Tuesday, March 12, 2013
A seven-year-old boy bit a Pop-Tart into the shape of maybe-what-sorta-looked-like-could-possibly-have-been a gun. And the world stopped.
Ok, it didn’t stop for everyone. Just the students, teachers and families associated with Park Elementary School in Baltimore.
According to London’s The Daily Mail—my latest online addiction—and many U.S. news outlets, on Feb. 28 Josh Welch was at school when he gnawed his breakfast pastry into something a teacher thought looked like a gun.
The kid said he was trying to nibble his strawberry snack into a mountain. But when his teacher saw what he had done, Josh said, she became upset and he knew he was “in big trouble.”
Sure enough, Josh was suspended for two days. SUSPENDED FOR TWO DAYS. For munching a Pop-Tart into a shape that may or may not have looked like Mount Hood, or possibly a cartoon gun.
I can’t decide if this is Orwellian or Kafkaesque. It’s so absurd as to be hysterical. Under this premise, if Josh had chomped it into a circle and cried, “Boom!” the school would’ve been evacuated for a bomb threat.
When administrators called Josh’s dad to inform him of his spawn’s nefarious deed, Mr. Welch temporarily lost the power of speech. When he regained it, he said, “I would almost call this insanity.”
He said school officials claimed Josh cried, “Bang! Bang!” while holding—or was he AIMING?--the pastry. The horror!
Mr. Welch found the incident surreal. “What with the real threats, bullies, whatever--it's a pastry. Ya know?” he said.
The school also sent home a letter with every student informing parents that a classmate had used food “to make an inappropriate gesture.” If I were to receive such a letter, I would probably bite the head off a chocolate bunny and go to bed for two days.
Josh, who reportedly suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and enjoys art classes, told a local Fox News crew he didn’t mean to cause a stink. He denies that his food art was ever meant to be a gun.
“I just kept biting it and tore off the top and it kinda looked like a gun but… I was trying to turn it into a mountain but it turned out to be a gun, kinda,” he said. And the results were ridiculous, kinda.
As I write this on March 3, the school had refused to comment due to privacy issues.
I don’t have kids but I do pay taxes that fund our schools. I’m for any security measures that keep another Sandy Hook or Columbine or Jonesboro from happening. But to suspend a seven-year-old for having an imagination is protecting whom from what?
My brother took a wooden rubber-band gun to school in the 70’s. He zinged two pals pretty good before an assistant principal grabbed him by the collar and confiscated the weapon. T-Bob never saw it again. Today, he would never have seen the inside of that school again. He would have been expelled and sent to an alternative school.
I know times have changed. Our society is more violent and kids have a horrifying propensity to shoot each other. I know safe is better than sorry. But a Pop-Tart shaped like a gun? Really? I’m concerned about a teacher that paranoid. Did she err on the side of caution, or does she see assassins around every corner? I don’t know.
I just know I’ll never eat a Pop-Tart the same way again.
Julie R. Smith, who makes interesting shapes with her oatmeal, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.