On Wednesday, May 8, seven-year old Christopher Marshall was allowed to return to Driver Elementary School in Suffolk, Virginia, following a two-day suspension. Christopher’s offense: pointing a pencil at a classmate and making “bang bang” noises — behavior the other boy, a friend of his, playfully emulated.
Such typical boy behavior, naturally, violated the school’s zero-tolerance policy on weapons, leading to the suspension of both second-graders.
“A pencil is a weapon when it is pointed at someone in a threatening way and gun noises are made,” Suffolk Public Schools spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw told Portsmouth, Virginia, television station WAVY.
Indeed, just about anything can qualify as a weapon under Suffolk’s policy, which “also bans drawing a picture of a gun and pointing a finger in a threatening manner,” according to the Associated Press.
The policy has been in place for decades, but it has been enforced more stringently in recent years because of school shootings across the country, Bradshaw told WAVY.
“Some children would consider it threatening, who are scared about shootings in schools or shootings in the community,” she explained. “Kids don’t think about ‘Cowboys and Indians’ anymore, they think about drive-by shootings and murders and everything they see on television news every day.”
The zero-tolerance policy is “an effort to try to get kids not to bring any form of violence, even if it’s violent play, into the classroom,” Bradshaw told the AP. “There has to be a consequence because it’s a rule. And it’s a rule that the principals go over.”
It is also, as Christopher’s parents see it, a rule that makes no allowance for normal boy behavior — not to mention common sense.
Paul Marshall, Christopher’s father, told WAVY that when he asked his son about the incident, the boy said, “Well, I was being a Marine and the other guy was being a bad guy.”
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