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SUFFOLK, Virginia (WAVY) — A Suffolk school suspended a second grader for pointing a pencil at another student and making gun noises.
Seven-year-old Christopher Marshall says he was playing with another student in class Friday, when the teacher at Driver Elementary asked them to stop pointing pencils at each other.
“When I asked him about it, he said, ‘Well I was being a Marine and the other guy was being a bad guy,’” said Paul Marshall, the boy’s father. “It’s as simple as that.”
Christopher’s father was a Marine for many years. He thinks school leaders overreacted.
“A pencil is a weapon when it is pointed at someone in a threatening way and gun noises are made,” said Bethanne Bradshaw, a spokesperson for Suffolk Public Schools.
The Suffolk school system has a “zero tolerance policy” when it comes to weapons. And, Bradshaw admits, that policy has tightened up in recent years because of widely publicized school shootings.
“Some children would consider it threatening, who are scared about shootings in schools or shootings in the community,” said Bradshaw. “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.”
But Christopher’s parents say school administrators failed to use common sense. Christopher has good grades and no history of being disruptive in class. They pointed out a line on the suspension notice, where the teacher wrote, “I told him to stop and he did.”
“Enough is enough,” said Paul Marshall. “I see it as the tail is now wagging the dog.”
And while Christopher can play freely at home, he says he won’t pretend to play with guns at school in the future.
According to school policy, suspensions can last up to 10 days. Christopher will only be home for two. The school makes that determination based on the situation, the student’s age and behavioral history.