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‘Zero tolerence’ policies at schools lead to absurdity

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Posted: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 12:00 am

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, a new terrorist threat appeared at Park Elementary School in Anne Arundel County, Md.

Back in March, the Washington Post reported that a 7-year-old boy chewed a Pop-Tart (or a similar product thereof) into the shape of a gun, which upset school authorities. The young man was suspended under the school’s “zero tolerance” weapon policy.

According to news stories, these same leaders took quick and decisive action. They also showed unwavering empathy for students who had witnessed this horrific event. A letter was sent home to all parents stating that if any child were traumatized, the school counselor would be available.

Our nation should be proud of the actions taken by these astute professionals. Who knows what other creative acts by young children could have taken hold if something like this had gotten out of hand? Here are some possibilities: Smith & Wessons chewed out of Shredded Wheat; Colts curled from cranberry muffins — even Berettas bitten out of bagels!

Because of this incident, I have made a request to the American Psychiatric Association for a new diagnostic category. It would be known as “PTSD” or “Pop-Tart Stress Disorder.” Symptoms would include the following:

1. A victim has been exposed to the threat of a food item being pointed at him or her by a perpetrator under the age of 8.

2. The incident caused the victim to respond with dramatic fear, helplessness and horror.

3. Nightmares of monsters and goblins, resembling toaster-tart figures, become a recurring event.

4. Olfactory flashbacks with the unique aroma of pastries from an elementary school cafeteria become commonplace.

Fortunately, we as Americans can provide for those who have — or will — suffer from such heinous events. Psychotherapy is one way to help victimized children and adults.

One type of treatment is called classical conditioning. Students are shown slides of breakfast treats. These products are then associated with peaceful objects, such as flowers, doves, or pictures of Pee-wee Herman.

Another is the art of hypnosis. Though imagery and regression, the child imagines a place where life is mellow, and breakfast tarts are shaped like Barney instead of Browning Hi-Powers.

But for the sophisticated, psychoanalysis might be the most appropriate form of therapy. With this system, the patient can discover in-depth conflicts established during early childhood development, such as the distorted delusion of a semi-automatic pistol from an image of a half-bitten breakfast bun.

As a final note, school counselors must receive additional training in these aforementioned areas of therapy, along with mastering hall duty and advanced lunch period scheduling.

Anne Arundel school district officials should be commended for their efficiency, quick-thinking and vigilant protection of our young people. I am now assured that they will be fully prepared when the next 7-year-old threatens fellow students with a killer Klondike or half-eaten Hershey bar.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer and satirist.

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