A civil liberties organization is asking a Pennsylvania school to rescind the suspension of a fifth-grade student after he pretended to shoot an arrow at a classmate with his hands.
In October, a fifth-grader held his folder like a gun and “shot” at classmate Johnny Jones. Johnny pretended his hands were a bow and arrow, and “shot” an arrow back, the letter said, and another student told the teacher, according to a Dec. 4 letter the Virginia-based Rutherford Institute sent South Eastern School District Supt. Rona Kaufmann.
The teacher contacted Johnny's mother, Beverly Jones, and said he was referred to the principal. The principal told Jones the behavior could have resulted in expulsion but that Johnny was instead being given a one-day, in-office suspension, the letter says.
The Rutherford Institute is asking that the suspension be rescinded and any reference to it be removed from Johnny's record.
John Whitehead, attorney and president of the organization, said Johnny was suspended because of a zero tolerance policy on weapons. The letter notes that the weapons policy included in the school's code of conduct says weapons, “replicas” or “look-alike” weapons are prohibited and require the expulsion process be started and police notified.
The letter says no argument can be made that the “imaginings from the mind of a 10-year-old boy” represent a look-alike or replica. The organization argues he was suspended without adequate justification and that even if Johnny violated the code of conduct, the district's application of policy was “unduly and unnecessarily punitive.”
Kaufmann said by email that the district cannot comment on a particular student's situation because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
Whitehead said that though Johnny has already served the suspension, clearing his record is important because if it is recorded as a weapons violation, it could affect things like college applications in the future.
Beverly Jones could not be reached, and Whitehead said Johnny's family does not wish to speak until after hearing from the district. The organization has asked for a response by Friday.
Whitehead said he's concerned about schools “criminalizing a child's imagination,” suggesting if kids went to see the movie “Brave,” they'd want to shoot a bow and arrow.