Proposed 'Common Sense' Zero Tolerance Act Draws Concerns


Thursday, January 9th 2014, 5:58 pm
By: News 9


A proposed law that would ease school rules when it comes to fake weapons is causing a stir.

It's called the "Common Sense Zero Tolerance Act" and the bill's author says it will protect children in school.

"Real intent, real threats and real weapons should always be dealt with immediately. We need to stop criminalizing children's imagination and childhood play," explained Sally Kern, Republican from Oklahoma City.

"If there's no real intent, there's no real threat, no real weapon, no real harm is occurring or going to occur, why in the world are we in a sense abusing our children like this."

Kern authored the bill after hearing about incidents in other states where students faced harsh punishments for incidents involving fake weapons. She said some school administrators just have not used common sense, such as with the 2nd grader from Maryland who was suspended for chewing his pastry into the shape of a gun.

House Bill 2351 states schools shall not "punish, humiliate, intimidate, be condescending to, or bully a student" who has "possession of a toy weapon."

It also prevents schools from punishing students "using a finger or hand to simulate at weapon," "vocalizing imaginary firearms" or "drawing a picture of a firearm." But the Oklahoma Education Association isn't on board with Kern's proposed law.

"I fully trust Oklahoma educators to handle student discipline in an appropriate case-by-case manner. The proposed legislation removes local control from teachers, counselors, administrators and local school boards. Educators are degreed professionals, trained and experienced in dealing with children," explained O.E.A President Linda Hampton.

"With our state facing so many critical issues in public education, Oklahoma Legislators should be focusing on school funding, excessive testing and overcrowded classrooms. The focus should not be on removing a teacher's ability to use common sense, local policies and their professional training when dealing with student discipline."

Kern said if there is no real gun on school property, there is no harm done. She added that as a former educator she can understand why teachers sometimes err on the side of caution and overreact to these situations because they are being asked to do so much and do not want to risk losing s job.

If the bill passes, it will go into effect on July 1 because Kern attached an emergency clause to the bill.