One cold winter day just about 30 years ago, when on recess duty I clearly heard, carried crisply on the cold winter air, the distinctive sound of a .22 short being fired. A .22 short is a very small bullet but still very dangerous and the sound that it makes is like a very short not too loud snap or very sharp clap of your hands, it is incredibly distinctive, and no one who has spent any time firing a .22 pistol or rifle will mistake it for anything else.
When I heard the sound I took off running around the corner of the building and as I turned the corner saw several boys standing by the wall of the gym rather comically frozen in place. As I approached I saw an empty .22 short cartridge lying on the ground between the boys. I noticed that everyone was looking at only one student…good kid, good parents, good student and now the question of who had done the deed was closed. What, Why, and how came later.
The boy had been hunting the previous weekend and upon going out for recess had found an unspent .22 short bullet in his jacket pocket. When asked what they had done, they told me, in yet another proof of temporary teenage insanity that afflicts so many, they had been taking turns throwing the cartridge against the gym wall to see if it would go off.
It did and in the process scared the literal pee out of at least one of them. The student who brought the bullet and had in fact made the “lucky” throw against the wall was sent to the office, parents were called, punishments discussed and implemented and we all agreed that it would not happen again. In a week it was in effect forgotten.
Today, the police would have been called, the child arrested, and the event very possibly might be front page national news on a website or newspaper after a decision was made on how to spin it. Under federal regulations the child would be expelled, hands would be wrung, school policies altered, politicians would make hay, and I and the school district would no doubt be sued by someone, perhaps everyone on the playground that day.
I can just see the class action TV ad now. “Was your child on the playground at the middle school,” “were they at home ill and heard the shot”, “did they see it on the news or hear about it from friends and become fearful?” you may be entitled to compensation call the law firm of Dewey, Cheatum and Howe.
It was clear at the end of the day that kid would never do it again, his embarrassed parents would see to that. He is now a school teacher now and from what I have heard a good one. Would he be a teacher today, under today’s rules after he had been expelled, charged as an adult and possibly become a felon.
At the present time instead of using their brains or being allowed to use their brains too many administrators and the federal government agencies hide or are forced to hide, behind the arbitrary CYA rules that now seem to govern all aspects of public administration. Today I have no doubt that he would have been charged, possibly with child endangerment, as a child!! and thousands of kids would have missed out on the chance to have a caring teacher who had lived their life learning from mistakes rather than being destroyed by them.
Who knows if our infatution with rules we might even start expelling kids for bringing their scout knife or butter knife to school or horrors, a squirt gun, if wiser heads didn’t prevail…… Oh wait we do suspend kids for those things and at times expel them, as if we and kids can’t tell the difference between a squirt gun and a Walther PPK or a plastic butter knife and a Special Forces cutter.
Lets stop the insanity and use the brains we were born with. I am reminded of a quote. possibly apocryphal from Diogenes who when asked how he could be helped answered, “Only Stand Out of My Light.” When we subject children to unthinking and unbending rules we deny nature and we teach them that everything is black and white and absolute. Nothing could be further from the truth particularly with children. Let us in the future get out from behind the darkness of unbending rules, political absolutism and zero tolerance and bring things back out into the light of reason and thought so that fair resolution and compromise once again become the essence of our schools and our society.