New legislation combats Pop-Tart bandits

April Fool’s Day 2013 was a productive time for the internet.  Netflix got us all with categories entitled “TV Shows Where Defiantly Crossed Arms Mean Business,”  Movies Starring Estelle Getty and Some Other Guy,”  and, (my personal favorite), “Movies Featuring an Epic Nicolas Cage Meltdown.”  I read a few satirical articles, looked at some pretty funny photoshop jobs, and was altogether pleased with the comic festivities until I came across one particular article, on a Maryland school board’s alleged vow to remove the letter ‘L’ from alphabet curriculum – because its shape is visually similar to that of a gun.

The article contained quotes from the letter ‘L’ itself, as well as a reference to the problematic construction of the letter ‘G’ in American Sign Language (also slightly indicative of  a gun), and ended with a big graphic with April Fool’s in all caps.  Clearly, the piece was meant as satire.  What bothers me more, however, is the actual real life evidence applied in the background.

The article made reference to an on-going case involving a 7-year-old second grader in Maryland who has been suspended for biting his pop-tart into a gun shape.  I have yet to read any evidence that the child, second-grader Josh Welch, attempted to pretend threaten other children or faculty at the elementary school with direct aim and sound effects, just that his bites ended in a vaguely gun-shaped treat, which he proceeded waved it in the air.  The Welch family’s attorney, Robin Ficker, attested that no student has come forward claiming to have been frightened by Josh Welch’s actions.  In his own statement, Welch told Baltimore Fox Station WBFF that “It was already a rectangle and I just kept on biting it and biting it and tore off the top and it kinda looked like a gun but it wasn’t.  All I was trying to do was turn it into a mountain but, it didn’t look like a mountain really and it turned out to be a gun kinda.”

I am in no way going to attempt to sew up the gun control issue with this article.  As a matter of fact, I hope to keep this discussion as separate from that argument as possible, given the subject matter.  The issue is entirely too involved for a 500 word article, and it’s not one I see coming to a close any time soon, regardless of anyone’s personal beliefs, mine included.  I understand that the aftermath of horrific incidents like the Sandy Hook massacre require heightened security and national dialogue.  But I hardly think that warrants protection from a 7-year-old with teeth and an imagination.

Since Welch’s involvement in the great pop-tart fiasco, Maryland state Senator J.B. Jennings has undertaken legislation to modify the zero-tolerance policy, so that students whose snacks, paper scraps, and eraser shavings are shaped similarly will not be punished in the same manner.  In essence, the initiative allows school officials the flexibility to acknowledge that a snack chewed into the shape of a pistol, a switchblade, or a grenade has no real application as harmful.

There will certainly by backlash from this legislation – many will prefer to implement zero tolerance, for fear that the image of a cherry-flavored, jelly-centered feaux Glock will terrorize young children, or plant a seed of violence in their young brains.  I believe there is a time to call a thing what it is, however, and this is overkill.  Using scare tactics over cereal bars and choosing to impose blanket bans instead of educating children about real dangers is neither productive nor intelligent.