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Lawmaker Aims For More Changes To Florida's Zero Tolerance School Policies

Florida House of Representatives
Representative Dennis Baxley in this undated photo

A bill by Ocala Republican State Representative Dennis Baxley would stop schools from referring kids to the department of juvenile justice for minor offenses such as wearing t-shirts or accessories with guns on them.

Baxley says schools are overreacting when it comes to student discipline.

“Obviously, we don’t want firearms brought to school in a backpack, but we got into a lot of simulated behavior and overreacted—clothing issues, accessories. So this just tones down some of those cases and makes a common sense application.” 

Having a real gun or other weapons at school would still be a felony under state law.  The state revised its zero tolerance policies several years ago with the intent of stopping students in trouble for petty actions from being steered into the juvenile justice system by schools.

According to the bill, "Simulating a firearm or weapon while playing or wearing clothing or accessories that depict a firearm or weapon or express an opinion regarding a right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is not grounds for disciplinary action or referral to the criminal justice or juvenile justice system under this section or; Simulating a firearm or weapon while playing includes, but is not limited to:
1. Brandishing a partially consumed pastry or other food item to simulate a firearm or weapon.
2. Possessing a toy firearm or weapon that is 2 inches or less in overall length.
3. Possessing a toy firearm or weapon made of plastic snap-together building blocks.
4. Using a finger or hand to simulate a firearm or weapon.
5. Vocalizing an imaginary firearm or weapon.
6. Drawing a picture, or possessing an image, of a firearm or weapon.
7. Using a pencil, pen, or other writing or drawing utensil to simulate a firearm or weapon."

The proposal, PCB KTS 14-02, received unanimous support from the House K-12 Subcommittee.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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