'Zero Tolerance' School Suspension Policy Debated Post-Newtown

The extent to which the Newtown, Conn., shooting might influence educators' disciplinary decisions is unclear. But parents contend administrators are projecting adult fears onto children who know little about the massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators, and who certainly pose no threat to anyone.

''It's horrible what they're doing to these kids,'' said Kelly Guarna, whose 5-year-old daughter, Madison, was suspended by Mount Carmel Area School District in eastern Pennsylvania last month for making a ''terroristic threat'' with the bubble gun. ''They're treating them as mini-adults, making them grow up too fast, and robbing them of their imaginations.''

Mary Czajkowski, superintendent of Barnstable Public Schools in Hyannis, Mass., acknowledged that Sandy Hook has teachers and parents on edge. But she defended Hyannis West Elementary School's warning to a 5-year-old boy who chased his classmates with a gun he'd made from plastic building blocks, saying the student didn't listen to the teacher when she told him repeatedly to stop.

The school told his mother if it happened again, he'd face a two-week suspension.

''Given the heightened awareness and sensitivity, we must do all that we can to ensure that all students and adults both remain safe and feel safe in schools,'' Czajkowski said in a statement. ''To dismiss or overlook an incident that results in any member of our school community feeling unsafe or threatened would be irresponsible and negligent.''

Image: School sign, via Shutterstock

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