me started!

  8. Lenore, my kids used to go to a charter school where they were really weird regarding this. To make a long story short, I got fed up, and no I home school. My sons like the whole cowboy and Indian thing. It was totally normal when I was growing up, and none of us have become murderers =).

    My 6 year old teacher would always tell me my son was pretending to shoot people at recess, and he would draw stick men with guns. I actually thought it was a normal thing to do. Even Dr. Laura (on her show), and my former child psychology teacher said it is normal for boys to play Cowboys and Indians.

    The funny part about the complaints was the school is okay with swords!!! Think about it! Throughout history what has been more deadly a GUN or a SWORD??? When the teacher complained to me about this, I asked her why they are okay with the kids playing knights (and yes, they held swords). She said the sword in that case is symbolic, whereas my sons behavior was inappropriate.

    Ever parent needs to read “BRAIN SEX”. It is an awesome book, and I am glad I read it before my boys became typical boys. The book is a scientific study about the differences between the male and female brain. Lenore, if you haven’t read it, you have to! I know you’ll like it because it goes along with a lot of your theories. It talks a lot about how boys were created to be the hunter, and it is natural for boys to like weapons and play wrestling. I remember my child psychology teacher (she was from England) said how she thought Americans are really weird for not letting their boys be boys. She said it is healthy for boys to wrestle, etc.

    Catherine, I am so sorry about what happened to your son! I don’t know what I would do in your situation. I hope your son got over the incident.

    For the mother whose son almost got suspended. I really feel for you! I am glad I decided home schooling my kids to avoid people who lack common sense. However, I understand home schooling is not for everyone. I hope you get some revenge regarding this!!!!!

  9. As quoted on the Fox 5 news, the boy was told by the Principal “a gun is a gun.” I can only boggle at the sheer stupidity and blind devotion to doctrine that the school leader displays.

  10. Every boy in my elementary school would have been suspended under this standard 20 years ago. We had a lot of wood chips, and a lot of them were vaguely pistol shaped.

    On second thought, what are the odds that the woodchip company now goes through their stock to destroy gun-shaped chips? Higher than zero, certainly.

  11. I once went into a toy store on the Upper West Side and asked for “Risk.” The saleslady said, “We don’t stock war games.” I didn’t ask about chess.

  12. I dunno… have any of you ever tried to enforce a rule like “no guns, no toy guns”? The slope is as slippery as greased Jell-o. Sure, maybe they need to re-evaluate the rule, but you try to decide exactly where the line is between Lego guns, guns made out of a hot-dog bun, squirt guns, diorama guns, model guns, toy guns, etc. @ gun-shaped wood-chips: We weren’t allowed. It was the SHOOTING that was the problem, not the device. Don’t shoot people, not with anything, ever, was the rule.

    I don’t think it’s the worst rule in the world, personaly, although I don’t get the whole suspension of seven-year-olds.

  13. off topic: I just watched your book video on amazon, with my three year old standing right behind me… Right when you said something along the lines “Love your kids so much that you are worried all the time?”, she says: “heeeeee? What is she talking about?” Clearly a kid who doesn’t know the concept of parents watching over her _all_ the time (and she practically lives off raw cookie dough). So, even though this is a kid who doesn’t know any English, she understands what you are talking about with your free range concept, ;-).

    So long,

  14. P.S.: on reading some of the comments: isn’t it the most normal thing in the world, that kids (and not just boys) pick up sticks and fight with them or turn anything they can into a gun? I remember that back in the dark ages, when I took some Ed. Sc. classes that was considered just a normal way of dealing with life, which I guess is hard enough for kids.

    So long,

    P.S.: My little one wears princess dresses _all the time_, but she sure knows her way around on the play ground and can certainly stand her ground in a stick fight, *ggg*.

  15. There are some children who do love play fighting in all its different forms. This is always a grey and tricky area for schools who are caught between advocating negotiation and verbal communication as a way to sort issues that arise and knowing that aggressive forms of play are important to some kids.

    In one nursery where I have been working, we have noticed that aggressive play between two boys only takes place indoors in one part of the room. Outside, the boys play differently. Another option here is to look at other ways of providing an alternative outlet for this behaviour when it is not deemed acceptable in school – sticking tennis balls in socks, tying them to a washing line and letting children thwack them with a bat seems to work!

    The biggest irony of all in this area for me (brought up in a Quaker family) was witnessing my 3 year old son play in my school with older boys who adored anything and everything to do with armies. Within 3 months he knew about every weapon, missile, gun and fighter jet that was out. There were only 10 children in the school and they were supervised at break and lunch times. The children simply used subversive tactics to continue the play they wanted to have!

  16. My daughter used to go to 52, before we moved to a different part of the island, so I can say from experience, the entire staff of that school has NO sense whatsoever. I know my daughter was thrilled when she got to transfer.

