Let's Get a Grip

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    Lets Get a Grip

    As I write this, radio talk shows in Denver are buzzing with a sto y about a group of third-grade boys who, on their recess break, were pretending to be Star Wars heroes. These boys were rolling on the ground and shooting imaginary villains with theirfingers. This imagina y play sounds age- appropriate to me, especially with the recent release of the latest movie in the Star Wars series.

    The newsworthy aspect of this story was generated by the elementary schoolS reaction to the childrens play. The boys were marched to the principals office, where officials called their families. The children received disciplinary detention for violating the schoolS zero-tolerance policy regarding violence, and were questioned about whether their families had guns at home.

    The Columbine shootings occurred in DenverS back yard notwithstanding, 1 am incredulous that adults educated in child development would overreact in this way. What is it these children are being punished for? For playing out the Star Wars ads they see daily on television? For

    failing to understand zuhat zero tolerance means in their school environment? For acting like 8- and 9-year-old boys?

    I do not believe that children should be taught that violence and aggression are appropriate ways to solve problems. I also do not believe, however, that it is appropriate to ask young children to take the

    fal l for what we as a society expose them to. It would make more sense i f a zero-tolerance policy on violence were proposed for the media-ur social mirror. Cartoons and other television programs, movies, and music videos could be

    bannedfrom depicting guns and violence-not just dividing content on the virtual line of prime time, but actually eliminating all violent visual and audio references. We will never see this. A colossal c y would emanatefrom the media indust ry about censorship and the violation of First Amendment rights. The well-meaning change agents would be quickly and soundly silenced.

    It is obvious that we have a double standard here. Our media/society can produce, market, and profit indecently from images of violence, and our Constitution protects their right to do so. But let a little childS imagination be sparked by those same images and let that child dare to playfully act on his thoughts, and he incurs the wrath of our school authorities. Maybe it would help if children had a constitutional amendment to wave in their favor. Perhaps we need an amendment on the right to be a child.

    You are probably witnessing similar knee-jerk reactions to school violence in your communities. I invite letters to the editor on your experiences, those that agree with my outrage and those that can help me to see the other side. Dont belabor the form and format-just send your responses by mail, fax, or e-mail. Its important to discuss these issues, and JSPN provides the forum to create a dialogue with other healthcare providers and child advocates.

    Roxie L. Foster, PhD, RN, FAAN Roxie. foster@uchsc.edu

    JSPN Vol. 7, No. 3, July-September, 2002 91