Remember the good old days when we played cops and robbers? Or cowboys and Indians?

We all wanted to be heroes like Hoss Cartwright on Bonanza or the Lone Ranger. Many of us had toy guns and pretended to shoot each other. It wasn't malice. It wasn't a show of terrorism or homicidal inclination.

And, we grew out of the games without evolving into real-life gun toters.

Today, kids even talking about toy guns in school get suspended.

Proof we've gone too far is a case that happened recently in the Mount Carmel School District.

A 5-year-old was suspended from kindergarten for 10 days for telling another girl she was going to shoot her. With what? The "weapon" was a pink Hello Kitty toy gun that blows soapy bubbles.

When will this stupid zero-tolerance enforcement end?

By the way, the little girl didn't have the bubble-blowing gun with her at school.

There have been many situations where toy guns - just talking about toy guns - netted suspensions.

This isn't the only way schools are over-reacting.

Recently there was talk that violence could erupt at a local school, so the school banned everyone - including parents - from an auditorium program. That's right, parents, who had been invited for years to attend such programs, were locked out of the school.

Shouldn't parents be encouraged to be part of the students' life? Shouldn't they be welcomed at school events where their children are doing something good? Don't children feel safer in their parents' presence?

Unless a parent has a major criminal record and/or has a history of being disruptive at school events, there's no reason the school should shut them out from events normally open to them.

Schools are over-reacting regarding guns and bomb threats. This isn't to say such things shouldn't be taken seriously.

Children must be protected and only by taking any threat seriously can we as adults offer such protection. None of us want to see our children get hurt.

On the other hand, acting like officials did in the Mount Carmel School District or banning parents from being part of their children's activities isn't the right approach. It is harmful to the children, making them afraid to act like themselves, risking suspension for what they innocently say.

Have we evolved into a fearful society running from every potential crisis that arises?

Over-reaction can cause more harm than good. Instead, common sense must be the proper approach, especially with gun rhetoric by little children.

Schools must continue to look at ways to keep kids safe during gun threats and bomb scares. Sandy Hook and Columbine must always be reminders of what can be accomplished by deranged individuals.

On the other hand, teaching kids to cower by mere mention of danger isn't helping them to mature properly.

Is it really better to have children look up to idols like Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, or "True Blood" vampires?

After all, even using Rev. Billy Graham as a hero and mentioning it in school can lead to problems for a student.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]