Suffolk, VA – A Suffolk school district has suspended a second grader over a pencil.
Seven-year-old Christopher Marshall was seen playing with another student in his class Friday at Driver Elementary School. The teacher instructed the two to stop pointing their pencils at one another. They complied.
After the incident, Christopher was suspended for pointing his pencil at another student and making “gun noises,” according to NBC affiliate WAVY.com.
The boy’s father, Paul Marshall, a former Marine, thinks the school overreacted. “When I asked him about it, he said, ‘Well I was being a Marine and the other guy was being the bad guy.’ It’s as simple as that.”
Paul feels the school failed to use common sense when they went beyond telling the child to stop, which he did. According to his father, Christopher has good grades and is not usually a disruptive child in class – no history of being a problem child with the school.
However, a spokesperson for the school, Bethanne Bradshaw, sees the situation very differently. “A pencil is a weapon when it is pointed at someone in a threatening way and gun noises are made.” She also made drastic comparisons between the pretend game of cowboys and Indians, likening it to drive-by shootings and murder in the minds of children.
Therefore, in keeping with the school’s zero tolerance policy, Christopher was reprimanded and suspended for two days, according to the Washington Post. Administrators admit it’s a bit harsh and the rules have been tightened up some in light of the pervasive media focus on school shootings. Christopher could have faced 10 days based on the policy, but administers assess the length of suspension on factors such as age and behavior history.
Pencils can be dangerous instruments, typically under accidental circumstances – inadvertent leg pokes while on a school bus when someone has failed to secure it for the ride or if someone slips and falls with one in hand. But never has one been successfully used as a gun.
In the last year, elementary-age students have been suspended over using innocuous objects in a gun likeness or for what was innocent play. One Maryland student was pulled from school for running around with their fingers, articulated in a gun-like fashion and saying “Pow.”
In another similar case, a young boy was punished for throwing an imaginary grenade. And another Maryland child was disciplined over eating a breakfast pastry into the shape of what the teacher thought resembled a gun.
Most of the cases have since been resolved – students’ punishment vacated and expunged from their records. Still parents find the situations outrageous and feel the schools should be focusing on the real troublemakers, not creating situations out of otherwise innocent ones.
Do you think schools are overreacting to the aforementioned situations of pretend play? Do you think instead of punishing the student with a suspension the teacher or administrators should make a point to explain why the act might have been seen as offensive or dangerous first?
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