Childhood has been terminally ill for a long time. But, like mourners at a wake, we act as if there’s nothing more we can do than reminisce about the things we did as a kid that are unthinkable now:
- Leave home in the morning and not come back until the hunger pangs could no longer be ignored (or the street lights came on)
- Play dodgeball with the goal of actually hitting another child with the ball
- Climb trees without a parent hovering nearby
- Play “cops and robbers,” shamelessly brandishing toy guns
- Show affection to our friends
That last one….I can’t even think about it without wanting a glass of wine and a gallon of ice cream (no, I don’t self-medicate!). A 6-year-old boy kisses his little “girlfriend” on the hand and is suspended for sexual harassment. ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? We have lost our ever-lovin’ minds. At least our schools have, and we allow it.
In case you haven’t heard the story, a first-grader was suspended for kissing a girl on the hand. In all fairness, there are different versions of the story circling around the internet. One says the girl’s mother thought the whole thing was silly, and another says the boy had been showing “unwanted affection” for a long time. If the latter version is true, I’d be pretty hacked if it were my daughter. I’d want something done about it. But I hope I would still have the good sense to realize that labeling it “sexual harassment” is ludicrous. Good grief, the kid had to ask his mom what sex is…a talk she almost certainly didn’t plan on having at that time or for that reason. The school has since changed the note in his file to “misconduct,” but a little bit of his innocence is gone, and that can’t be repaired.
And then there are the boys who were suspended for pretending to shoot a gun and a bow at each other. They weren’t threatening each other; they were horsing around and being boys. But, according to the zero-tolerance policy, they were threatening each other with a deadly weapon. (Dang…I wish I had that power in my finger. My house would be spotless.)
Another incident involved some 7th-graders who were suspended until the end of the year for having an airsoft war on their own property. From what I’ve read (and who knows what the true facts are), the kids were out of line. But the thought of the school being able to suspend a child for playing with a toy his parents knew he had, and on his own property, is downright scary.
And let’s not forget the poptart incident. We all know how dangerous those half-eaten poptarts can be. (With that line of reasoning, there are several states that might want to reconsider their borders.)
Zero-tolerance policies may be well-intentioned, but when a child who has never even heard the term “sexual harassment” is held to the same standards as a high-school senior, something is wrong. When imaginary weapons are considered deadly threats, we’ve descended into insanity. When a political figure’s drug use can be excused because he was drunk at the time, but circumstances don’t play a part in determining a child’s school punishment…we’re so divorced from reality that our entire society should be diagnosed with psychosis.
It’s time to stop rolling our eyes and start doing something. Parents with common sense need to start squawking as loudly as the extremists. Get involved with your kids’ school. If they’re in public school, keep an eye on the school board. Know where the candidates stand on zero tolerance before you vote. Attend meetings and make your voice heard. Because we’re quickly reaching the point where kids who pull their pants down to go to the bathroom will be suspended for public nudity.