Are our schools actually run by adults?
It is hard to imagine the frustration felt by the Pennsylvania family whose six-year-old daughter had the cops called on her because she made a “finger gun” at one of her teachers. The little girl, who also has Down syndrome, had grown angry with her teacher, made her fingers into a gun, and said: “I shoot you.” For that, her name is now on a police record that lists her as having “made a threat to her teacher,” as her mother put it.
Where to begin? It is perhaps understandable that a teacher might be initially unsettled when a child makes that kind of gesture in the classroom. But it shouldn’t take more than a moment to get over it. Taking the child aside and explaining why that kind of hand motion is unacceptable should have sufficed; a note home to the kid’s parents could also have worked. Calling the police, on the other hand, is an absurd overreaction, the kind of thing a public school critic might have dreamed up as a parody.
So much of modern education faces similar problems: Teachers, staff and administrators who are incapable of functioning except as part of a rigid, inflexible professional framework. It’s a world of unbending rules, wherein a disabled six-year-old girl’s pouty behavior has to be treated as the equivalent of a legitimate threat. But adults should be capable of making distinctions; they should be able to tell the difference between something real and something merely temperamental.
Much of modern education, of course, is a thick matrix of regulation: Students are told to go here, do this, read that, take a test, keep quiet. That compliance-related mindset has become so ingrained in the average school system that perhaps it’s unsurprising that an administration would call the cops on a six-year-old over a harmless gesture. Everyone involved in that decision should be thoroughly embarrassed, though if you’re siccing law enforcement on a kindergartener, you may not have much capacity for embarrassment.
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