    It’s status quo there to threaten to suspend a child for a toy, rather than tell them to put it away, or even take it from them until school lets out. Meanwhile, bullying is rampant even in the lower grades and the entire school is set up to the tiniest detail to please the parents, whether or not its best for the children. Can we say skewed priorities?

    I could even cut the school some slack if this was a realistic looking toy, but it wasn’t. Its was a friggin lego.

  17. SKL- Many schools actually do have a “No Toys” policy, whether the toy is confiscated either for the year or until the end of the day, at the schools discretion, but toy guns or weapons often carry a harsher punishment when brought to school because it, and I quote “fosters an image that violence is acceptable.”

    Yes, toys now teach your children that violence is ok.

  18. I’m betting its a NO TOY policy and the mother or reported decided it was the nature of the toy. And if it has been an offense that has been repeated…No toys allowed at my kids school and its a good rule. Saves a lot of headaches.

  19. It is sad that the Principal doesn’t seem to have the communication skills necessary to express the real reason for her decision. She should have said “although not a weapon, our school does not like toys that resemble weapons and promote violence.” She should also have had the common sense to simply tell him to put it in his pocket and take it home.

    Of course, Principals are valued for saving money and getting students to pass tests, not free-thinking.

  20. benirleciel, the way around that is not trying to make the rules airtight, but let the grownups be grownups and decide which things fit the rules and which don’t. Yes, I know, that elicits complaints from the parents of perfect children whose children only get in trouble when they’re treated “unfairly,” but that (among other things) is why schools have principals instead of rulebooks that sit in offices.

  21. […] reprimanded, nearly suspended for bringing two-inch Lego gun to school. Looks like they did at least manage to avoid calling the SWAT team. Digg it |  […]

  22. Guess this rules out a presentation of “Annie Get Your Gun”.

  23. New York City’s department of education policies (http://schools.nyc.gov/RulesPolicies/DisciplineCode/default.htm) on guns prohibit “imitation guns” (not *toy* guns) and state that when considering suspension:

    “the principal must consider whether an imitation gun is realistic looking by considering factors such as its color, **size**, shape, appearance and weight.” (my emphasis)

    The policy reads to me as though the intent is fairly clearly to prohibit lookalike guns that can be used to intimidate others. It does not appear to be based on the idea that kids should not play cops and robbers. So it seems the principal was probably exaggerating the seriousness to the parents – possibly for effect.

  24. Hell, I was on the rifle team in grades 9-12. Go to the rifle range under the auditorium and shoot 200 rounds each day after school. We used to bring our deer rifles in so that we could drill and tap for scope mounts using the milling machine in the Machine Shop. We just had to leave the bolt at home. Funny thing is that there is still a rifle team at that school today.

  25. that’s ridiculous, seems like people will freak out over anything these days

  26. I thought that it was in the US constitution that all Americans have the right to carry a gun?

  27. @leppi: *lol*.

    ****Many schools actually do have a “No Toys” policy,****

    OMG, they had show and tell at my son’s elementary school a few weeks ago and he brought a fully armed lego warship, *ggg*.

    No, seriously, I think it’s okay, that kids should not bring toy guns (or real ones for that matter) to school — but suspend a kid for it? My son’s friend brought one the other day, the Religion teacher found it and wanted to take it away from him, but the main teacher stepped in and gave him one more chance: not to bring it again, otherwise she’s confiscate it. I thought, that was a wise way to handle this.

    So long,

  28. And in fact, helen, the schools prohibit only something which is already illegal – you’re not allowed to sell or own realistic toy guns anywhere in the city.

  29. My 11 year old Lego expert son and I just saw a replay of this story from the Today Show. Within one second of them showing the gun he exclaimed “It’s a Brickarms G36″. They are an aftermarket company (not offical Lego product) that produces realistic looking military weaponry. I saw their display at the Brickworld convention in Chicago a couple of years ago. I know, GEEK supremo !! They had quite the impressive arsenal, all arranged in two inch square bins. I needed my glasses to see the detail, it was so small.

    Matt Lauer had a great response at the end. He said ” I believe the policy forbids bringing toy guns, not a toy’s toy gun”.

  30. “Zero Tolerance” policies benefit no one except for those bureaucrats who don’t want to be bothered making their own assessments and don’t have the cojones to defend their own professional judgement. In other words, cowards and dummies.

    Pentamom’s comment is totally on target. School administrators are supposed to make adult value judgements based on reality, not be mere robotic executors of whatever’s in the fine print. They are hired as educators, not courtroom bailiffs.

  31. What ever happened to good old fashioned common sense? Why do we always need to take the most extreme reaction to every situation? Yes the principle should have talk to the boy. Yes, the school should have called the parents and explained the policies. You don’t suspend or traumatize the 9yr old. You teach and guide. When did we become so lazy that we don’t want to educate our children…we simply dismiss them.

