Thursday, January 9, 2014

"Pastry Emergency" Declared in OK.

In just a few months, students will be free to nibble their Pop-Tarts into gun shapes and point away. Sally Kern has once again found a meaningless issue to make her own. Is she concerned about the appalling level of child poverty in our state? Is she concerned about the number of kids on free-and-reduced lunch in our state? These are kids whose only hot meals may be breakfasts and lunches at school. Is she concerned about the shameful statistic where Oklahoma leads the nation in cuts to public education?  Is she concerned about the unfunded and underfunded mandates she and her colleagues have piled on us?
Apparently not. To her, the pressing issue in Oklahoma education is the right for students to bring toy guns to school, to draw and possess drawings of guns and weaponry, and to chew their pastries into any shape they want.

If I didn’t know her and her own love of weapons, I would be more surprised. As my sainted grandmother used to say, ‘Consider the source.’ Sally Kern, twice, brought a weapon to the State Capitol, and was reminded only when she set off the metal detector. “Oops, I forgot” was her explanation.

I guess her concerns were raised by a bizzare case in Maryland where a boy was suspended for the shape of his Pop Tart. Maryland lawmakers now have a very similar bill to Kern’s “Common Sense Zero Tolerance Act. The Lost Ogle has his own spin on this issue.

Here are the highlights of her bill. It’s really interesting reading…
“No…teacher…shall punish, humiliate, intimidate, be condescending to or bully a student…for
1.       Brandishing a pastry…the remnant [of which] resembles a weapon
2.       Possession of a toy weapon
3.       Using a finger or hand to simulate a weapon
4.       Vocalizing imaginary firearms or munitions
5.       Wearing articles of clothing…that support or advance Second Amendment rights or organizations
6.       Using a pencil or pen, or other writing utensil to simulate a weapon”

And, she’s calling this an emergency: “It being immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health, and safety, an emergency is hereby declared to exist.” A pastry emergency? A pencil emergency? A ‘go boom’ emergency?

Representative Kern, let me offer some real emergencies. These are the issues that deserve your attention, even as you’ve ignored them for years:

Child poverty in Oklahoma is 24% -- children come to school hungry, tired, homeless. They come to school sick with chronic illnesses. They come to school not ready to learn, to be held accountable for all the high stakes tests you and your buddies impose, including your own ‘third grade flunk’ law.

Over 50% of our students in Oklahoma qualify for either free or reduced lunches. They need the support of the state to eat. Many schools provide backpacks full of food for kids to take home on the weekend, between school lunch on Friday and school breakfast on Monday. Snow days for many of our kids means inadequate nutrition until schools are opened again.

Oklahoma has the dubious distinction of leading the nation in recent cuts to education. “We’re number one!” More students every year, less money to educate them. School funding is a disgrace in this state.
Mandates have NOT been cut. More and more unfunded and under-funded mandates crowd the school day, making more and more demands on students and their teachers. Past cuts have never been recovered...since 2008, schools have had $200,000 less funding, while at the same time, serving more and more students. This has resulted in state-wide classroom crowding. Another issue that should be addressed.

Current laws desperately need revision: A-F has been found wanting more than once. We are carefully, and expensively, measuring poverty in our schools. Nothing else. The Third Grade Flunk Law -- Reading Sufficiency -- comes with choking layers of requirements for schools, and precious little support from the state. ACE requirements, which deny high school diplomas to students comes to us severely underfunded. Schools must remediate students with insufficient funding from the state. Both these important programs are funded to a whopping $76 per school district can begin to be successful with that insulting amount, and the State Legislature knows it.

We have some real crises in public education, including the lack of support from the Superintendent of Public Instruction, whose budget request includes a paltry increase for public schools, and a whopping 300% increase requested for charter school initiatives. She routinely demonizes educators and calls us names. Remember, Representative Kern, we go into the classroom every day and look into the faces of our students, the hungry, the sick, the homeless. We see the effects of your capricious laws.

Representative Kern, IF you really care about the ‘public peace, health, and safety of the children of Oklahoma, stop posturing for NRA, and start protecting our children. Provide resources for their schools, fund every mandate, support their parents as they work two or more jobs, just to make ends meet. Ask the governor to work on medical insurance for all our poor.

Truly make children your priority…stop trying to grab headlines.  

We promise not to humiliate any students for the way they eat their pop tarts.


  1. Don't care how carefully worded the law is, you still can't mandate common sense. "Some got it, some ain't." Like you, Claudia, I think her legislative energies could be much better spent.

  2. She's quite proud of this, and is moving forward, despite my concerns about total tolerance giving bullies the 'right' to intimidate teachers and other students in class.