There's a great scene in the beginning of the 1997 movie, "Bean." Mr. Bean, played by Rowan Atkinson, arrives in the Los Angeles airport from England. When Bean, who's got the maturity of an 8-year-old, sees some armed police officers, he pretends he's similarly armed by making a finger gun and sliding it in and out of his jacket.
The police, who believe he has a real gun, surround him and point their guns at him. They order Bean to slowly remove the gun and lay it on the ground. He carefully pulls out his finger gun, sets it on the floor, and steps back. Since he never really had a gun, they send him on his way.
We've gotten a lot dumber in the intervening 16 years.
Eight-year-old Florida student, Jordan Bennett, was suspended from school for "simulating a gun with his finger." They kicked him out for pointing a finger and sticking up his thumb.
Miley Cyrus simulates "personal intercourse" with a foam finger on MTV's Video Music Awards, and not only can we not stop talking about it, but her album sales are through the roof.
Jordan said he was playing cops and robbers with his friends, and he pointed his finger gun at one of them and made "pkew! pkew!" sounds. So the principal suspended him immediately, citing their Zero Tolerance policy against all weapons, real, replica, or even invisible.
Yes, the Osceola County (Florida) school district has a policy that "prohibits students from playing with invisible guns."
"Look out! He's got a finger! Where the hell's the pretend SWAT team? I need somebody with a rock on the monkey bars NOW!"
Zero Tolerance just keeps getting worse. Last month, two 12-year-old boys in Virginia were supsended until the end of the school year for playing with airsoft guns in one of the boy's yards as they waited for their bus. School officials there said their zero tolerance policy extended to privacy property, which I'm sure had privacy advocates and libertarians in an uproar.
It also puts Virginia in the lead for stupidest decision of the year. But don't worry, Florida, you still have plenty of time to mount a comeback. It'll be like handing Peyton Manning the ball with eight minutes to go in the 4th quarter when the Broncos are down by one point.
I agree that the issue of violence in schools is a pressing one. There have been too many school shootings in the last 10 years for this to be taken lightly. Actual weapons of any kind should not be allowed in schools. (And yet some schools in Georgia are considering putting AR-15-type rifles in their schools in case a gunman starts attacking their schools.)
However, I think school administrators should be able to use some common sense judgment to make a distinction between a real gun that fires real bullets and a little boy's finger.
Even the Osceola School Board chairman thought this was stupid. Chairman Jay Wheeler told WFTV 9 News, "You got to treat it with a grain of salt. At the same time, I think that getting a parent involved if there's a real concern is the appropriate thing."
The parent in question is Bonnie Bennett, Jordan's mother, who thinks the whole thing was blown out of proportion.
"He didn't threaten violence," she told WFTV. "He didn't utter words that were inappropriate. He made a sound and used his fingers and that was it."
And it wasn't even that finger either, which will get you in trouble, but apparently won't get you suspended.
But we're not taking the whole situation into account, said Dana Schafer, a spokesperson for the school told WESH 2 in Orlando.
"It's not just a threat of finger guns. The principal looks at the totality of the incident, what occurred before, during, and after, and whether other students felt threatened," Schafer said.
I'm guessing that what happened before is a kid said "let's play cops and robbers. You be the robber!" Then they pulled out their finger guns and started going "pkew! pkew!" After, they argued about who shot each other and that "you're dead! No, you're dead!"
As to whether a child felt threatened, show me a kid who feels threated by a finger gun and I'll show you a kid who'll be living with his mother when he's 40.
Maybe instead of playing cops and robbers, Jordan and his friends should have played Reformed Criminals and the Group Therapy Counselor.
Or maybe the whole problem could have been averted if the Harmony School had been allowed to put sticks in their schools that could be used as pretend rifles.
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