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Student Suspended For "Thinking" About Guns/Legislature Reacts With S.B. 1058

About one week ago, 7-year-old Josh Brennan was suspended from Santa Marino Elementary for two days after allegedly thinking about guns.

“I was in the playground chasing [a classmate] and then when he hid behind the slide I stopped,” Josh told the Los Angeles Fox affiliate.  “All I was doing was catching him.”

This is not what first grade school teacher Katie (“Kat”) Bramowitz believed.  She accused him of “thinking” about brandishing a make-believe gun using his two hands clasped together to form the shape of a gun.  She immediately suspended him for one week under the school's no tolerance policy towards simulated (or toy) firearms.

The principal of Roosevelt Elementary – Ms. Janet Hirsch – said that Ms. Bramowitz suspected that Josh was displaying predatory behavior and contemplating forming a gun with his hands and could not wait until after the deed was done.  “Ms. Bramowitz had reasonable suspicion that little Josh was about to brandish a simulated firearm,” she said.  Under the school’s simulated gun policy, a “simulated gun is treated like a real gun” creating a situation of “imminent bodily harm” to other students.

When asked how Ms. Bramowitz could know that Josh was “thinking” about forming a simulated gun with his hands, Ms. Hirsch read from a prepared statement by Ms. Bramowitz: “As educators we often must use our instincts.  On the day in question, I saw the predatory look in Josh’s eyes.  The look was bone-chilling and frightens me to this day.  In my expert experience this was a child channeling the harmful images of police pursuits and war combat on television.  I concluded he was preparing to brandish a simulated weapon, and I took immediate action to prevent it.”

I concluded he was preparing to brandish a simulated weapon, and I took immediate action to prevent it.”

A California lawmaker has now introduced a bill to stop students who merely think about guns from being suspended again.  Sen. J. B. Jennings, a Republican representing the Santa Marino district, introduced Senate Bill 1058 – “The Reasonable School Discipline Act of 2013” – on Thursday.  The bill would, absent a direct act of violence on school grounds, prohibit students from being suspended for “thinking about guns or having the appearance of thinking about guns.”   The bill would also stop principals from expelling students who admit under questioning to watching entertainment or playing video games featuring firearms.

The California Teacher’s Union has stated its opposition to Bill 1058, claiming that “all gun crimes perpetrated by young people begin as thoughts in their heads, and that is where they should be stopped.”