By LAUREN CORMIER
In wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last December, schools across the country implemented a zero-tolerance gun policy, but what effect is this having on the children?
With such heart-wrenching tragedies occurring around the U.S., it is justifiable that everyone wants to increase safety and take necessary precautions. However, the zero-tolerance gun policy, however, seems to leave no room for common sense.
Three weeks ago, the Daily News reported a 13-year-old boy was suspended from his school in Virginia Beach for shooting a gun. The controversy behind the story rests on the fact it was an airsoft gun, which fires plastic bullets, and it was at his home, outside of school hours.
Back in January, two six-year-old boys were suspended from their school in Maryland for shaping their fingers like guns and pointing them at each other during a recess game of cops and robbers, as reported by ABC News.
An even more bizarre story earlier this year by Meredith Edwards of CNN, was when a five-year-old girl was talking with her friends about her new “Hello Kitty” bubble making gun.
She made the suggestion for her friends to shoot her with it and she will shoot them back.
The next day she was issued a 10-day suspension labeled as a “terroristic threat.”
The New York Daily News also reported on May 31st 2013, a seven-year-old boy was suspended for chewing his Pop-Tart into the resemblance of a gun.
He stated he was trying to achieve a mountain shape, but was issued the suspension anyway. None of the students in these stories posed any kind of real threat to their school or people.
These innocent children are now subjected to labels permanently placed on their academic records, but for what?
The Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and Aurora, Colorado shootings can all be attributed to mental illness.
David Kopel wrote in the Wall Street Journal in December 2012, “In the mid-1960s, many of the killings would have been prevented because the severely mentally ill would have been confined and cared for in a state institution.
But today, while government at most every level has bloated over the past half-century, mental-health treatment has been decimated.”
The National Association of School’s Psychologists (NASP) suggest that schools terminate the zero-tolerance policy guidelines and instead implement a plan that would call for violence prevention, social skills training with positive behavioral supports, and early intervention strategies. NASP goes on to say, “Although zero-tolerance policies were developed to assure consistent and firm consequences for dangerous behaviors, broad application of these policies has resulted in a range of negative outcomes with few if any benefits to students or the school community.” States cut at least $4.35 billion in public mental health spending from 2009 to 2012, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. Mental Health is a more common issue than the public may realize.
Nearly one in four adults suffer from some sort of mental health problem. The cost and inability for states to help with funding make it is a large problem. It is time the U.S. opens its eyes, as this is a problem that needs solving.
It is time we stop penalizing innocent children and start focusing on the deeper issues of mental illnesses going untreated.