Update: Six-Year-Old Deadly Finger-Shooter Exonerated! (But It Doesn’t Matter)


Montgomery County school officials really think this picture is relevant to this story!

Montgomery County school officials really think this picture is relevant to this story!

Responding to community and media pressure, not to mention internet, radio talk show and cable TV ridicule, school officials in Montgomery County rescinded the suspension of a 6-year-old Silver Spring boy who they said had endangered the school when he pointed his finger like a gun.  I think the harm is done, and the fact of the suspension is signature significance that the administrators lack judgment, reason and proportion.

We learn some new facts in the Post story. The boy had apparently been reprimanded for using objects as imaginary guns in class, so there was an element of legitimate discipline in his punishment. There is some controversy over whether he may have said “Pow!” when he pointed his finger. If anyone thinks that should make any difference whatsoever, please sit in the back of the class with the silly Montgomery County administrators. Sure…saying “Pow!” makes that finger-gun even more realistic.


We learn that he had no knowledge of the Sandy Hook killings; he didn’t know what “Connecticut” was, either. These are just details, however. Again, anyone who really thought that a second-grader’s use of a finger gun signified a sinister intentional reference to Sandy Hook needs to get, in order, a life, a job outside the school system, and a brain.

The key quote in the Post piece is this, from a spokesperson for the schools, who told the Post that “…officials must deal with behavior that affects a school’s sense of safety and security.”  Controversy resolved. That statement makes it clear that the boy wasn’t punished for disobedience, but because his playful and harmless act frightened a group of hysterics, or somehow offended them. The story also notes that “in suspending Rodney, an assistant school principal wrote in a Dec. 20 letter that the boy “threatened to shoot a student.” This also answers settles the legitimate punishment question. The school could have justifiably punished (but not suspended) a 6-year-old for repeating a gesture he had been told not to make in class, but this was not why he was punished in fact. He was punished because foolish school administrators interpreted a six-year-old’s pointed finger as an actual threat. That is, beyond all question or debate, idiotic.

And thus, despite the retraction of the suspension, the real harm remains. This is a school system run by people who have exposed themselves as incompetent, untrustworthy fools. The students are at risk, not of being shot, but of being turned into fools as well.


Pointer: fattymoon posterous (Thanks)

Facts: Washington Post

Graphic: Gawker

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.



33 thoughts on “Update: Six-Year-Old Deadly Finger-Shooter Exonerated! (But It Doesn’t Matter)

      • I don’t think a thorough investigation occurred, they need to ask whichever kid was playing as the State bureaucrat to see if he pretend-issued a finger carry permit or not.

        The suspect may have been acting in self defense. Did he perceive a threat? They need to ask the witnesses if they saw other finger guns being brandished.

        Here’s the real question:

        What was the suspects motive?

        Was he playing Cowboys and Indians? If so, surely he needs some culturally awareness training.

        Was he playing cops and robbers? If so, he surely needs a class or two on the nature of vigilantism and its antithetical role towards due process and rule of law.

        Was he playing World War 2? He probably ought to be reminded that the Germans and Japanese are now our friends.

        I’m just saying, there’s more ways to finalize this kid’s distrust in the system than what’s already been done. We need to get on it.

    • Here’s a question that will blow your mind: What if he’d said “Zap!”? What then, huh? Is shooting someone with a finger ray gun a lesser crime than shooting someone with a finger firearm because the pretend gun uses pretend technology? Or is it a greater crime because if ray gun technology existed it would be totally deadly? The school board needs to make a policy on this.

      When I was in high school, a bunch of us would do this thing where whenever we ran into each other we’d point and say “zap”. Just a silly thing we did. One of the teachers even joined in sometimes. Then again, he was the irresponsible fool who also sometimes borrowed my Swiss Army knife instead of having me arrested. It was the 80’s, people were irresponsible that way.

      That’s right, I carried a blade in school, because I was badass.

      • That would be paradoxical. Depending on the energy source, ray guns may be green technology, garnering praise from the environmental lobby.

