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Kids Suspended for Using 'Finger' Guns: What do you Think?

Three six-year-olds have been suspended in Maryland this month for playing with guns made from their thumbs and index fingers at school. What are your thoughts?

Moms Talk is a weekly feature on all Lehigh Valley Patches in which local parents, caregivers and other members of the community are invited to share opinions and advice on parenting topics.

This week’s Moms Talk question relates to distinguishing between child’s play and real danger.

Three 6-year-olds have been suspended this month in two separate incidents in Maryland for playing with pretend guns “made” from their thumbs and index fingers. The parents are upset. In one case, a school psychologist says there was no malicious intent. Other mental health professionals say that at the age of six, children cannot even understand why adults are upset when they point a finger and go “pow, pow.” One school district reversed the suspension after the parents appealed. The debate has centered around what’s child’s play, what’s not and how to tell the difference between the two in a society that is debating the issue of gun control at unprecedented level in the wake of the Sandy Hook School shooting in December 2012.   

And that brings us to this week’s Moms Talk question:

What do you think about children being suspended from school for using pretend “finger guns?”

Our Moms Council members include:

  • Lisa Amey of Upper Milford Township is a stay-at-home mom to an 8-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. A past president of the MOMS Club of Emmaus and longtime member of MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers), Lisa is an Independent Consultant for Arbonne International.
  • Lisa Drew of Emmaus is a certified nutritionist and personal trainer, wellness and fitness coach with more than 17 years of experience. She is the mother of a 13-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy.
  • Jennifer Elston of Emmaus has almost two decades of professional experience in child development and counseling. She is currently a stay-at-home mom to two beautiful girls. Together with her husband, Chris, she owns Christopher Elston Photography.
  • Jeanne Lombardo of Nazareth is the mother of a 10-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. She’s new to the Lehigh Valley, having moved to Nazareth from Bergen County, NJ in January.
  • Lisa Merk of Lower Macungie is a stay-at-home mother of four boys – a 12-year-old and 6-year-old triplets. Lisa is a past president of the MOMS Club of Lower Macungie East. In her “spare” time, Lisa teaches piano to school-age children.
  • Zoila Bonilla Paul of Bethlehem is a stay-at-home mom to two girls – a 5-year-old and a 14-month-old. Zoila is a member of her local “moms’ club” and says she is “well-versed in the fun that children can bring.”
  • Beth Sharpless of Emmaus works part time in a local emergency department as a nurse and part time from home as a customer support specialist. She has two children -- a boy who is almost 2 and a 5-year-old girl. She says they love spending time outdoors and dancing.

If you would like to become a part of the Moms Council and/or have ideas for future Moms Talk questions, please email jennifer.marangos@patch.com.