  32. My daughter tells me that you are not allowed in school to form your finger into a gun and say “Bam, Bam, Bam,” and that if you continue do so after a warning, you will be sent to the principal’s office.

    The zero tolerance is not for toys or guns, it is for boys playing as boys have always played.

  33. I would just like to point out that the entire purpose of toy guns is point them at people and pretend to shoot them. So – the no shooting rule is just silly. Its like telling a kid he can have a piece of cake, he just can’t eat it. Kids can understand the difference between real life and make believe. My daughter does not really think she is a princess.

    Also, a kid brought a BB gun to school – so what? It’s a BB gun, barring some extremely bizarre circumstances no one is in danger. Even if the kid has malice aforethought, it’s a BB gun the chances of him being able to do anything more than annoying with it is very slight. Heck, we used to have BB gun fights when I was a kid. Put on a heavy coat and go in the back yard and shot each other. There is a greater potential for harm due to all those kids walking around with scissors or, heaven forbid, using xacto knives in art class.

    This anti-gun attitude is thoughtless. If for some reason you kid ends up in a situation where a gun is present, s/he will be a lot safer if s/he knows what a gun is and how it works. Ignorance of such things can be a killer.

  34. I think schools love the “well it could happen” excuse. No toy guns because they might promote violence, even when it’s something as small as a gun for a Lego.

    My daughter got in trouble for picking rocks up at school. She collects rocks with absolutely no regard for whether or not they look interesting – she’s after quantity. But at school they won’t let her even pick one up because picking rocks up can lead to throwing rocks.

  35. How do the parents of such a child not go screaming into the school’s administration dept.? I don’t swear a lot, but if this were to happen to my son they wouldn’t be pleased with my language.

  36. “But at school they won’t let her even pick one up because picking rocks up can lead to throwing rocks.”

    This is what mystifies me. It can’t be “too hard” to discipline kids for throwing rocks, if they’re able to stop them from picking them up. It can’t be “impossible to be fair” about who is actually using the rocks harmfully, if it’s possible to be fair about who is picking them up. If it’s not too hard to tell whether a little girl picks up rocks instead of just accidentally kicking them with her toe, it’s not too hard to tell whether someone is throwing rocks instead of picking them up and dropping them.

    This is what I don’t get about zero-tolerance logic. The whole premise is that you can’t fairly judge between kids who are doing something harmful and something innocent with object X. But how is it that you can fairly judge between kids who are holding object X and kids who walk too close to them? How is it that you can tell that when Johnny brings a toy gun to school, it’s not Freddy who should get into trouble? Yes, that seems silly — it’s obvious who is holding or possessing something and who is not. But isn’t it equally obvious who is pointing a knife or shooting someone or throwing a rock and who is not?

    We have to stop accepting the ban of “potentially harmful” stuff on the basis that it just makes things simpler. If school officials can’t or don’t know how to exercise simple judgment, they need new jobs, not new rules, because making judgments about what kids are doing is inescapable.

  37. Joe,
    Sorry I’m solidly behind my colleague that called the cops and filed a complaint against a student with a BB gun. The student had been kicked out of an after school club for bad behavior. So she showed up with a BB gun and threatened my colleague and the students. It wasn’t a game or a prank. It was a threat.

    As for the story in the op. At my school we would have taken the toy up, written a note/called parent to say no toys at school, and given the toy back at the end of the day.

  38. I have mixed feelings about the “no-pretending-to-shoot-each-other” rule. Yes, we always played cops and robbers, and no harm came of it. However, I now live in a city where young people take guns too lightly. Every day, it seems, a minor is arrested for possesion in our city of 100,000. When some of these 14 year-olds are interviewed, they don’t seem to understand the finality of using a gun. In this situation, I understand why the school authority figures take playing at shooting so seriously.

  39. I grew up with toy guns and no one was hurt–this UnAmerican policy on Staten Island is foolish at best; teaching children that guns are bad [which they are not] does children a disservice! Guns are an important and vital part of American history and culture–its the right of every lawful citizen to keep and bear arms–the progressive attempt to rewrite and deny history in the United States of America is not going to change the truth! Guns are not the problem–criminals are and have always been the problem.

  40. AZ is correct! Along with anyone who says this no toys/toy guns/no cops and robbers ECT is silly! People need to realize, boys minds are wired to be hunters and to fight! I know, I’m a guy! This law needs to be overturned and we need a brand new set of people in the government. Me and you.

  41. Why don’t they just ban bringing any toys to school? Honestly, that would sound less idiotic than a “no tolerance” rule against gun-oriented toys.

  42. Wow. a 6 year old with a plastic gun. WHATS THE WORST HE CAN DO! Poke you with it go “Bang bang”? This is stupid how people overreact about this stuff! PATHETIC!

  43. I wish I can disable these google ads on my twitter mobile api. #FindLoveR2PerDay, #MeetBlackMen&Women y nt #White

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