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Are Duluth schools really this stupid?

The school just called my wife to come and pick up our 5th grade son. Why?

He pretended to shoot someone with his finger! Remember when you were a kid and you would point at a playmate and say bang? If you do this now, in Duluth, you get suspended. Really? Is there a list of gestures published by the school board that will result in getting kicked out of school?

31 Comment(s)

  1. On its face, this does sound stupid, but there is a lot of context missing to this story.

    The kid is in 5th grade, not kindergarten. When a kindergartener shoots someone with his finger it’s generally because he’s playing Lone Ranger. When a 5th grader shoots someone with his finger it’s generally done to intimidate.

    So either side could be in the wrong here and we’ll never really know. Obviously school administrators will side with covering their asses at this period in time, and can you really blame them?

    Paul Lundgren | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  2. Yes, more context is needed in order for us to bloviate at each other. That said, I’m pretty sure there IS something in the district’s Student Discipline Policy Guidelines that would specifically mention intimidating gestures. I would hazard a guess that the majority of school districts have a similar policy.

    TimK | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  3. The problem I have is that as a result of the “zero tolerance” policies that we have in our school, we are teaching our children that authority is stupid. How? By suspending a teenager for having a Tylenol in their pocket, or the grade school kid who had a butter knife in her backpack, gave it to her teacher when she realized she had it, and was kicked out of school for violating a weapons policy. The problem I have is that the schools are refusing to apply “common sense.”

    My wife also asked the principal if the following gestures would also result in discipline: Hitting your own fist into your palm, making a chopping motion with the edge of your hand, making a circle with both hands and moving them together in a circular motion, thrusting your hands outward from your body, raising a closed fist into the air. The principal refused to answer, and could not look my wife in the eye, it seems that he knew he wasn’t making any sense.

    By the way, I’m not sure if it matters or not, but my son is in the autistic spectrum and is emotionally at about half his age, not much more sophisticated than a kindergartner.

    Joel | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  4. Knowing that the child in question is autistic does change the context of the story, but we have no way of knowing if the gesture was done in a playful or threatening way. And that is pretty much the only factor that would determine whether sending the kid home was stupid or the right thing to do.

    Paul Lundgren | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  5. Really Paul? In 5th grade you never played soldier, or cowboy or something? Never used your fingers as a gun shape for fun? 5th grade is still young and into that stuff.

    Jadiaz | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  6. The terrorists are winning.

    No, seriously. We all know their goal was to make us afraid of every day life, pit the logical against the emotional, create suspicions about the motivation of government entities when all they are trying to do is not get sued.

    I miss the days of common sense. Where rules and laws were enforced based on the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law. Where people were less afraid of being sued and more concerned with doing the right thing.

    When I was in 5th grade, I was not above pointing my fingers at someone and going “pew, pew, pewwwww”. That is what kids do, these are 10-year-olds after all. Regardless of whether or not your child is Autistic, this should be considered normal behavior by a child.

    I am far too young to go off on an old-fogey rant, but I guess I just did.

    Dorkus | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  7. Come on! The child being autistic doesn’t change the context? One strike you’re out? This brings idiocy to an all new level. Let’s do everything we can to solve gun violence except address the real issues.

    Oh yes Mr. Principle, you sent a message to all the other students, it’s don’t even look at anyone much less say anything to them, someone might accuse you of pointing your gun finger. Sounds like a good way to get someone you don’t like permanently removed. Attendance should drop to next to nothing by next month. Why not take bat-shit to the next level, it’s what we do.

    If I could go back to fifth grade, and punch a few of these authoritarian freaks in the balls, you’d all applaud if you knew them. Let’s try to keep it real here.

    Herzog | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  8. No, I didn’t play cowboy in the 5th grade unless it was Halloween. We rocked out to Def Leppard and Kiss tapes, played tin can alley, fed a kid laxatives as a prank, chewed tobacco, threw apples at cars and so on. But that is irrelevant.

    If you point your hand like a gun and go pew-pew because you’re having childlike fun and you get kicked out of school it is stupid.

    If you tell a kid you’re going to blow his brains out after school and point your finger at him like a gun, you should get in trouble.

    And there is a lot of area in between. We don’t know what happened in this instance, so it doesn’t serve as an example of anything.

    Paul Lundgren | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  9. Although I agree with Paul that context is just as important as common sense, I also have to disagree. There is simply no way that pointing a finger and saying “bang” should go anywhere past a teacher saying, “Stop that.”

    I have a kid on the way right now and I’m dreading what public school will be like by the time he’s ~10 years old. Something tells me that he’s much more likely to get kicked out of school because dad tells the principal to eff-off than anything he’s likely to do.

