A ten-year-old boy in Ohio, Nathan Entingh, has been suspended from school for three days because he made a pretend gun with his fingers and pointed at a fellow student’s head. The incident followed a number of warnings issued at the school about inappropriate behavior and is a violation of Ohio’s zero tolerance law for schools.
The 1998 law, SB 55, mandates schools “adopt a policy of zero tolerance for violent, disruptive, or inappropriate behavior, including excessive truancy.” SB 55 also calls for schools to “establish strategies to address such behavior that range from prevention to intervention.” Nowhere does it say suspension. Prevention and intervention are things teachers and principles do in the course of their responsibilities. Suspension is an abdication of their responsibility. It’s a punt, to avoid having to think and assume responsibility for properly dealing with the problem on scene, immediately. The only thing worse are those schools that call the police to come arrest recalcitrant students and take them to jail. In those cases the kids are traumatized, the police are wasting their time, and the teachers and principals have, once again, avoided taking responsibility for what goes on in their school.
According to the CNN report:
In the Columbus City Schools district, where Nathan goes to school, 12 students were expelled because of incidents in the “firearm look-a-likes” category, while 69 students were suspended. Contrast that with categories such as harassment and intimidation, in which zero students were expelled, though 1527 were suspended districtwide.
It’s shameful. If you don’t want the responsibility of dealing with children, if you can’t handle them effectively short of just sending them home and getting them out of your classroom, then you shouldn’t be in the classroom in the first place.
The problem, of course, isn’t kids who point fingers. Where we really need zero tolerance is with adults who insist on owning, carrying, and pointing real guns. But that’s too hard and might cost us the next election. So we inflict it on our kids instead — as though suspending Nathan Entingh were going to stop the next school shooting.
18 thoughts on “10-year-old suspended for ‘shooting’ classmate with finger gun”
It seems a trivial incident. But it could be bullying and should be dealt with swiftly. This way you nip in the bud.
Good point. If bullying were involved, I’d support an immediate suspension.
First and perhaps foremost, I was not aware of this incident or perhaps even more importantly, the grievous violation that it has been deemed. Now, understand that statement comes from one who grew up on school playgrounds and in local neighborhoods where ‘finger guns’ were common place. Granted in those days it was always done within the context of a game of “Cowboys & Indians” or the infamous “Cops & Robbers”, The only other time the gesture seemed appropriate in those days was when you got your latest report card and realizing when you got home the s*** was going to hit the fan, you would point the dreaded ‘finger gun’ at your own head in an effort to escape the impending disaster.
Your post did make me realize in a sobering way however how the tragic events now occurring in our current society can turn such an innocent gesture from my generation into something traumatic and offensive in a future generation. So sad…
I grew up in the same generation and did a lot of finger pointing myself. Mostly cowboys and Indians. Nobody got hurt so it was considered harmless. Unless something has changed, I assume it still is.
The political correctness and zero tolerance we impose on our kids today makes me wonder what sort of adults they’ll be. They get suspended from school for playing with “finger guns” but when they get home, daddy is cleaning his real gun, perhaps so they can go out for a little target practice together. What sort of mixed messages are they getting? How does zero tolerance teach tolerance?
This is the kind of thing that makes me glad I don’t have kids. It’s absurd. I remember having this long conversation with other kids about the appropriate way to fire finger guns. I would bend my thumb at the knuckle, to resemble the hammer. Someone else said to bend the pointer, because that is your trigger finger “in real life.” Another said you’re supposed to use your middle finger to represent the trigger. I was way too uncoordinated for that. We never did resolve the issue.
Interesting discussion! I think I just move my thumb up and down — if I move anything at all. Sitting here experimenting, I can’t bend my thumb without my index finger also bending slightly. Obviously you don’t want to bend your index finger, because the “barrel” of the gun needs to be straight. And I don’t recall my middle finger ever being involved. Of course, none of this is a problem if you’re firing a rifle …
The next question is sound effects. Is it “bang, bang,” “pow,” or “pew, pew”?
Based on your post today I am posting something tomorrow that I wrote several years ago that was published in our local newspaper. I go into some detail about girls and their pathetic gun sound effects…. Drop by! 🙂
Oh, so girls don’t do gun sound effects as well as boys? You can bet I’ll be checking that out! 🙂
BTW, would you like me to link your name to your blog so other readers can find you? (Providing your URL when you first commented would have accomplished that.)
I’d appreciate that! I’ll see if I can’t change it myself when I post this comment. Thanks!
Looks like you got it. Good. Wouldn’t want anyone to miss your post tomorrow. 🙂
Tolerance would be allowing children to learn the difference between “pretend” violence and the real thing.
When I was in elementary school (60 plus years ago), we all had finger guns as well as the real thing. Nobody needed a school teacher to tell us the difference.
And yeah… the thumb is the hammer and it goes “POW!” On the other hand, I tolerated being shot with the moving trigger finger that goes “Bang!”
Yes, I had a real gun at home too (a really cool cowboy-looking lever-action .22!). Fingers weren’t nearly as much fun, but even back then shooting friends with the real thing was frowned upon. And teachers were smart enough to know that finger guns were not real guns.
I wonder, if Nathan had used his index finger as a trigger instead of a barrel, therefore not pointing it, would it still have counted as a gun? And had he not said “Boom” (big gun!), would it have been considered a “shooting”? The CNN story said the school classified Nathan’s finger gun as a “level 2 look alike firearm.” They’ve actually classified pretend guns!? Ohioans have lost their minds.
Zero tolerance in schools ranks right up there with minimum sentencing rules in our courts as a poor response to age-old problems. There is a need, I think, to be allowed to apply judgment in both places. We are not robots, and we should not support rules designed for automatons. Justice always should be tempered with mercy and understanding.
Especially with impressionable young minds. What happens to a child’s attitude toward school and the educational system when something like this happens? How traumatized was that Georgia kindergartner when the police came to her school, arrested her, and hauled her away in handcuffs for having a temper tantrum? What must she now think about school, authority figures, and the police?