Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Two 6 year olds suspended for playing cops&robbers!!

White Marsh Elementary first-graders suspended for using fingers as guns while playing - 

Two 6-year-old students were suspended Thursday from White Marsh Elementary School, according to one boy's parents, for using their fingers as imaginary guns in what one parent calls a "childish game of cops and robbers in the school yard."

"This is easily the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard of," said Army Staff Sgt. Stephen Grafton, the father of one of the first-graders. "This, a completely harmless act of horseplay at recess, was by no means an offense that warranted a suspension. It was a pair of 6-year-olds playing with imaginary pistols, one of whom has a father who is charged by the United States with using firearms in his defense."

The suspension in Talbot County comes on the heels of another Maryland student, also 6 years old, who was suspended from Roscoe R. Nix Elementary School in Silver Spring. This child was removed from his school for one day for aiming his finger at another student and saying "Pow." The student's parents hired an attorney, and the school reversed the suspension decision and removed it from his school record.

According to Grafton and Teri Bildstein, the child's mother, their son was playing at recess with another child and they were using their hands as imaginary guns. Another student reported them to staffers, who called Principal Marcia Sprankle. Sprankle recommended the boys be suspended, said Bildstein.

"The biggest concern we have right now is the consistency in discipline practices: What deserves a note home? What deserves a phone call to a parent? If he is in trouble for something like this now, what does this bode for the rest of his education at this school?" Bildstein said. "These are situations he could learn from and this is a severe punishment for this age. I want to know what the school board considers appropriate behavior and the appropriate consequences for a child his age."

When Bildstein and Grafton questioned their son, he said, "I was just playing. I don't understand …"

Bildstein said she and Grafton have a meeting arranged with Sprankle and other school administrators to discuss a situation she says has escalated beyond what she thinks is healthy for her child. This is her son's second suspension in his first-grade year, the other suspension for something she said is equally difficult to understand.

"He's so distressed at being sent home," she said. "It affects his self-esteem and his performance. If you tell him he is bad over something like this, how can this be the best learning environment for him? All of the work he has done and the efforts he and his teacher have made are gone in a minute when he gets kicked out of school. It's like saying, 'We give up on you.'"

Grafton said he is just as mystified over the suspension.

"As a squad leader in the U.S. Army Airborne Infantry, a large portion of my job for the last 11 years has been instilling discipline in young men and developing them into professional paratroopers, men their families and country can be proud of," he said. "While under no circumstances do I claim to be an expert in (school policy), I'd like to believe that the NCO's and officers … imparted enough wisdom to me that I can do the same for the next generation. That being said, I take the gravest issue with the course of action which Talbot County Public Schools has taken. This, a completely harmless act of horseplay at recess, was by no means an offense which warranted suspension."

When does the insanity end?? Playing cops&robbers with your hand as a gun does not equate to violent behavior and is typical behavior for young children at play, especially young boys. There is nothing threatening nor violent about playing a game that has been part of imaginative play of children, especially when many are trying to discourage children from playing violent video games and complaints of children who tend to spend more time in front of a TV or computer screen, rather than outside. 

Grafton drove home his own point: "If anything, this was a teaching point, an opportunity to discuss with the boys and the remainder of the class the importance of not shooting at one another," he said. "Instead, the boys were removed from the playground and their parents instructed to immediately pick them up and any teaching opportunity was lost, an action which I interpret as either not having the ability to address the situation or not having the desire to. Neither of these are acceptable answers."

The father makes a great point that instead of the suspension the teachers could have used it as a teachable moment to remind the children that while they are playing with their hands as guns and it is not real, we never point a gun at another person in real life because it could kill them. Only police and properly trained adults or military use guns to kill bad guys. Hopefully the emotional reaction of schools, society and the government overall will simmer down as time passes since the Newtown, CT school shooting. Sadly, I fear it may not as long as the media continues to portray these incidents as such horrific events, glorifying the killers, rather than discussing the real issues like providing the proper security and protection in our schools and teaching right from wrong to our children, but also identifying troubled kids so that they receive proper treatment or mental health care before it's too late.

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