In My Opinion

Fabiola Santiago: Legislature’s support of ‘Pop Tart’ bill is no way to get kids help

Way to go, Florida Legislature.

You’ve got nothing better to do than to raise your voices — and protect the rights of kids to bear imaginary arms. Stand your ground in the schoolyard.

Bravo, couldn’t expect any less from you.

It may be difficult to pass meaningful legislation in the Sunshine State when it comes to adults who get away with murder, but watch this little baby — the “Pop-Tart” bill! — fly faster than Superman on a rescue through rounds of committee hearings with bipartisan support.

That’s right. You read correctly: A bill named after the sugary pastry that lazy parents give their children for breakfast has earned that rare commodity — bipartisan support.


This landmark piece of legislation prohibits teachers and administrators from disciplining kids who play with imaginary guns at schools. Gun play that includes “brandishing a partially consumed pastry or other food” that has been chewed away to look like a weapon.

This is the point where I need to stress that I am not writing fiction and this is not an imaginary column.

House Bill 7029 — sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala — is all too real. It takes aim at the zero-tolerance for weapons policy that schools adopted in light of the deadly school shootings throughout the nation. If it becomes law, it will prevent children from being disciplined for playing with simulated weapons on campus.

The bill has bipartisan support largely because for far too long a disproportionate number of African-American and Hispanic children have been identified as troublemakers in school for minor offenses. This, the theory goes, begins a lifetime of branding that puts these kids in the pipeline to jail time.

But taking away the ability of teachers and administrators to discipline — and to potentially get a troubled kid the help he or she needs — is no way to solve or even tackle the problem of racial and ethnic bias, which is far more complex.

Leave it to Florida legislators to think that obsessive doodling of guns on a notebook, wearing a T-shirt boasting about the power of guns, or taking aim at a classmate or a teacher with your finger shaped like a gun is appropriate behavior.

That’s the kind of thinking that led Adam Lanza’s mother in Connecticut to gift serious weaponry to her mentally deteriorating son.

But parents, don’t worry. If the bill passes, you won’t even have to come to school to have a chat over your child’s behavior. The fact that your kid chews up a Pop-Tart to look like a gun and plays pretend-shoot or brings a toy gun (no more than two inches, please) doesn’t mean a darn thing.

It’s only child’s play — and he/she will grow out of it.

The National Rifle Association lobby thinks so.

The NRA doesn’t like gun regulation — unless it’s like this one, aimed at expanding its market.

This bill, they applaud. So much so, NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer told the Miami Herald/Times Bureau that it should be called the “Right-to-be-a-Kid Bill.”

How sweet it is to rest our heads on a pillow at night knowing that the next generation of gun enthusiasts will be lovingly nurtured by our teachers and principals.

Read more Fabiola Santiago stories from the Miami Herald

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