What is it about zero-tolerance policies on weapons in schools that cause administrators to lose touch with common sense? The aim of such policies is sensible - guns and knives have no place in school - but inflexible enforcement subverts the intent.
The stories of official folly in trying to ban weapons in schools seem to recur with depressing regularity. In 2006, a suburban Pittsburgh school board expelled a 10-year-old boy for taking a paintball gun to school as part of a class project.
In Portsmouth, R.I., that year, a senior ran afoul of the rules for wanting to appear in his yearbook photograph dressed as a medieval soldier in chain-mail armor with a broadsword over his shoulder.
In 1998, a Pennsylvania school suspended a kindergartner for bringing a toy plastic ax to class as part of his Halloween firefighter costume.
And just last month, in Coventry, R.I., a school superintendent banned a second-grader's homemade hat because it displayed toy soldiers with tiny guns. The boy chose a patriotic theme for a school project, gluing plastic Army figures to a camouflage baseball cap. But officials ruled that the toy soldiers' guns violated school policy.
This absurd contention did not stand up to the criticism it invited. The superintendent has agreed to work to change the policy, acknowledging: "The event exposed how a policy meant to ensure safe environments for students can become restrictive and can present an image counter to the work of our schools to promote patriotism and democracy."
The lesson for all schools is that bad things happen when zero tolerance morphs into zero common sense.