CNN host Soledad O’Brien did not have much patience Monday for a Maryland state senator who recently introduced legislation aimed at preventing children from being punished for making gun references in the classroom.
Maryland Sen. J.B. Jennings (R) claims his bill was written in reaction to the story about a 7-year-old boy who seemingly shaped his Pop Tart into a gun and got suspended from school because of it. Jennings’ bill, the Reasonable School Discipline Act of 2013 (PDF) would prohibit schools from suspending or expelling students who make a shape or gesture resembling a gun.
Despite his earnestness, O’Brien was not convinced that a classroom misunderstanding is cause for legislation. “The original problem to me seemed there was a lack of flexibility in understanding how to deal with small children,” she said.
Jennings argued that his legislation was necessary to get the school boards talking about “zero tolerance” policies that contribute to suspensions in cases where the infraction is relatively minor. “That’s why I put this legislation in,” he said. “It has started the discussion. Look, here you and I are sitting here talking about it on national TV. Now it’s being addressed. Hopefully the boards of education will take this and move forward with it.”
“But I thought talking about it on national TV with a kid and his dad was also a mistake because it was silly that it got to that,” she replied. “The point that I was even doing an interview with a 7-year-old boy about biting his danish into the shape of a gun and got suspended was ridiculous.’
O’Brien added that she feels Jennings is “going up the wrong tree” by proposing legislation when just a little more flexibility in the classroom is what’s needed. “If you were my state senator, I’d want you to be doing other things and not worrying about the danish shaped into a gun to be perfectly honest,” she concluded.
This video is from CNN’s “Starting Point,” aired Monday, March 11, 2013.