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Opinion

School makes five-year-old sign anti-suicide contract

An Alabama school is in the spotlight after forcing a kindergartener to sign an anti-suicide contract after making "gun noises."

kids-gun-play Photo: iStockphoto

Straight from the “Are you kidding me?” files comes the story of a five-year-old who was recently forced to sign an anti-suicide contract after she pointed a crayon at a classmate and made “pew pew” sounds.

Officials at the Alabama school immediately went into overdrive and made the kindergartener sign a sheet saying she would not harm anyone—including herself. According to reports, they also quizzed her on her mental state. Her mother turned to news outlets to vent her anger at the school officials that confronted her daughter without her knowledge or consent. She told reporters that her daughter later asked her what suicide meant, and why the school thought she might do it.

It's obvious that this is an instance of complete overreaction. Although the suicide form is technically part of the Mobile County’s safety policy, I can’t imagine any circumstance could be so dire as to have a child sign an anti-suicide contract. The irony that a state which allows people to open carry guns could punish a five-year-old who made a "gun noise" is not lost on me.

In an issued statement, the school board said they are reconsidering their policy on the suicide contract and assured the public that a school counselor had an appropriate conversation with the young student. How such a policy got passed in the first place is something that should be investigated.

In my oldest son’s junior kindergarten class, gun noises—and even pretending toys were guns—were acceptable. It was seen as a normal part of development and, if things got out of hand, the incident was discussed and dealt with in a way that made sense to both kids and parents alike.

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Can you imagine a world where we took everything our kids said seriously? We'd all be drinking out of one colour cups and believe we could fly. Superman and Santa Claus would be real. And we'd all be crying into our coffee mugs after being insulted on an daily basis from our kids.

I worry for kids whose every action is taken as a harbinger of some sort of evil to come. Kids try out all kinds of behaviours—they make gun sounds and fart noises, they say both mean and beautiful things every day. Our job as parents and educators is to allow them creativity while still teaching them boundaries—not fly off the handle and grill them over their mental health.

Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of them are fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.

This article was originally published on Oct 17, 2014

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