Numerous reports surfaced last year of little boys being suspended from school for using pencils to shoot imaginary bad guys, nibbling their Pop-Tarts into the shape of toy pistols, and throwing pretend hand grenades. This is the legacy of zero tolerance policies, according to Christina Hoff Sommers, who explains:

In all these cases, school officials found the children to be in violation of the school’s zero-tolerance policies for firearms, which is clearly a ludicrous application of the rule. But common sense isn’t the only thing at stake here. In the name of zero tolerance, our schools are becoming hostile environments for young boys.

Girls occasionally run afoul of these draconian policies; but it is mostly boys who are ensnared. Boys are nearly five times more likely to be expelled from preschool than girls. In grades K-12, boys account for nearly 70% of suspensions, often for minor acts of insubordination and defiance.

But at a time when boys are struggling academically, more boys than girls are disengaged in high schools, and fewer boys than girls attend college, is it smart to turn being a boy into a punishable offense? As Sommers continues:

Zero tolerance was originally conceived as a way of ridding schools of violent predators, especially in the wake of horrific shootings in places like Littleton, Colo. But juvenile violence, including violence at schools, is at a historic low. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that in 2011, approximately 1% of students ages 12 to 18 reported a violent victimization at school. …

Schools must enforce codes of discipline and maintain clear rules against incivility and malicious behavior. But that hardly requires abolishing tag, imposing games of tug of peace or banning superhero play. Efforts to re-engineer the young-male imagination are doomed to fail, but they will succeed spectacularly in at least one way. They will send a clear and unmistakable message to millions of schoolboys: You are not welcome in school.

Common sense needs to make a comeback. Otherwise, half of the rising generation will be left behind.