Wednesday, December 11, 2013

10-Year Old Suspended For Imaginary Weapon

A 10-year-old Pennsylvania boy was suspended from school for making an imaginary bow out of his pencil, pulling back an imaginary string and shooting an imaginary arrow in October. Now, his parents have legal help and are trying to fight back.

Johnny Jones, a fifth-grade student at South Eastern School District in Fawn Grove, Pa., joins the ranks of other students who seem to have violated zero-tolerance weapons policies in schools around the country with their pretend weapons made from their fingers or even breakfast pastries.

The Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties organization that’s defending the fifth-grade student and requesting that the weapons violation and suspension be removed from his record, described what happened:

The incident took place the week of October 14th, when fifth grader Johnny Jones asked his teacher for a pencil during class. Jones walked to the front of the classroom to retrieve the pencil, and during his walk back to his seat, a classmate and friend of Johnny’s held his folder like an imaginary gun and “shot” at Johnny. Johnny playfully used his hands to draw the bowstrings on a completely imaginary “bow” and “shot” an arrow back. Seeing this, another girl in the class reported to the teacher that the boys were shooting at each other. The teacher took both Johnny and the other boy into the hall and lectured them about disruption. The teacher then contacted Johnny’s mother, Beverly Jones, alerting her to the “seriousness” of the violation because the children were using “firearms” in their horseplay, and informed her that the matter had been referred to the Principal. Principal John Horton contacted Ms. Jones soon thereafter in order to inform her that Johnny’s behavior was a serious offense that could result in expulsion under the school’s weapons policy. Horton characterized Johnny’s transgression as “making a threat” to another student using a “replica or representation of a firearm” through the use of an imaginary bow and arrow.

Jones was suspended for a day for his actions.

It’s not only failing to recognize that the student’s intent was in play, not a threat, but the application of the school’s policy to punish Jones that Whitehead said was inappropriate. The South Eastern School District’s zero-tolerance policy for “Weapons, Ammunition and other Hazardous Items” prohibits “weapons,” which it defines as a “knife, cutting instrument, cutting tool, nunchaku, firearm, shotgun, rifle and any other tool, instrument or implement capable of inflicting serious bodily injury.” The school’s code of conduct elaborated upon this policy banning replicas of such weapons as well.

To Whitehead, these policies should not include the imaginary bow and arrow action made by Jones.

“The policies need to apply to actual guns, actual threats and actual intent,” Whitehead said, encouraging policies to be revised to reflect this sentiment.

The South Eastern School District was closed due to weather Monday and a representative could not be reached for comment.

Whitehead said schools slapping students with weapons violations in cases like this have lingering effects.

“This does affect kids psychologically. Politically correct bureaucrats are not thinking at all what they’re doing to kids,” Whitehead said.

Whitehead said the South Eastern School District has until Friday to respond to the institute’s letter requesting that this be wiped from Jones’ record. If they don’t respond, Whitehead said it will be up to his parents to decide if they wish to press for further legal action.

In the mean time, Whitehead said he tells students “don’t joke around in school today,” fearing they could get in trouble.

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