dean the dream January 21, 2013 at 08:11 PM
http://youtu.be/QZqdf682qlw you're welcome
Cindy January 21, 2013 at 08:53 PM
You are a joke! Lol
Vita January 21, 2013 at 11:47 PM
AMEN CINDY!!
Kelly January 22, 2013 at 01:08 PM
This happened to my son too last Thursday. He pointed his finger ate 4 people in his 3rd grade class, the school contacts me and says he threatened to kill 4 people. The school social worker asked him questions like "does he have guns in his home?" They said if I didn't attend a meeting in the school, they would have to consult with school safety to ensure my son doesn't have any harmful weapons on his person. They also said he committed an A35 (NYC discipline code)Engaging in an act of coercion or threatening violence, injury or harm to others. I am disgusted on how the school handled this matter as if my child were some sort of terrorist. Its too much, they went too far over a little child's play.
Ann January 22, 2013 at 03:30 PM
Kelly, I am so sorry you and your child had to go through that. Does it occur to anyone of these geniuses the harm they might be doing to these innocent children by labeling them in such a way? I wonder what Lisa Amey thinks...justified I assume! I'm sure your son got quite the education!
Wayne Schissler January 22, 2013 at 04:12 PM
Almost 20 years ago we were called into the principal's office (an elementary public school) over our daughter violating the "no weapons" policy. All the children were asked to write a short story which would then be printed up as a small book. Our daughter's story had a gun in it, and that was the violation. Remember the TV series "Christy"? One of the most wholesome shows on the boob tube at the time - the story was basically a retelling of one of the episodes. Homeschool, private or parochial school your children... the insanity of the government school is too much.
ron January 22, 2013 at 04:19 PM
Wow. I think these school officials should be suspended for life from having anything to do with disciplining children. I never heard of anything so idiotic.
Ann January 22, 2013 at 04:26 PM
My son is 20 now. When he was in 2nd grade he was heard using the term sneak attack. He and one boy were playing tag against two other boys. Sneak attack was a term my husband and I would use with our four kids when we would sneak up behind them. We never dreamed the phrase could be so misconstrued. We used it during play! The teacher heard my son and immediately marched him to the principals office. We got a call and had to meet with the teacher and the principal. My son had idolized that teacher before the incident. After, he was crushed. The rest of the year was horrible. He thought the teacher hated him and couldn't understand what happened. These people have no idea the effect these overreactions have on these poor kids.
Mom of DnNnD January 22, 2013 at 04:48 PM
And from all the published reports that I read, she didn't even have the bubble gun with her at school.
tamarya January 22, 2013 at 07:16 PM
Extremely far fetched. If this were junior high or high school kids that would be different. I understand safety is a concern and kids are getting younger and younger when they commit crimes, but if they knew it was nothing more than play I hope the parents win the appeal.
tamarya January 22, 2013 at 07:17 PM
And thank god PA is not like that or my 8 yr old would probably be in prison already.
tamarya January 22, 2013 at 07:23 PM
So your school put your child through this emotional harm and that was acceptable, but if your child went to school, assuming it's east penn, all upset you yelled at him they would not be hesitant to report you to c&y. And I agree Wayne, anything that is run by the government whether schools, children and youth agencies, doctors, anything that is required by law to butt their nose in where it don't belong when it involves a child is insanity.
Wayne Schissler January 22, 2013 at 10:44 PM
The finger pointed like a gun issue has popped-up here recently in a local PA elementary school. I don't know if suspension was a possibility but I do know it prompted a parent-teacher conference. Rarely are these sorts of regulations limited to one state or locality - quite a bit is trickle down from federally mandated programs that states must follow to receive funding or just the result of going along with what seems to be a good idea that everyone else is implementing. After all - what could go wrong with a weapon free zone policy? I remember the local school board meeting (mid to late 90's) when the policy was being described and the assistant superintendent pulled a tiny nail clipper from his pocket and stated that "technically" this would violate the new policy. I guess no one imagined just how technically such a policy could be stretched in the future...
tamarya January 23, 2013 at 03:38 PM
I know even when I was in school we had a weapon free policy, because I was in vo tech for floriculture and at the end of the yr when our floral knives were brought home they had to be completely taped so not easy to get and use as a weapon, however toy guns, fingers pointed like guns, butter knives, nail clippers, mirrors, jewelry were not classified as weapons to get you arrested or suspended even in high school, the only thing that got you arrested was a true weapon, and knives got you arrested if you pulled it out and threatened to use it.
Jill January 24, 2013 at 11:14 AM
Here's a good one....a girl got in trouble for a piece of ripped paper that another student said looked like a gun. Can you believe it? She looked like she was about 6. She was crying on TV. They searched her pack back. The commentator joked that they must have been looking for paper bullets. This would be funny if it weren't so sad.
Hugh Gallagher January 24, 2013 at 11:15 AM
Yes, start teaching those kids "gun control" at an early age.
Marcie Nor January 28, 2013 at 02:29 PM
TOTALLY agree. There was a teachable moment and it got completely lost in a punishment.
An interested bystander January 28, 2013 at 02:34 PM
Marcie it still is a teachable moment - teaching kids that they aren't the only ones who can be morons.
Phillyboy January 28, 2013 at 02:58 PM
Walter. ...I went to Catolic school in the mid 60's through early 70s. The Nuns would kick our ass if we got out of line. Then our parents would be pissed because Sister Mary had to discpline us and we get our ass whooped again by mom. While many parents were appalled by the Nuns method of discipline I'll say this . As young children.. we learned to respect authority , our parents, teachers etc. We learned a moral code that took us through life . We knew the difference between right and wrong. The public school kids learned none of that,. Therefore I attribute the down fall of American culture to LIBERALISM.
Jeff Brosky February 04, 2013 at 06:30 PM
several years ago a friend of mine told me about his kid----his son was walking around the house looking in closets and the basement--checking off things on 3 pieces of paper he had in his hands my friend asked his son what he was doing? the kid said homework teacher wants to know if any guns are in the house and what else might be here just a homework project the school wants to know
Vincent M February 07, 2013 at 03:05 AM
My 7 year old son was just suspended for 5 days and his "crime" was he pretended his pencil was a gun and he said to a classmate that he was going to shoot him. I am absolutely furious that such a severe punishment was handed down immediately with no thought to progressive discipline like a warning etc. My guy is completely non-violent and no behavioral issues to speak of so needless to say, I am looking forward to the hearing with the school board to hear exactly what prompted them to treat my 1st grader like a psychopath in the making for some innocent play.
Kim February 07, 2013 at 03:14 AM
I would get as many parents as you can to go with you. There's power in numbers! We need to take back our schools from these psychos. They need to learn that parents will not stand or this! I am so sorry for you son!
Jan Earp February 07, 2013 at 11:21 PM
Yes I'm dealing w the same w my son. Everyone I tell is outraged. All the comments that I read on this topic are stating that it is ridiculous. My question is what are we doing about it besides grumbling amongst ourselves. We must band together and start making some noise. Visit w school board members, state representatives, governors, the Dept of Education..... What else can we do?!! It will only continue to spiral if we do nothing!
Kim February 08, 2013 at 01:21 AM
Jan, I completely agree...strength in numbers. I have also been proactive by calling the super intendent's office and principle's office. I have spoken directly to them.
Jan Earp February 08, 2013 at 02:32 AM
Kim, how did they handle your call.... What sort of response??
Kim February 08, 2013 at 03:14 AM
Actually very well. It was Parkland H.S.. I was very impressed with the new principal. I'd rather not get into particulars.
Jan Earp February 09, 2013 at 04:47 PM
I'm glad it went well! Hopefully, people will come to their senses.
Anonymous Poster March 19, 2013 at 02:38 AM
This is absolutely ridiculous. Even as a person with a strong dislike of guns in general, I cannot see what danger or disruption pretending to use your fingers as a gun poses for any school in the country. If I were still young and in elementary school, I would have been suspended many times over with policies like this. School officials need to wake up and realize that these reactionary zero-tolerance policies—however well-intentioned—are doing more harm than good.
Parkland Parent March 19, 2013 at 03:40 PM
Take a CLOSE look in the home of this child. VERY CLOSE LOOK.
Jill March 19, 2013 at 04:20 PM
Parkland Parent, What do you mean? Are you talking about the three 6 yr. olds?

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