    A fun bit of “context:” Sometime around 1991-1992. I’m in 5th or 6th grade at Nettleton. I’m also in Boy Scouts. When purchasing Scouting equipment at MN Surplus, I spot an empty “pineapple” grenade in the display case for $2.99.

    Naturally proud of my new acquisition, I bring it to school the next day to show my friends. The playground monitor somehow gets wind of this and comes over to investigate. I show the item WITH price tag still attached. I’m told that while it’s OK for me to have it, just put it away in case someone gets the wrong idea.

    I get back to class and return the grenade to my backpack. The teacher knows nothing of this “incident” let alone my parents. (of course, this is when they still have out pocket knives to the Cross Walk Patrol kids)

    Have we really gone from ‘It’s OK for Tom to have a grenade on the playground” to “Your kid is suspended for saying “bang” in just 20 years?

    Tomasz | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  10. There is no such thing as common sense if you don’t consider context.

    If you’re going to argue that schools are wrong to have zero-tolerance policies then you shouldn’t be in favor of a total-acceptance policy, because that’s just as asinine. Context is the determining factor.

    Paul Lundgren | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  11. So let’s get this straight: Tom is arguing that a kid bringing a defused grenade to school is a good thing.

    Herzog wants to deal with the violence in schools issue by punching principals in the balls.

    You’re really failing debate class here, guys.

    Barrett Chase | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  12. Except that there is no common sense. Make a rubber band gun with your fingers you are suspended. When 1st graders are investigated for sexual harassment because they kick a kid in the nuts, that’s just stupid. To argue otherwise is asinine.

    Jadiaz | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  13. Asking schools to use “common sense” makes sense and doesn’t make sense at the same time. Whose “common sense” do they follow? My wife teaches elementary special ed including kids on the autism spectrum. What passes for common sense among parents varies wildly. Some would call excusing your son “fostering a culture of hostility.”

    The other problem with common sense (I can’t believe I wrote that) is inconsistency. It sucked to get punished by one teacher for something another allowed. Each teacher used common sense.

    Schools are held accountable for more behavior. Few of us had anti-bullying assemblies or did lock down drills. Policies address lots of this now. We got them in September and they’re on the web. Three things stand out:

    - RESPONSIBILITIES – Students are responsible for the consequences of their behavior.

    - STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES being served on an IEP are expected to follow the School Discipline Policy the same as other students.

    - A student shall not use words or gestures to intimidate or incite fear in another person. [It unfortunately doesn’t matter what was intended. What matters is the perception of anyone seeing the gesture.]

    Your son’s situation today sounds really frustrating, Joel. My wife has called parents during the school day to take their child home. Nobody at a school wants to do that. It’s a rotten scenario for everyone involved. I hope things work out well.

    Nick L | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  14. You’re right. We can just continue to ruin children’s lives with bad school records, who needs good ones for college, sex offender statuses, and punish them for being kids because we can’t tell when a kid is being a kid or is a serious threat. How dare a child have a Tylenol his parents gave him, or a young child make his hand a gun. A student tells another student they are cute, sexual predator obviously. Certainly all the generations before us are so lucky to have survived all these gruesome acts. Imagine how advanced we would be if we just had these policies even fifty years ago.

    Jadiaz | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  15. Let me use the same examples again and add the phrase “common sense.”

    If you point your hand like a gun and go pew-pew because you’re having childlike fun and you get kicked out of school, that is a foolish decision by the administration and goes against common sense.

    If you tell a kid you’re going to blow his brains out after school and point your finger at him like a gun, common sense dictates you should get into some level of trouble.

    And there is a lot of area in between. We can all come up with 10,000 dumb zero-tolerance policy examples, real and imagined, and get so upset about it that we apply the same absurdity in reverse, so that we don’t care what the circumstances are of a kid mimicking shooting a gun or bringing a weapon to school because the kid must be innocent. Well, no. The kid is not always innocent and the kid is not always guilty. The circumstances should dictate how common sense is arrived at.

    Sometimes the school will be in the wrong. Sometimes the student will be in the wrong. That will be the case in the Duluth School District or any school district. That will be the case in a public school or a private school.

    We certainly shouldn’t argue this particular case on the merits of random injustices that have occurred in recent American history. We can’t logically argue this particular case at all. We don’t know what happened.

    Paul Lundgren | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  16. Lundgren is spot-on. We know exactly nothing about this case. We have heard a few details from one of several parties involved. That is not evidence; it’s hearsay. To leap from this one badly incomplete example to a sweeping indictment of American culture is something a radio talk-show host might do. Thoughtful citizens should refrain.

