Arrest of fifth-grader sets dangerous precedent

Re: "Cops capture Mister Small," Feb. 6

As a parent with two small school-age children, I am frightened and disturbed about the arrest and detention of a fifth-grader at Alexandria's Douglas MacArthur Elementary School because he brought a toy gun to school. I have learned that the boy has been suspended and that Superintendent Morton Sherman is considering expulsion.

The reaction by the school system and the police department was excessive and unacceptable. Nothing in the reports about this incident suggests that any common-sense approach to dealing with this matter was made.

Although this 10-year-old clearly violated school rules, which exist for the protection of students and teachers, he should receive an appropriate punishment such as writing letters of apology to his schoolmates, completing a community service project or helping to educate other students about safety. I would normally defer to school administrators on what would be an appropriate punishment, but based on their overreaction, it is clear their only solution is castigation.

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Besides the fact that this boy will likely carry the stigma of being a troublemaker for the rest of his life and his parents will be responsible for legal fees, Alexandria's school and public safety officials have set a dangerous precedent.

School safety is a serious issue, and I do not take the current discussion about violence, gun control or mental illness lightly. However, as a parent who faces the daily challenge of preventing my children from smuggling dolls, sporting equipment and action figures onto campus where they will undoubtedly become distractions, I am worried that one day a miniature toy sword, a bubble-maker or even a finger pointed to look like a pistol will be all that it takes to have our kids thrown into the slammer.

We must insist that school administrators have the courage and flexibility to deal with these issues more effectively, with an emphasis on common sense. Children make mistakes, and when they break the rules, they must be punished and held accountable. But there are better ways to teach this boy a lesson.

-- Charles Faulkner


Subsidized churches can't complain about regulation

Re: "Government shouldn't define 'church,' " Feb. 3

Unlike President Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which puts the religious freedom and health of women first, Cal Thomas elevates some theological dogmas over the religious liberty and rights-of-conscience of the vast numbers of women of all faiths who are employed or served by church-related charities, hospitals and colleges.

Thomas conveniently overlooks the fact that these church-related charities, hospitals and colleges are generously subsidized by taxes extracted from Americans of all faiths.

The mantra of these church leaders seems to be: "Give us your tax dollars, but don't even think of linking them to any regulations."

-- Edd Doerr

President, Americans for Religious Liberty

Silver Spring

Former Border Patrol officers have the right idea

Anybody who wants to see real, nonpolitically motivated, thorough, effective immigration reform, written without bias and on behalf of our nation's best interests by some of the same people who dedicated their professional lives to this issue and who know it best should go to the website of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers (

Once there, go to the section titled "Comprehensive Immigration Enforcement and Reform." It speaks for itself and ought to be a model and inspiration for our nation's political leaders.

-- Glenn E. Guyant