Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Disarming Story About Political Correctness Run Amok

Cornerstone students Cole McNamara, left, and Austin Nakata with their altered fifth-grade graduation mortarboards. School officials made them and other boys cut off parts of the soldier figures that had weapons because of a strict no-guns policy at the school.

Austin Nakata's altered mortarboard for his fifth grade promotion ceremony at Cornerstone at Pedregal School in RPV. He had to cut the weapons off the toy soldiers because of the school's strick no guns policy.

Close up of Austin Nakata's altered mortarboard for his fifth grade promotion ceremony at Cornerstone at Pedregal School in RPV. After Austin cut off the soldiers' hands to remove guns, he added gauze and blood.

All photos by Brad Graverson / Daily Breeze photographer
Disarmed in RPV
Cornerstone at Pedregal School students are told to cut weapons off toys on mortarboards before they could participate in promotion ceremony.

Staff Writer

Who knew a 2-inch toy army man could cause such a stir?

A fifth-grade promotion ceremony in Rancho Palos Verdes turned into a free-speech battleground Thursday, when students were asked to remove weapons from toys that had been placed on mortarboard caps because of the school's zero-tolerance policy for weapons on campus.

Each year, students decorate wide caps with princesses, football goal posts, zebras, guitars and other items to express their personalities and career goals. Cornerstone at Pedregal School is the only Palos Verdes Peninsula public school to practice the tradition.

On Thursday, before the ceremony, one boy was told he couldn't participate unless he agreed to clip off the tips of the plastic guns carried by the minuscule GIs on his cap. Ten others complied with the order before the event.

Parents reacted angrily, calling Principal Denise Leonard's decision censorship, but the Palos Verdes Peninsula School District defended her.

Cole McNamara and Austin Nakata, 11-year-old buddies who share an interest in all things military, said they put the toys on their hats to support American troops in Iraq.

"I was kind of mad because they just went over and clipped them off and didn't say anything about it," Austin said.

His father, Glen Nakata, said he was disappointed that parents were not approached or consulted on elimination of the "firearms."

"I felt they were keeping the boys from expressing their patriotism, their strong beliefs toward the military," he said.

Glen Nakata's father served in the U.S. Air Force. And Austin wants to attend a military academy when he's older. Cole wants to join the Marine Corps, said his father, Paul McNamara.

To treat the "injuries" caused by the order to remove the offending weaponry, Austin wrapped the plastic stumps in white gauze and painted on faux blood.

The principal pulled Cole aside Thursday morning, handed him a pair of scissors and said the guns had to go.

"We're supporting our troops," Cole said. "But I wanted to graduate, so I just cut the guns off."

A teacher at Cornerstone started the mortarboard tradition about a decade ago. At Thursday's ceremony, the 62 fifth-graders each gave a 30-second speech in the auditorium, as their pictures flashed on a large screen.

Leonard, a first-year principal, didn't respond to several requests for comment, deferring to district administrators, who said the toys with miniature rifles and grenades violated a zero-tolerance weapons policy.

Leonard "directed students not place images of weapons on student-created mortarboards to be used in the promotion ceremony," according to a district statement. "The district fully supports her decision to comply with school rules and practices. In addition, practically all fifth-grade parents understood and accepted this decision and, in some cases, modified the student mortarboards, sans the weapon images."

In enforcing the decision, the district cited its Safe Schools policy and the federal Gun Free Schools Act of 1994, a federal law designed to remove firearms from schools.

Susan Liberati, an assistant superintendent, said she believes "the principal has interpreted district policy accurately, and we support her in that."

A copy of the district's Safe Schools policy obtained by the Daily Breeze includes no mention of toy army men. Students found to be "possessing, selling or otherwise furnishing a firearm" are expelled for one year, the policy states.

Weapons are also mentioned in the board's "weapons and dangerous instruments" policy that allows only authorized law enforcement or security personnel to possess "weapons, imitation firearms or dangerous instruments of any kind" on school grounds.

Board President Barbara Lucky declined comment on the incident or the policy.

"Sounds like a good question for legal counsel," Lucky said.

Cross-posted at Flopping Aces

Also blogging:
Classical Values
Joanne Jacobs

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Blogger Mike's America said...

