Zero Tolerance Criminalizes 4- And 5-Year-Olds For Using Their Imagination

posted on April 7, 2017

When Maryland second-grader Joshua Welch was suspended in 2013 for chewing a breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun, many Americans suspected that so-called “zero tolerance” policies had gone too far. And when Joshua’s father appealed the suspension—hoping Anne Arundel County’s Park Elementary would be forced to expunge the suspension from Joshua’s record—Americans discovered their suspicions were not without merit. An Anne Arundel circuit judge upheld the suspension as “appropriate.”

Joshua was only 7 years old when his suspension caused outrage across the country. But if you thought that was bad, consider the fact that zero-tolerance policies have continued unabated since that time. Two of the most recent victims have been 4-year-old Hunter Jackson and 5-year-old Caitlin Miller, both of whom committed the unforgiveable error of using their imagination in a manner unapproved by the intolerant.

Hunter Jackson was recently suspended for seven days by A Place to Grow, a preschool located in Troy, Ill. His infraction? On March 21, he brought a spent .22 shell casing to school so he could tell his friends about a hunting trip with his grandfather.On March 21, he brought a spent .22 shell casing to school so he could tell his friends about a hunting trip with his grandfather. 

Hunter’s mother, Kristy, said she had no idea her son had taken the empty shell casing to school. However, she knew how thrilled he had been to go out with his grandfather, as their time together was also used to learn gun safety.

By the way, Hunter’s grandfather is police officer in Caseyville, Ill.

So here is the scenario: A 4-year-old boy gets to go hunting with his grandfather and also gets to learn valuable lessons on using guns safely. While with his grandfather, Hunter spots a spent .22 shell casing on the ground, picks it up and puts it in his pocket. He then takes it to school so he can share his great stories with friends.

Hunter’s mom used a Facebook post to tell the world what happened next:

Today, I picked up my happy little 4 yr old from preschool, at A Place to Grow, in Troy. My arrival was met with a stone-faced teacher, who told me that Hunter brought a “shotgun bullet” to school. I was horrified. My kid? Who just spent the weekend learning gun safety?

Well … when I was escorted to the office for a sit-down, I was handed a tiny .22 empty brass casing. Not a “shotgun bullet.” He found it on the ground, expelled from a .22 rifle over the weekend, while Hunter was target practicing with his police officer grandpa. He was so excited, and snuck it to school to show his friends. We had no idea about it.

I was handed a piece of paper. No words, just eyebrows raised in disgust at my son, explaining that his behavior warranted a seven-school-day suspension. Which I still was expected to pay tuition for, of course. And a threat that if his enthusiasm for guns continued, he'd be permanently expelled.Five-year-old Caitlin Miller’s suspension followed a similar course, albeit the object she possessed was a stick rather than a spent shell casing.

Five-year-old Caitlin Miller’s suspension followed a similar course, albeit the object she possessed was a stick rather than a spent shell casing. That is not a typo: She actually drew the ire of teachers and administrators in North Carolina’s Hoke County School District by picking up a stick at recess and moving it in a “shooting motion.”

ABC 11 reported that Caitlin was playing “King and Queen” with her classmates and was given the make-believe job of protecting the royals. As part of carrying out that job she picked up a stick and made a “shooting motion.” Hoke County Schools described this motion as “a threat” and suspended Caitlin for day. Moreover, they issued a statement defending their decision to suspend her:

Hoke County Schools will not tolerate assaults, threats or harassment from any student. Any student engaging in such behavior will be removed from the classroom or school environment for as long as is necessary to provide a safe and orderly environment for learning.

Suspensions over chewing a breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun, using a spent .22 shell casing to talk about Grandpa, or picking up a stick as part of a make-believe game all have one thing in common—a war on imagination. It appears that leftist academicians and their comrades in primary education have placed ideology before people and sacrificed the value of letting young minds dream in the process. 

AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and host of Bullets with AWR Hawkins, a Breitbart News podcast. He is also the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter at @AWRHawkins, or reach him directly at [email protected].


NRA Gun Collector program
NRA Gun Collector program

NRA Gun Collector Programs

No doubt you have read about NRA’s Eddie Eagle program or the National Matches, but did you know that these are just two of the 130 programs administered by NRA General Operations personnel?

California Gun Owners Win Again in Court

In a major victory for California gun owners, a district court judge has struck down—for the second time—the state’s law banning firearm magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Gun Skills - Concealment, Part 2

A concealed-carry setup can potentially be a bad one if you don’t know what to look for. So what should you be looking for when you carry?

Gun Review: Ruger Security-380

The reliability and ease of accuracy of this hammer-fired, semi-automatic pistol make it a no-brainer to recommend.

Supreme Court Case Reinvigorates The Second Amendment

Last year’s Bruen decision was not the end of the gun-control debate in America. Rather, it merely opened up new fronts in an ongoing struggle.

The Armed Citizen® September 29, 2023

True stories of the right to keep and bear arms.


Get the best of America's 1st Freedom delivered to your inbox.