        However, depending on who the imaginary ray gun was pointing at, the Rebel Alliance lobby or the Empire lobby may very well be affronted.

      • That reminds me of one of my Marine buddies who related a story from Boot Camp. They were practice Squad and Fire Team tactics. But they had no training rounds to simulate the pop and kick of firing their weapons, so their Drill Instructors commanded them to say “Bang”. As silly as that sounds it serves a purpose.

        Needless to say, in the heat of simulated battled, after several tedious evolutions, one of the Marine Recruits opted into saying, “zap zap!” It caught on.

        With the entire Squad zapping away at pretend Communist and/or Al Qaeda intruders, the DI’s finally had enough and just applied calisthenic oriented correction to shut them up.

        • That happened to me in basic training. The drill sergeants were unable to get ahold of blank adaptors for our M-16s during the bivouac phase, so we were out in the woods of southern Missouri yelling “bang”, “zap” and assorted unprintables at each other as we defended our perimeter! Needless to say, the entire affair degenerated into a silly cowboys & Indians, 4th grade “epic” with our sergeants going nuts at us. Fun… but not military! Maybe this should be a required course for educators, so they can get their little minds out of the ivy halls and into a little reality about juvenile behavior. Anyone who thinks that boys in their late teens (as we were) are adults needs to ask a sergeant.

  1. Of course they reversed their position. They read the rules for the Curmie Award, discovered that they couldn’t be nominated because the actual events occurred in December, and I didn’t write about them in 2012, and gave up. I believe there was a “wait ’til next year” pledge that would have done the Brooklyn Dodgers proud, however.

  2. Maybe Merriam-Webster should define ‘zero tolerance’ as zero intelligence. That’s the way most school systems define it.

    • “Zero-Intelligence” was the name of a great blog that used to document all the zero-tolerance outrages. Eventually covering this every day risked the blogger’s sanity, so, alas, he stopped. I miss the blog, and him.

      • But how is it that people with Zero Intelligence- along with Zero Integrity, Zero Responsibility and Zero Morals In General- have come to be authority figures over our children; to presumably direct them toward their own affliction? I’ve been railing for years at everyone I know in authority and at every parent I’ve contacted: Pay Close Attention To School Board Elections! These jerks exist in their cushy jobs and endanger the mentality and the future of their innocent charges because we let them.

  3. Two things. 1) This should have been a non-event because the classroom teacher should have handled it. If she/he can not control and council a six-year old, he/she has no right being in the classroom. A principal’s primary duty is to fill out forms. 2) The statistics are commonly reported so there is no need to repeat them but children are well trained to think violent images and react in violent ways. Games, movies, television, computers, neighbors all reinforce violent behavior because this has become a violent, hateful nation. Toy guns have been around since the days of hunting for your dinner but the vast majority of those kids were trained to use the weapon correctly. Unfortunately this is no longer the case. Now parents might as well be saying, “Here, Johnny, take this toy pistol outside and pretend to kill your sister.” The actions of a six-year old should be overlooked, the actions of the society-at-large should be condemned.

      • I did not try to qualify violent or hateful so don’t misquote me. I said it has become “a violent, hateful nation.” How can you debate either adjective?

        • Milton: I apologize for the misunderstanding. If one says to me, “You have become a stupid person,’ I take that to mean I am now stupid, wasn’t always stupid, and am demonstrably more stupid now that I was before. If I say to a young woman, “You have become a beautiful woman,” there is a reasonable suggestion in that statement that 1) she was not always a woman 2) she was not always so beautiful and 3) she is more beautiful now than before.

          Thus I was not intentionally misrepresenting your meaning when I took your statement to mean that the nation is 1) violent and hateful and 2) more violent and hateful than it used to be.

          That said:
          —The nation has always been violent, and is demonstrably less violent than it once was. It cannot have “become violent,” because it was born violent.
          —-The nation is not “hateful.” I stand by my previous statement, that the hateful people are louder and more publicized, but they are not representative of the whole. This is a generous, forgiving, charitable and trusting nation.