    Ramos | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  17. Except all one needs to do is Google the subject Ramos to see exactly what is going on with Zero Tolerance Policies across America. While Paul gives great examples, common sense isn’t being applied when it should be. Most of these children live with the black marks and the ones lucky enough to have it removed are only able to do so after lengthy and costly court battles.

    In this one case we may not have all the facts, but there are plenty that we do. If you have kids, or want to, you’ll sing a different tune if it happens to them.

    Jadiaz | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  18. Why insist on bringing up other cases and pretending like we don’t all agree with you that zero-tolerance policies have been poorly applied uncountable times?

    Paul Lundgren | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  19. “In this one case we may not have all the facts.” That’s very true. So what are you hollering about?

    Ramos | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  20. And if you are going to holler, Jadiaz, at least you could have the courtesy to identify a few of the poor black-marked children you’re so passionately defending (names, locations, circumstances) rather than telling me to Google them. It’s your soapbox; convince me.

    Ramos | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  21. I’m sure there are many examples Jadiaz can cite, but there is no point in doing that. We know those cases exist, and they are not pertinent to this one.

    Paul Lundgren | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  22. When we were in fifth grade, smoking cigarettes was considered cool, people could have the shit beat out of them for SEEMING gay, and girls were essentially destined to be teachers, secretaries, nurses or stewardesses.

    What your son did fits the legal definition of assault.

    Times change. Hope your kid had a teachable moment, and move on.

    lojasmo | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  23. I’m just going to keep repeating that we don’t know the context of this incident. It doesn’t fit the legal definition of anything. Whatever happened when any of us was in 5th grade is completely irrelevant.

    Paul Lundgren | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  24. Lojasmo, with all due respect, know what my son did is not assault. Let’s look at the legal definition of assault:

    An assault is carried out by a threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm.

    Now unless you think that my 5th grade son has super powers and can actually cause a bullet to be fired from his finger, there is no present ability to cause harm.

    I guess we, as a nation, are going down the road Singapore has chosen where it’s illegal to own chewing gum.

    BTW, here is some more madness that’s in the same vein.

    Its a wonder that any of us were able to grow up without all these “protections” of the past 20 years or so.

    Joel | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  25. Why do you always have to be so logical Paul? Don’t you ever just want to cut loose and punch some past control freak assholes in the balls? Once? I had teachers grabbing me by the throat, probably got their jollies that way. Some of them just got a bone to pick.

    Hey, everyone is making some sense here, what doesn’t make sense is when you get teachers with emotional baggage/problems of their own, don’t like the autistic kid because he’s not an ‘apt pupil,’ or principles with ego trips, and no one is really around or able to challenge them or check their responses.

    My mom became best friends with my 3rd and 4th grade teacher. Nice lady in civilian life, total bitch as a teacher. Years later it was found that she really favored the gifted kids and had no patience for the ones who required more effort. Surprised?

    My neighbor is a principle at the charter school, nice guy, but he’s a principle, it’s written on his forehead. His job is to bust balls. He likes it. If the shoes fit, wear them.

    Joel, I have compassion for your situation and no solutions. I grew up with a disabled sibling in an integrated school and I was my brother’s keeper. What do you say about public schools? It might take time, but things will be okay. This isn’t the end of the world.

    Herzog | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  26. Just to be fair, littering and not flushing a public toilet in Singapore carry heavy fines as well … and forget about drunk driving. You lose your license for life. Pornography is also illegal.

    Major drug offenses carry the death penalty.

    Considering what Singapore used to be like, say 40 years ago, it’s a pretty dramatic change. If people were unhappy with it they’d have left a long time ago … so, no, I’m not thinking that we are headed the way Singapore is now … the way Singapore was 40 years ago … perhaps. | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  27. I like turtles.

    Lawrence Lee | Jan 31, 2013 | New Comment
  28. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Had the school done nothing, I’m certain another parent would have been equally outraged if this intimidating gesture was not addressed.

    Rij | Feb 1, 2013 | New Comment
  29. Doesn’t really take much to outrage a parent huh? My baby!!!

    Herzog | Feb 1, 2013 | New Comment
  30. +1 Lawrence.

    -Berv | Feb 1, 2013 | New Comment
  31. Paul has it right. It seems silly, but it’s not OK to threaten or imply that you’re going to shoot someone. It’s an impossible situation, though. How can we ever know why someone makes a certain gesture? I remember in college, there was a disturbed individual on our dorm floor who decided everyone hated him (not true, but he was strange) and so he made little pictures of machine guns on everyone’s room-door whiteboard. Again, making little pictures shouldn’t be anything but expression, but his point was clear and everyone on the floor knew it. We talked to campus security.

    quirtep | Feb 2, 2013 | New Comment

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