Monday, February 8, 2010

Two Inch Lego Gun

Below is a news item I want to comment on (from

A tiny toy led to big trouble for one fourth-grade New York City boy.

Patrick Timoney, a 9-year-old student at PS 52 in Staten Island, N.Y., was in the school cafeteria Tuesday playing with LEGOs when he was taken to the principal’s office and threatened with suspension. One of his toys was a LEGO policeman that holds a 2-inch plastic gun. The school has a no-tolerance policy when it comes to toy guns. “[The gun] was so little,” the boy told WNBC. “I wouldn’t really think that the principal would cause a lot of commotion just for a little gun.”

The boy’s mother, Laura Timoney, 44, was fuming over the issue. “You don’t traumatize a child who loved to go to school, who wanted to be early every day to school, you don’t make him cry, you don’t make him fill out statements,” she told WNBC, holding back tears. “You don’t do it.”

Pat Timoney, the boy’s father and a retired police officer, was also upset, saying that he’s dealt with people who use imitation weapons as a way to threaten others and commit crimes, and that this situation is different, considering the pinky-size gun in question. (© 2010 MSNBC Interactive)

I know that being a teacher and school administrator aren’t easy jobs, and there are various rules and policies you need to follow. But a little judgment and discretion are in order. To traumatize a fourth grader for bringing a tiny plastic toy gun to school is ridiculous. It reminds me of the school that had a second grader arrested for sexual harassment because he kissed a little girl on the cheek. What nonsense! That kid is probably still in therapy.

When you are the principal of a school, you are in a leadership position. You are supposed to USE YOUR HEAD! You have to remember you have multiple constituents: the kids, the parents, the staff, the school board and the community in general. In my opinion this principal let down the kids, the parents, and the community. The teacher who brought the kid to the principal should be disciplined because he or she used terrible judgment (or maybe no judgment). To avoid this whole mess, that teacher could have leaned over and quietly said to the boy something like this:

“Pat, could you please put that toy gun in your pocket until you go home? You see, we really don’t like toy guns of any size in the school. Thanks.”

But no, this unthinking and uncaring teacher brought shame to that school and put the principal in a difficult position. It’s a shame that some people are so legalistic and unthinking that they lack grace and discretion. Whenever you’re put in a difficult position, say a quick prayer for guidance, consider the ramifications of each of the various options, and then do what you believe to be the right thing. I’m not saying to ignore rules and policies, but I am saying you should apply them appropriately. Don’t be an unthinking and uncaring robot like that teacher.

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