"To treat the "injuries" caused by the order to remove the offending weaponry, Austin wrapped the plastic stumps in white gauze and painted on faux blood."

Good for him.

I wonder if the school would have objected to a Muslim student putting a copy of the Koran on his mortarboard?

Sunday, June 17, 2007 5:57:00 PM  
Blogger Gayle said...

Mike makes a good point, and I'll bet a Muslim student could have put a terrorist on his mortarboard holding a machine gun without them objecting!

Dang this crap ticks me off, Wordsmith! It gets worse every day. These people are absolutely mental ward material!

Monday, June 18, 2007 8:51:00 AM  
Blogger J_G said...

I think I would have had my kid put little muslims wearing suicide bombs strapped to their chest at entrance of the school building while on the other side of the board showing illegal alien protestors flying alien flags screaming epithets in an alien language while the tiny soldiers with no guns sit idly by giving the government and school officials the finger as they beg for help.

Monday, June 18, 2007 12:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What ignorant fools these 'educators' are. A little plastic army man is not a weapon, is not a firearm.

Just what sort of IDIOT would think it is? And why are schools now the employment opportunity of choice for developmentally delayed people?

Why don't they remove any pictures of firearms from the library books? It sounds like these morons are just the type to start burning books that don't conform to their moronic, rigid orthodoxy.

Monday, June 18, 2007 1:27:00 PM  
Blogger submandave said...

I like anonymous' idea: the parents should identify a dozen or more books in the library, including dictionaries and encyclopedea, with pictures or photos of guns and sue to have them removed in order to comply with school board rules. Nothing makes a stupid rule look more stupid than following it.

j_g and gayle had a good idea, too. How about a terrorist complete with disarmed soldier's body on the ground and terrorist holding his severed bloody head. No weapons, so it must be OK.

Monday, June 18, 2007 1:39:00 PM  
Anonymous David M said...

I resent the use by Anonymous of the term developmentally delayed for the unpatriotic school officials. My daughter who is downs syndrome prays for the safety and success of our soldiers. I will admit she added one day "and Peace on Earth" after watching Sandra Bullock in that beauty pagent show.

Monday, June 18, 2007 1:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Born Free said...

This principal's school web site

also includes a link to a "for pay" research paper service, under "Cougar Computers" on the left sidebar.

Monday, June 18, 2007 3:10:00 PM  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Anyone wish to go so far as to make the necessary "Rome" comparison, hmm? I would. . .


Monday, June 18, 2007 5:03:00 PM  
Anonymous thebronze said...

WTF are 5th graders wearing mortar boards for?

Do they get cool little diplomas too?

WTF is a "promotion" ceremony? (Is that like when I got promoted from E-6 to E-7?)

WTF is wrong with our schools now-a-days?

Monday, June 18, 2007 5:38:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

I feel safer already knowing that educators are keeping an eye out for scaled down replica plastic firearms attached to plastic soldiers .. I guess they'll ban pictures of guns next - the AK47 excepted of course - as it features on several flags and ethnic diversity and cultural relativism demands that we respect these images of guns ..

Tuesday, June 19, 2007 3:54:00 AM  
Blogger pst314 said...

I would like to see these educators forced to live without any protection by people carrying scary guns. Their panicky pleas for protection would be hilariously entertaining.

"Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." --George Orwell

Tuesday, June 19, 2007 5:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank God for the school districts protection of students...not from drugs, or bullies or crazy bureaucracts, but TOY ARMY MEN!!! How mindless can you get to believe that a plastic figure 2 inches tall, can be remotely dangerous unless you eat it and choke on it!?!?!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Gail A. said...

*sighs* Yes, sometimes I am embarrassed to be from California.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007 10:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this story is totally ridiculous, but if the instructions for the mortaboards clearly specified "no images of weapons of any kind", than it should have been obvious that any sort of soldiers were off.
it's normal that the principal should be enforcing a clearly stated rule.
It's also fair that the rule itself is criticized, possibly leading to the elimination of all sort of censorhip.
Leave it to the parents to decide if what goes on the cap is appropriate or not (with no right whatsoever for other parents to complain if THEY find some fo the dsiplay inappropriate

Thursday, June 21, 2007 10:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It doesn't look like they're stopping anyone from bringing a gun to school with this decision. Rather, it looks to me as if they're trying to crush the dreams of a whole generation of people who hold different beliefs from theirs.

