Caitlin Miller, 5, was playing with her best friends during recess at the Raeford, North Carolina school playground. Her two friends were pretending to be a king and queen, and Caitlin was in charge of protecting the kingdom. She picked up a small stick (above) and pretended to shoot imaginary intruders entering the kingdom.
The 5-year-old was sent to the principal’s office and suspended for one day for “turning a stick into a gun and threatening to shoot and kill other students,” the school’s ridiculous assistant principal wrote in a note to Caitlin’s parents. Caitlin, says her mother, doesn’t understand why she was being punished. I don’t blame her. She may soon come to the conclusion that using one’s imagination is wrong, and that guns, even imaginary guns are evil. Or, in the alternative, she may decide that teachers and principals are fools, authority is abusive, and public school is a something to be feared and distrusted.
I would urge her toward the second conclusion rather than the first.
The Hoke County School District issued a statement that “will not tolerate assaults, threats or harassment from any student.”
See what I mean, Caitlin? You didn’t do any of that, but you are being taught by lying, authoritarian jackasses.
“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,” the school system continued. Hmmm. An environment in which a 5-year old is intimidated and abused for creative, harmless, age-appropriate play is not safe.
Caitlin’s mother told reporters that the girl returned to school after her one-day suspension, and felt alienated from her friends and teachers as a result of the punishment. Of course she did. She was treated like a threat and a miscreant. She was used as a prop to indoctrinate her classmates.
“She feels like all the teachers hate her,” mom wrote on Facebook. “I can’t imagine being five and feeling that way.”
She also said she felt Caitlin’s game at recess was “blown way out of proportion.”
STOP. This is how schools continue to get away with such crap. Don’t trivialize or equivocate by using phrases like “blown out of proportion.” Your daughter was traumatized. Your daughter was treated unfairly and cruelly. The school abused its authority, and the staff engaged in child abuse. Call it what it is, and don’t let them shrug this off as a “no-tolerance policy.” It is wrongful conduct. The school should be made accountable, and its attitude be made to change. If it doesn’t, it is negligent parenting for you to allow your daughter to be subjected to the risk of such treatment, or to be taught by those with such atrocious judgment. Fix this.