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Chairman's Message

“Pop Tart Gun” Case Shows Maryland School Discipline Needs More Oversight

Posted: June 9, 2013 at 8:59 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

This past week Maryland Young Republicans Chairman Brian Griffiths called upon General Assembly leaders to hold hearings on discipline in Maryland’s public schools.  This is an excellent suggestion.

Griffiths notes that with unfortunate regularity Maryland schools are experiencing gross overreactions by administrators.  Just in the past few months, a six-year old was suspended for making a gun with his fingers at recess, a student suspended for the way he chewed his Pop Tart in the shape of a gun and a five-year old student interrogated without the consent of his parents until he urinated himself.

Unquestionably there is a need for effective discipline in public schools.  Protecting students and staff members from harm is essential and genuine threats to safety in Maryland schools do exist.  However school discipline needs to be tempered with common sense.

Administrators must make punishments appropriate to the infraction. This needs to include distinguishing between real threats to the educational environment and more innocent behavior.

A far clearer distinction must be drawn between disciplinary actions which protect school safety and those which serve only to allow school administrators to impose their own personal preferences on students.  Too many incidents have nothing to do with safety, and everything to do with indoctrination.

A Pop Tart gun clearly never posed any risk of harm.  Instead heavy handed school officials tried to impose their own attitudes toward guns.  If they could, they would even delegitimize fantasy weapons.

I applaud Republican House Leader Nick Kipke for presenting “Pop Tart gunner,”  8 year old Josh Welch with a life membership to the NRA in presentation at recent Anne Arundel County Republican event. [1]

On one level this responds to Maryland school officials with the ridicule they so richly deserve.  On another level the ideological arrogance of school officials needs to be addressed too.  Our schools devote considerable administrative resources and oversight to promoting diversity within the school system. However these are exclusively focused on racial, ethnic and gender based categories.

Others forms of “diversity” get short shrift.  Consider that over 20% of Maryland households own a gun.  Although this is lower percentage than the national average,[2] it still reflects a substantial cross-section of the state.  The attitude demonstrated toward even the mere “idea” of a gun in entirely unthreatening circumstances is out of step with the reality of lawful gun ownership in the state.

Montgomery County public school parents and students are familiar with the ideological indoctrination that the system engages in.  Students with conservative, or even more moderate political views, understand that their expressing them too openly risks their being marked down.

The conception of diversity by Maryland educators needs to be broader.  Often these impositions of personal preferences may frankly be unintentional.  It can result from a lack of subject matter expertise, unfamiliarity with alternative points of view or unawareness of the extent of individual bias.

I join YR Chairman Brian Griffith in encouraging the leadership of the General Assembly to convene hearings on school discipline to hear testimony from State School Superintendent Dr. Lillian Lowery as well as the superintendents in the counties where these incidents have occurred, Dr. Kevin Maxwell of Anne Arundel County, Dr. Dallas Dance of Baltimore County, Dr. Jack Smith of Calvert County, and Dr. Joshua Starr of Montgomery County, on their school discipline policies, instructions given to school administrators on disciplinary measures, and what actions they are taking to ensure common sense is a part of the decision making process.

Beyond the issue of school discipline, Maryland educators need to become more self-aware of when their own personal preferences can unfairly impact how they treat students.

 

Mark Uncapher
Montgomery County Republican Chairman