The sliding glass door at Dawn Bryan’s Lithia, Florida, home is still broken, and the walls still have bullet holes in them. But the neighbor and a friend who caused the damage shooting a rifle in the neighbor’s backyard haven’t been charged. Maybe because the neighbor is a county firefighter and his friend is a detention officer with and son of a major in the Hillsborough County sheriff’s office, the agency that investigated the shooting.
Pop-Tarts aren’t recommended as a source of nutrition, but in some parts of the U.S. they are a source of inspiration for legislators looking to change policies on guns and education.
A series of incidents have led defenders of the right to keep and bear arms to stand up for children who chew their breakfast pastries into the shape of a gun.
So-called Pop-Tart gun laws emerged in the U.S. in 2013, when a seven-year-old boy in Baltimore was suspended after he nibbled his snack (it wasn’t actually the Pop-Tart brand of toaster pastry) into the shape of a gun and apparently directed it at his classmates.
Joshua Welch was kicked out of school for two days, sparking a debate about gun rights and zero tolerance policies in schools. His second grade teacher said he was not suspended for chewing his breakfast into a gun, but for a pattern of disruptive behaviour. His parents fought to get the suspension scrubbed from his record and Joshua eventually changed schools.
The case prompted a Maryland state senator, J.B. Jennings, to introduce legislation aimed at ensuring no other child was disciplined for a Pop-Tart-type incident. The Reasonable School Discipline Act of 2013 sought to prohibit schools from suspending a student who had a picture of a gun or “any other object that resembles a gun but serves another purpose.”
Making a hand gesture resembling a gun doesn’t deserve a suspension either, according to the bill.
The bill noted that after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six adults were killed in late 2012, there was a heightened concern about guns and schools.
But Jennings said some school officials had exercised questionable judgment and overreacted to incidents like the toaster pastry case.
“If we wait too long, this type of reaction will become the standard response by school administrators only serving to perpetuate fear amongst our young students, not to mention putting marks on permanent academic records that are neither appropriate nor warranted,” he said on his website at the time.
The proposed legislation referenced other students besides Joshua who had gotten in trouble. A five-year-old girl in Pennsylvania was suspended from kindergarten for telling her classmate she would use her Hello Kitty bubble gun on her and on herself.
She was examined by a psychologist to ensure she wasn’t a danger to anyone and then her suspension was reduced from 10 days to two.
Another example was a high school student in Arizona suspended for making the desktop background on his school laptop a picture of an AK-47.
The breakfast pastry-inspired bill in Maryland died at the committee stage, and a similar one in Oklahoma also stalled last year. But Oklahoma Senator Sally Kerns reintroduced the bill this week.
Supporters, though, say legislation is needed because schools are going too far with their zero tolerance policies and are imposing excessive punishments for behaviour that shouldn’t even be punishable in the first place.
Florida is the one state that has successfully passed a so-called Pop-Tart gun bill. Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law last June.
It allows students to wear clothing that depicts a gun, to use a writing utensil or their hands to simulate a gun, to draw a picture of a gun, to make a gun out of plastic building blocks, to have a toy gun if it’s less than five centimetres in length, and to brandish “a partially consumed pastry or other food item to simulate a firearm.”
Now Texas could be the next state to pass a Pop-Tart gun law. Representative Ryan Guillen is championing the cause and introduced a bill last month.
This law would be unnecessary if school boards and schools today were sane, and cared more about actual education, rather than indoctrination.
And in any event, even if such legislation passes, parents are still better off homeschooling / church schooling / private schooling their kids.
A squad of about 10 uniformed police stood by as Capt. John Labandera, at first speaking over a battery-powered megaphone, asked Abbott to ‘cease and desist’ from serving meals to about 75 homeless people who had to maneuver through a throng of reporters and television cameras to get plates of tilapia, spaghetti and meatballs, tofu and fruit salad.
Former Broward County, Florida, sheriff’s deputy Jeff Poole has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison after after being convicted of a civil rights violation. Poole had arrested a woman on false drug charges as part of a conspiracy by disbarred attorney Scott Rothstein. The woman was the ex-wife of a friend of Rothstein, who wanted to use the arrest against her in a custody battle. Sheriff’s Lt. David Benjamin had previously been sentenced to five years for ordering the arrest.
While shopping with her husband in Quincy, Florida, on July 19, 2010, Mickey Goodson stopped by a Winn-Dixie drugstore to pick up some allergy pills. The pharmacist on duty suggested she buy two boxes of Sudafed, which she did. Thus began Goodson’s entanglement with the criminal justice system, which featured searches of her car and home, along with drug charges that were not dropped until September 2011.