Design Pics / LJM Photo/LJM Photo/Newscom

Design Pics / LJM Photo/LJM Photo/Newscom

Just when you thought gun-fearing “educators” couldn’t get any sillier.

Last week, it was a couple of teenagers suspended for a year for playing with airsoft guns on the front lawn. This week, it’s a second-grader suspended for a day for using his finger as a pretend gun.

Yes, eight-year-old Jordan Bennett was sent home after administrators at Harmony Community School in Harmony, Florida, concluded that the gesture was an act of violence. School district officials have told the press that their code of conduct prohibits students from playing with invisible guns.

An act of violence? Are they really that dumb? Jordan’s mother, Bonnie, is justifiably bewildered by the stupidity of this punishment: “He had nothing in his hand. It was a finger gun, a pretend gun. He didn’t threaten violence. He didn’t utter words that were inappropriate. He made a sound and used his fingers and that was it.”

This is not the first time that school officials have overreacted to second-grade gun play. In March, Josh Welch, a seven-year-old (yes, seven) student at Park Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland, was accused of nibbling a rectangular, strawberry-filled pastry into a gun-like shape, then stating “bang, bang.” School officials were sufficiently disturbed by this event to remove Josh from class and banish him from the premises for two days.

It didn’t stop with the suspension. Assistant principal Myrna Phillips wrote a stern letter to parents explaining that Josh had “used food to make inappropriate gestures that disrupted the class,” encouraging parents to remind their kids about the “importance of making good choices,” and offering counseling to any student who might need it. All this even as Phillips acknowledged that “no physical threats were made and no one was harmed.”

These overreactions would be laughable if they weren’t such serious business. In the wake of the Newtown massacre, a suspension involving an “act of violence” might just doom a child’s future academic and career prospects before they really begin.

Expecting kids not to get creative with food or play “cops and robbers” is tantamount to asking them, well, not to be kids. Certainly, teachers need to be able to prevent kids from disrupting class, but does anyone really believe that these decisions are about disruption rather than politically correct concerns about promoting a “gun-free culture”?

There’s nothing wrong with these kids; it’s the school officials who really need the counseling—and perhaps a stern lecture about the importance of making good choices. In their zeal to cleanse the schoolhouse of anything that might cause (even imaginary) harm, they’re the ones who may end up doing lasting harm to these children.

The Heritage Foundation’s project USA vs. YOU spotlights the flood of criminal laws threatening our liberties. Explore more stories of overcriminalization and find out what you can do to reverse this trend.