Gun Phobia Killing Credibility of the People Who Run Our Schools

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The war on guns reached a new low last week when school officials in Ohio suspended a seventh grader for clicking “Like” on a web page showing an Airsoft gun.

Not that it matters, but the seventh grader was at home at the time of the alleged clicking.

An Airsoft gun is similar to a paintball gun, only it’s cheaper. In other words:  It’s not a real gun.

The student didn’t bring it to school. In fact, he didn’t touch it. It was … an image … on a computer screen. With a caption that said “Ready.” As in:  The Airsoft gun is ready to use.

The student — a boy! — liked what he saw. So he clicked … Like.

What was his punishment when he got to school the next day?

A 10-day suspension.

When local reporters got ahold of the story, the superintendent of schools of Edgewood, in northeastern Ohio, initially defended the decision. Here’s some of the jive he fed one newspaper:

“Concerning the recent social media posting of a gun with the caption ‘Ready,’ and the liking of this post by another student, the policy at Edgewood City Schools reads as follows:  The [school] board has a ‘zero tolerance’ of violent, disruptive, harassing, intimidating, bullying, or any other inappropriate behavior by its students. Furthermore, the policy states:  Students are also subject to discipline outlined in the Student Code of Conduct that occurs off school property when the misbehavior adversely affects the educational process.”

When a TV station inquired, he upped the ante:

“I assure you that any social media threat will be take serious, including those who ‘like’ the post when it potentially endangers the health and safety of students or adversely affects the educational process.”

So:  Liking a gun — an Airsoft gun! — on a web site is a “social media threat.”

Apparently, somewhere along the line a grownup got involved, and the student’s suspension disappeared.

This situation is absurd but not unheard of. Let’s say you happen to see a news account of, say, a school district suspending a 5-year-old for bringing a bubble-blowing gun to school; a 5-year-old for using a stick as a pretend gun during recess; an 8-year-old for using his fingers as a gun during a game of cops and robbers. You shake your head, perhaps, but you’re no longer shocked by it.

But these incidents and others are still disturbing, on several levels.

First, and most obvious, it shows the obsession with guns that many public school officials have. Nobody wants violence in the schools. But it’s crazy to imagine that pseudo-guns pose some kind of threat. Craziness doesn’t stop violence. It can even lead to it.

Second, the public schools’ war on masculinity has got to stop. Boys will be boys, and many will be fascinated by guns — without ever using a real one in any sort of untoward way. A gun is a tool. Respect for its power — including destructive power — ought to be instilled in everyone.  But a gun is not evil, and it’s not upsetting for a boy to be interested in it. It is harmful to crack down on normal, healthy behavior.

Third is what this sort of decision does to the social status of school administrators. Once upon a time a principal or superintendent was the recipient of immediate respect. We might not know the person, but we’d assume when we met or heard about such a person that he or she was a serious and accomplished figure, someone with knowledge and experience and judgment.

Now, because of repeated nonsense like the cases cited above and many others, there’s a tendency to wonder what’s wrong with such a person. We no longer assume that a school administrator has any sense.  It’s more like:  How many years did you have to go to school to get that dumb?