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Lawmaker Aims to Prevent Punishments for Students Who Wield 'Gun-Shaped Pop-Tart Snacks' — and He's Not a Republican

"That sort of overly harsh punishment for behavior that really poses no threat to other students is exactly the type of school discipline we'd like to see reformed."

Josh Welch's Pop Tart "Gun" (Photo Credit: AP)

If one Texas Democrat has his way, no grade schoolers in his state will ever be punished for pretending their fingers are guns or fashioning their food to resemble firearms.

"Texas students shouldn't lose instruction time for holding gun-shaped Pop-Tart snacks at school," Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, told the Houston Chronicle. "This bill will fix this."

Josh Welch's Pop Tart "Gun" (Photo Credit: AP) A Maryland elementary school student was suspended last year after chewing his Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun. (Image source: KTAR-TV)

The bill also would ban schools from disciplining students through fifth grade who use objects to mimic guns or draw or carry pictures of guns, the Chronicle reported. Punishments for playing with toy guns would also be disallowed.

Guillen said his proposed legislation was inspired by the case of Josh Welch, the Maryland 7-year-old who was suspended in 2013 after chewing his Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun. While Welch was given a lifetime membership to the National Rifle Association, school officials said he exhibited bad behavior before his suspension. Similar incidents have not been reported in Texas, the Chronicle noted.

State Sen. John Whitmire, a fellow Democrat who's filed legislation against Texas' zero-tolerance school policies, told the Chronicle he's not in favor of Guillen's approach.

"If I was voting today, I would vote against that bill," Whitmire said, adding that while he hasn't read the proposed legislation, it's better to let local school officials determine discipline.

"I believe strongly that common sense should be the guide," he added. "I just think you have to, in my judgment, leave it to local administrators and school campus administrators to weigh the circumstances."

Guillen's bill also says schools can discipline a student who "disrupts learning" or causes harm or the fear of harm to an educator or another student, according to the Chronicle.

Mary Schmid Mergler of the social justice group Texas Appleseed told the paper that while her organization hasn't taken a position on Guillen's bill, most initiatives that turn away from zero-tolerance school discipline policies are good ones.

"That sort of overly harsh punishment for behavior that really poses no threat to other students is exactly the type of school discipline we'd like to see reformed," Mergler told the Chronicle. "Pushing students out of school for what is really minor misbehavior is really what's contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline within the state of Texas."

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