Tag Archives: Maryland

POW! Act Tough On Play Fighting And Vaccinate Against Mass Shootings

Last week on The Blog, Tom Hashemi discussed the case of a 6 year old at a Maryland elementary school who was suspended for pretending to shoot a classmate with his fingers. Cheeks puffed, thumb at the ready to pull the invisible trigger. POW. Tom considered the school’s decision to suspend the child an overreaction, even more so that his parents hired an attorney to fight the decision in the hopes of removing the mark from his scholastic record.

I offer an alternative perspective; what if that really was the right decision? Prefaced with the recent wave of mass shootings in schools, universities, places of work, worship and leisure, Tom argued that children should still be left to play as they see fit. However, we must ask ourselves where the social acceptability of gun-play came from. How through shoot-‘em-up video games*, film franchises such as Die Hard and Transformers and children’s toys, we have surreptitiously taught little boys from birth that guns are seriously cool.** Playing cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers is assumed to be a natural part of play.

I agree wholeheartedly that the child is not at fault. He is merely behaving as society – particularly American society, as saturated with firearms as it is – has dictated. Yes, these parents feel outraged that their child has been singled out, victimised even, but where I differ from my colleague is in the ultimate rightness of the school authority’s decision. It is high time we modified our children’s perception of acceptable play from the foundations and on a much bigger scale. Guns, even pea-shooters, should not be taken for granted.

This school’s decision should be taken as a message – the penny has dropped – gun culture has gone too far. Teach children not to emulate the errors of previous generations or to cry foul at something vague like the ‘freedom’ or the ‘right’ to act however one wishes, but rather to respect firearms, that they are not for play and that to wield one is irrevocably tied to a monumental responsibility.


Photo Credit: Linh.ngan


*Let’s not get sucked into that debate about video games and the desensitisation from violence. There isn’t room here to go into it but I promise another article on The Blog in the near future.

** I also promise to discuss the issue of gendered toys very, very soon.

POW! Play Fighting In An Era Of Mass Shootings

On my morning rout through the various online news sources one story kept catching my eye on American news sites: a six year old was suspended in Maryland in late December for pointing his finger at a classmate and shouting “Pow!”.

With a backdrop of Sandy Hook, the Sikh temple shooting, the Aurora shooting, and the 58 other mass murders in the US since 1982, some reaction from school authorities to such an incident is understandable. Particularly if the child had been warned in the past about displaying such behaviour. But is suspending a child from school really the right approach?

If a child is genuinely displaying signs of threatening to shoot a fellow student (which is purportedly how the school characterised the event), is ostracising him or her from their classmates the path that school authorities should take? We cannot ignore the fact that ostractisation from school or society so frequently plays a role in these events.

Add to this the fact that this boy is six years old. Six! It would be worth contemplating whether a child would even begin to comprehend the seriousness of this backdrop of mass-murders. I think its safe to say that it is inconceivable to think that he understood the implications of this tiny act of play.

The all the more laughable development is that the parents have hired an attorney to fight against the suspension. What better way to destroy the authority that a teacher needs to control a classroom than for the parents to sue the school, what better way to damage the education that your child is going to receive.

And then you have kids like this – truly impressive.


Photo credit: Håkan Dahlström