Legislation & Lobbying

Lawmakers propose 'Toaster Pastry Gun Freedom Act' to stop school suspensions over imaginary weapons

The father of a 7-year-old boy suspended from school for two days last year for chewing a breakfast toaster pastry into the shape of a gun did not protest the Baltimore district’s application of its zero-tolerance policy on weapons in vain.

A lawmaker in Maryland last year proposed a bill to protect students from being suspended over the use of imaginary weapons, which died in committee. However, it helped spark a similar effort in another state.

Following the lead of Sen. J. B. Jennings, a Republican representing Baltimore and Hartford counties who introduced a bill popularly known as the “Toaster Pastry Gun Freedom Act” last year, a K-12 subcomittee of the Florida House of Representatives has proposed that the state adopt a law saying that “simulating a firearm” is not grounds for disciplinary action, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

The Maryland bill was officially known as The Reasonable School Discipline Act of 2013. It would have banned suspensions for “mak[ing] a hand shape or gesture resembling a gun,” as well as expulsions for bringing to school “any other object that resembles a gun but serves another purpose,” unless the incident at issue also involved a direct act of violence occurring on school property.

The proposed Florida version (PDF) says “Simulating a firearm or weapon while playing or wearing clothing or accessories that depict a firearm or weapon or express an opinion regarding a right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is not grounds for disciplinary action or referral to the criminal justice or juvenile justice system.”

Under specific examples of permissible conduct, the bill describes “Brandishing a partially consumed pastry or other food item to simulate a firearm or weapon.”

Suspensions of young children over claimed weapons that obviously don’t pose a real risk of harm are not rare occurrences.

Around the same time that Josh Welch, 7, was suspended for two days for chewing a rectangular toaster pastry into a gun-like shape at a school in Baltimore, another 7-year-old, at a school in Colorado, was suspended for throwing an imaginary hand grenade on the playground there. Alex Evans said he was pretending he was a hero saving the world and tossed the nonexistent weapon at imaginary evil forces.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Boy, 7, suspended for chewing pastry into shape of gun, pointing it and saying ‘bang, bang’”

ABAJournal.com: “Imaginary weapon gets 7-year-old a real school suspension”

Huffington Post: “Pop Tart Gun Bill: Josh Welch School Suspension Leads Maryland Legislator To Introduce The ‘Reasonable School Discipline Act of 2013’”

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.