Waiting in line for the bus, a Pennsylvania kindergartener tells her pals she's going to shoot them with a Hello Kitty toy that makes soap bubbles. In Maryland, two 6-year-old boys pretend their fingers are guns during a playground game of cops and robbers. In Massachusetts, a 5-year-old boy attending an after-school program makes a gun out of Legos and points it at other students while "simulating the sound of gunfire," as one school official put it.
Kids with active imaginations? Or potential threats to school safety?
Some school officials are taking the latter view, suspending or threatening to suspend small children over behavior their parents consider perfectly normal and age-appropriate - even now, with schools in a state of heightened sensitivity following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in December.
Small children have been getting into deep trouble at school lately, and their parents say it's because educators are hypersensitive in the wake of the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school in December. Parents say school officials have suspended or threatened to suspend students in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Massachusetts over minor infractions involving pretend weapons.
The extent to which the Dec. 14 massacre in Newtown, Conn., might be influencing educators' disciplinary decisions is unclear.
But parents contend administrators are projecting adult fears onto children who pose no threat to anyone.
Though Newtown introduces a new wrinkle to the debate, a slew of recent high-profile suspensions over perceived threats or weapons infractions renews old questions about the wisdom of "zero tolerance" policies.