Wounding a man's body with a firearm is one thing. Crippling a child's hope is a thing far far worse.

Sunday, July 01, 2007 6:40:00 PM  
Blogger Concerned said...

To the educated people in charge of young mines. This is to imform those who aren't aware how Hitler and Mussolini took control of their Countries. They used the very laws that were meant to protect the people of their countries, to their advantage to seize power. Once again a school over reaching the very concept of the laws as Palos Verdes Peninsula School District has, this person with her own ideas and concepts being forced on to young mines. This person ( Principal Denise Leonard ) taking a law and distorting for her own agenda or even a greater plot the School Board in which she works under, trying to control the young mines of those who are free thinkers. Young people voicing their thoughts with hats. Ok if they had brought guns, Knives, bombs, or even Drugs, yeah through the book at them. But to try to control their thought s this is going a little to far for people who are to be teaching higher skills to read and create. I say it is time to remove school boards, superintendents, and elected Officers by the people keeping the idea of laws in prospective. Their Fascist control has cross the line when educated people can no longer see that a plastic toy only 2" high has no killing ability, but the condenming of expression has the ability of murder far greater then a gun, knife, or bombs. To long have people been abused by ignorance and kill the teaching of creative thought. If you keep a people illiterate you have power to control. This is just one of the ideas of Fascism, Nazism, and Communism. It is this very ideology that keeps control over free people it is our assertions that keep these people in check and keeps a Government from controlling it's people and the People controlling the Government. It is now time to grasp that which so many have died for. The freedom of thought, our cries must be I will not be controlled by a government it is controlled by "We the People".
Wake up people Schools are not to interpret law in this manner. The Laws they are using to stifle a childs thoughts was meant to protect children from actual weapons that are used to murder innocent people of a deranged person or persons creating acts of destruction.
People become aware you have lost control over your elected Officers and they are making law under your noses the same way Nazi Germany started their control.

Sunday, August 19, 2007 3:37:00 AM  
Blogger Concerned said...

Addressed to Principal Denise Leonard and the School Board that stood behind you and would not give comment. Reason for not comments is a sure face of cowards that hide behind the freedom of those who give and gave beyond the call. As for comments needed we understand the guiltless people who make interpertions to their liking and decision yet they don't want their faces to be seen. After all how else could you deny if your a face came with a denial. This is a true sigth of cowards that play with the mines of our Youth.
I erased what I had tpyed. Reason you weren't person enough to be addressed by a Veteran of a War. You are the loser, you take your education and derange the thoughts of others. I hope next time you use your Brain for something else. You will never live down what you have done, and it is so and should be so. If you lose sleep with the thoughts of what you have created you did it remember that. I know that for the most some will say you did the right thing it's because it has been this select group that you have been catering to. The masses see you as small minded and shouldn't be in the position you are in. You made yourself the Judge and jury of two young children's mines and thoughts. Which means you are now judged by your peers. If you think a piece of paper makes you a person who stands on a higher latter you are wrong. Your peers are those who see you for what you are a Fascist. Take your ideas keep them to yourself. The school board will have to deal with their desision of standing behind your actions. They will pay dearly for it and just make the yearly budget weaker, which is needed to touch the thoughts of those who placed you in your position.
I hope you have learned when stepping on people and their children you will pay the price. Hopefully they will go for your monetary gains and teach you a lesson that will make you pay in the only way you could understand. I taught and never impossed my thoughts by taken thoughts away from the mines I was in charge of. Somewhere along your trail you lost this or never had it to start with. To be superior one must never show it, it should be exercised in such a manner no one truly sees how great you truly are or think you are. It is something that is a gift to others, not a power of taking away.

I truly feel sorry for you, you haven't the ability to see that you could make a difference in a young mind. People like myself should never give you quarter, and always be aware of your presence in their children's lives. You have been the proof that higher education doesn't always mean higher knowledge, or superior being.

Sunday, August 19, 2007 5:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Toy soldiers have been around since the Roman Empire was in power.  This " political correct " approach is wrong and it is about time " we the people " stand up to laws that are .... well.. STUPID !!!!!!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008 2:34:00 PM  

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