Suspending students who take a bite out of their Pop-Tarts so the pastry resembles a gun is one step closer to being banned in Florida after a House of Representatives subcommittee in the state approved a bill restricting zero-tolerance policies for guns in schools.
The so-called “Pop-Tart Bill,” inspired by the case of a 7-year-old Maryland boy who was suspended from school for biting into his Pop-Tart to make it look like a gun, unanimously passed the K-12 subcommittee Wednesday. The bill’s Republican sponsor, State Rep. Dennis Baxley, said there needs to be “common sense” in deciding when kids should be suspended. A similar bill was drafted in Maryland, but it hasn’t become law, while Oklahoma is considering the same legislation, USA Today reported.
“Obviously we don’t want firearms brought to school in a backpack,” Baxley said, according to CBS Miami. “But we were definitely having some overreactions.” He told Panama City NBC affiliate WJHG that Florida’s zero-tolerance policy is “well intended” but that there are some cases of the policy going too far. Aside from guns, the policy also covers anything that poses “a serious threat to school safety,” including sexual battery and weapon possession.
The bill had the support of the National Rifle Association, but NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer said the bill wasn’t about guns.
“This bill is about children, and stopping children from being traumatized when adults lack good common sense or the capacity to make rational judgments,” she told CBS Miami. “Zero tolerance should not mean zero common sense. Unfortunately, it seems to.”
Lee Stafford, director of student services for Bay County public schools, said the district will still have zero tolerance when it comes to actual guns.
"When it's clear that a child is simply bringing a toy without any intent to threaten or hurt or harm others, then I think that the district's position is to take a realistic look at that," he told WJHG.
Now that the Pop-Tart Bill has passed the K-12 subcommittee, it goes to the Florida House Education Committee for debate.