A Texas state representative has filed legislation aimed at easing overly restrictive zero tolerance rules at schools in The Lone Star State, prohibiting severe discipline for students who use their hands, objects or even food to mimic firearms.
With the introduction of his so-called "Pop Tart Bill," Rep. Ryan Guillen, (D-Rio Grande City), cited a well-publicized 2013 incident occurring in Baltimore, MD, in which a 7-year-old boy was suspended from school after he chewed his breakfast food into a shape his teacher claimed resembled a gun, pointed it at a classmate and said, "bang! bang!" There were prior and subsequent episodes across the country where students faced discipline and even expulsion for drawing pictures of guns, pointing fingers like a gun and using other firearm pantomime.
"Texas students shouldn't lose instruction time for holding gun-shaped Pop Tart snacks at school," Rep. Guillen said. "This bill will fix this."
Currently, there have been no reports of similar disciplinary action occurring in Texas schools.
Earlier this year, Florida lawmakers passed the nation's first bill directly addressing the Maryland Pop Tart incident. HB 7029 makes it permissible for students to play with simulated weapons without the likelihood they will be disciplined, or, at worst, expelled. Under this bill, selected examples all had corresponding real life incidents where a student was disciplined for harmless behavior. Behavior that actually causes harm to another person, of course, is still actionable.
The Florida bill provides that harmless action by a student "is not grounds for disciplinary action or referral to the criminal justice or juvenile justice system."
The NRA-supported bill passed the Florida House of Representatives in May by a 98-17 vote and breezed through the Senate 32-6.
Under the Florida measure, the following behavior is exempted from school discipline or criminal action:
- Simulating firearms or weapons with food;
- Possessing toy firearms or weapons less than 2 inches in length;
- Using a finger to simulate a firearm or weapon;
- Making a gun noise (e.g., "bang" or "pew pew");
- Drawing or possessing pictures of weapons; and
- Using a pencil or pen to simulate a gun.