OKLAHOMA CITY – Schoolchildren in Oklahoma could not be punished for chewing their breakfast pastries into the shape of a gun under a bill introduced this week by a Republican legislator.
Rep. Sally Kern said Wednesday her measure dubbed the Common Sense Zero Tolerance Act was in response to school districts having policies that are too strict or inflexible.
Kern cited a recent Maryland case that gained national media attention where a boy was suspended after his teacher accused him of chewing his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun.
"Real intent, real threats and real weapons should always be dealt with immediately. We need to stop criminalizing children's imagination and childhood play," Kern, Republican from Oklahoma City told News9.com.
"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."
Under Kern's bill, students couldn't be punished for possessing small toy weapons or using writing utensils, fingers or their hands to simulate a weapon. Students also couldn't be punished for drawing pictures of weapons or wearing clothes that “support or advance Second Amendment rights or organizations.”
News9.com reported that Kern's proposal was met with immediate opposition from the Oklahoma Education Association.
"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," Linda Hampton, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, told the station.
In Maryland, Republican state Sen. J.B. Jennings introduced a similar bill last year that would prohibit schools from suspending students for seemingly harmless childish acts, such as playing games with fingers pointed like guns or chewing food into the shape of a firearm.
In July, Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, introduced the Student Protection Act, which aims to stop the enforcement of policies that "punish innocent children" by cutting funds to schools with excessive "zero tolerance" weapons policies.
Under the bill, which schools would face cuts in federal funding if they punish students for specific activities, including carrying a toy gun, using a finger or hand to simulate a gun and wearing a T-shirt that supports Second Amendment rights.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.