          • I apologize. I understand my error in communication. Since my comments rarely seem to contribute to the conversation, but instead mostly generate concern about minor points, I will cease to make any in the future.

            • I make “errors in communication” all the time, especially in comments. Your comments do contribute and are valued—I just challenge your assertion in the last comment about “hateful,” and maintain that your statement about violence in inaccurate. I would be interested in knowing in what basis you think the whole country is hateful. Picking up your marbles and going home is an extreme over-reaction, and unwarranted.

    • I have found that teachers know less about how to deal with children than the average parent. I worry about my current child’s pre-K teacher. She didn’t understand why the boys were fighting all the time at the beginning of the school year. It was easy to see why, none of them knew each other. They were getting into fights because that is how you sort out the pecking order when you are 4. She also told me she was very worried that my son was a psychopath or something. Her reasoning was that after some kid hit him, he would hit them back. When he got caught and was told he was going to be punished, he just said “OK”, and took his punishment. She said it scared her that he didn’t cry or throw a fit when being punished. She couldn’t understand that he understood he would be punished BEFORE he hit the kid. He knew he was going to be sent to the office if he hit the kid, so why would he be upset when it happened? From her concerns, I can only assume that his classmates are (a) stupid or (b) are never disciplined when they misbehave.

      • Michael: I’m afraid that we have an entire new generation of teachers who’ve been so indoctrinated in political correctness that they’ve lost touch with the reality of human nature. Some (as with this woman, apparently) seem to think that little boys are just girls with a little extra. They are philosophically and psychologically incapable of understanding the fundamental differences between them; even before puberty. Then they try to feminize them, drug them and punish them until they’re as mixed up as hell. The result? Maladjusted little punks & perverts roaming the streets. There was a time when the term “manly little fellow” was the highest complement an adult could pay to a young boy. That’s because the natural and healthy ideal was there for a boy to live up to.

  4. Jack, in early 2001 my son, who was at that time in the Montgomery County Public School system in 5th grade, made a random remark to his teacher (whom he liked) as they walked with the class to the music room. As the son of 2 musicians, my son was even then appalled at the dismal quality of music education in the primary grades. So, he told his teacher that he wanted to blow up the piano, recounting exactly how he would construct the explosive device (some lame idea about a plastic tennis ball tube). Said teacher apparently freaked out and set in motion what was supposed to have been my son’s expulsion from the school. The only reason they did not expel him was a tiny loophole — apparently no one at the school gave us a school handbook when we enrolled our son a couple of months earlier, so we were unaware of their version of “zero tolerance.” We came away from the experience thinking that they were all buffoons. Nothing has changed.

    • My father, wife and sister have all hinted that the main reason it was a good idea to home school our son was that my own intolerance for such idiocy combined with my temper would surely have me in prison if I had to cope with this for 12 grades. And I fear they were correct.

  5. This goes to show that even reasonable policies can do harm if interpreted by people with no common sense.

    I can understand why we do have zero-tolerance policies, to minimize the possibility that officials will resort to creative interpretations.

      • Correct. They are though. What are you doing about it? What can be done about it?
        In particular, what is being done to correct this particular situation? What disciplinary or other action is being taken, or can be taken? If the answer is “none”, it’s a systemic problem far larger than one particular case.

    • Oh, not true! The movie just didn’t cover that part, because of last minute cuts. Darth Feinstein tried to get the Federation to ban light sabers, and to require retinal scans of all light saber users. In an inter-galactic broadcast of D7U891Z Tonight!, the most popular talking head, literally a talking robot head with a British accent, debated light saber control in the wake of the massacre with Boo Boo Fart, President of the Galactic Light Saber Association.” D7 just lost it too, shouting, “You’re just a stupid, stupid man, aren’t you?” until his head literally exploded, killing Boo Boo and the whole studio staff.

      I think the scene is on YouTube.

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