Florida House aims to protect school kids who play with imaginary guns

Jordan Bennett was suspended from his central Florida public school last year for playing cops and robbers.

The 8-year-old's crime? Using his thumb and forefinger to mimic a gun.

Kids in other states have faced similar, if not harsher, punishments for brandishing fake or imaginary firearms in their schools.

In the last 12 months, a seventh-grader in Rhode Island was suspended over a miniature toy gun keychain knickknack. A 7-year-old boy in Maryland was suspended for chewing a "Pop-Tart-like pastry" into a shape resembling a handgun, and in South Carolina a 6-year-old girl was expelled for bringing a plastic toy gun to her class.

A letter from the South Carolina school district informed the girl's mother that her daughter would be "subject to the criminal charge of trespassing" if the 6-year-old was found on school property or at any off-campus school sponsored activity.

All of these incidents could repeat in any of Florida's school districts depending on how the districts enforce their student codes of conduct.

Federal and state "zero tolerance" policies designed to target school violence and end horrific school shootings such as those at Sandy Hook, Conn., and Columbine, Colo., allow school boards to apply penalties for actual firearm and weapon possession to students who simulate gun use while playing.

But a new proposed committee bill in the Florida Legislature would put an end to treating young students like violent offenders.

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