Monday, May 28, 2018
Education

Sue Carlton: Pop-Tarts law is gun lobbying we don't need at school

A law defending our children's right to bear Pop-Tarts makes perfect sense for Florida — the latest test of how far we'll go when it comes to guns.

A bill under consideration in the state Legislature would forbid schools from disciplining kids who make fake firearms out of prepackaged pastry or point a pencil at a classmate and say bang. Kidding? Would that I were.

This unnecessary push to take discretion from educators stems in part from an incident last year: A 7-year-old boy in Maryland was suspended after he reportedly chewed his Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun. The National Rifle Association gave the kid a lifetime membership, and no, I did not make that up.

The bill's background cites a handful of other cases from around the country that may or may not have been overreaches, such as suspending a seventh-grader for a gun-shaped key chain. Perhaps educators are more sensitive to gun-related play in the wake of the horrific shootings of 20 first-graders in Connecticut.

The bill against disciplining a student for "simulating a firearm or weapon while playing," sponsored by Ocala Republican Rep. Dennis Baxley, actually specifies "brandishing a partially consumed pastry or other food item." (Um, how often does that happen?) A student could not get into trouble for having a toy gun of 2 inches or less, pointing a finger or pencil and pretending to shoot, drawing a picture of a gun or "vocalizing" an imaginary one. Generously, the bill would still let schools handle discipline if the behavior is "substantially" disruptive, physically hurts someone or puts them in "reasonable fear of bodily harm."

Baxley says the bill is about a "layer of common sense so we're not overreacting" and about being careful with suspensions and expulsions.

But state law?

Why do I keep imagining a friendly competition inside the headquarters of the powerful NRA for the craziest pro-gun thing they can get lawmakers to do? (Maybe we'll get them to cross their eyes and rub their tummies this time when they vote yes!)

The real danger is not waffle-wielding second-graders but gun advocates poking their noses into schools. This takes disciplinary matters out of the hands of experienced teachers and administrators. And by the way, parents who disagree with how their child was dealt with have avenues for appeal — solutions well short of passing a law that oh-by-the-way also bolsters gun interests.

It's just hard to buy that this one's a pressing issue in education, given, say, drop-out rates, the achievement gap and teacher pay, for starters.

The bill also says a student can't get in trouble for expressing "an opinion regarding a right guaranteed by the Second Amendment," an apparent reference to a teenager who got in big trouble over wearing an NRA T-shirt. We need a law to tell us this? Has there been a spate of anti-Second Amendment expulsions we haven't heard about? Either way, sure is nice for the NRA to get it in writing.

Marion Hammer, the formidable NRA lobbyist, insists this is not a gun bill. "This is about kids," she says, "kids who are being traumatized and effectively abused because school officials have not dealt appropriately with it." Me, I think it's guns.

Will lawmakers bite on the Pop-Tart law? Probably. Then again, they could opt to let educators do the educating and get on to the real issues of our state.

Comments
Sparks fly among Hillsborough School Board members as private messages are leaked

Sparks fly among Hillsborough School Board members as private messages are leaked

TAMPA — Somebody got into Hillsborough County School Board member Melissa Snively’s Facebook account, copied her messages and gave them to a newspaper publisher who is a friend of her rivals on the board.The posts discussed politics and power struggl...
Published: 05/25/18
Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

ST. PETERSBURG — An Eckerd College student who was critically injured last weekend during an accidental fall on campus shortly before she was to graduate died today, the school announced.Rebecca Ryan "Becca" Lavin-Burgher would have graduated with a ...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

The stares and whispers started on the first day of school more than two years ago, when Liv Funk and Hailey Smith silently declared their relationship in the halls of North Bend High School by holding hands.They knew coming out would be hard in the ...
Published: 05/24/18
What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

CLINTON, N.Y. — In the days after her son Graham hanged himself in his dormitory room at Hamilton College, Gina Burton went about settling his affairs in a blur of efficiency, her grief tinged with a nagging sense that something did not add up.She fi...
Published: 05/24/18
Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

TAMPA — Teachers in Hillsborough County came closer on Wednesday to reaching an agreement with the school district that would give them most, but not all of the pay they expected this past year.The deal, if it happens, will end a year-long conflict t...
Published: 05/23/18
Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

NEW PORT RICHEY — The line snaked through the hallways and into the cafeteria, as the Ridgewood High faithful waited for their chance to secure a piece of the school’s 40-year history.They came by the hundreds — current and former students, staff and...
Published: 05/23/18
Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

TAMPA — The pain of the Parkland shootings Feb. 14 was fresh on the minds of Hillsborough County’s graduating seniors when about 300 of them received an assignment. Write a 250-word essay on how decades of school shootings have touched y...
Published: 05/23/18
Company in charge of Hillsborough substitute teachers weighs in on problem cases

Company in charge of Hillsborough substitute teachers weighs in on problem cases

TAMPA — The company hired by the Hillsborough County School District to fill more than 170,000 substitute teaching shifts every year is defending its record, saying it works to get to the bottom of allegations against employees, treat them fairly and...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

WEEKI WACHEE — A 16-year-old was arrested Tuesday on allegations that she created a fake social media post threatening to shoot students at Weeki Wachee High School, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said the 16-year-old told...
Published: 05/22/18
Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers’ union moved closer to resolving their salary dispute during Monday’s negotiating session — but stopped short of reaching an agreement.The teachers, who have spent this school year work...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/22/18