The Newtown tragedy has us all very mindful of supposed acts of violence…even ones that are “playful” in nature…like the ubiquitous “bang, bang, I shot you dead” with the finger routine.

It’s happened again…this time in Maryland where one 6 year old was suspended from Silver Spring school for pointing his finger at another child as though he were holding a gun.

Let’s go back in time to another case, this one in New Jersey where one child did the same exact thing to another, causing the “perp” if you will, to be suspended from school, and leading to a lawsuit.

The Sayreville school district did not violate the rights of a kindergartner it suspended three years ago for threatening to shoot his friends as they played a game during recess, a federal appeals court ruled.

The June 19 ruling by a three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a federal judge’s decision last year that dismissed a lawsuit filed by the boy’s parents.

Scot and Cassandra Garrick sued the Middlesex County school district after their son and three other students were suspended following the March 15, 2000, incident in which their child told his friends, “I’m going to shoot you.”

The children were playing at the time, pretending their fingers were guns and saying to one another, “I want to shoot you,” the Home News Tribune of East Brunswick reported. Their words were overheard by classmates, who told teachers.

The Garricks were the only parents to bring civil action against the district, claiming their son’s free-speech and due-process rights had been violated. They sought unspecified damages and asked that the suspension be removed from their son’s school record. The child was enrolled in private school following the incident.

Sayreville’s superintendent of schools, Dennis Fyffe, termed the federal appeals court ruling a “very nice victory for the district.”

Fyffe said the four boys were suspended under the district’s zero-tolerance policy.
“These students were suspended under the school policy that deals with general school behavior,” Fyffe told the newspaper. “This was not cops and robbers.”

So history repeats itself, albeit without the accompanying lawsuit…so far.

According to this:

The parents of a 6-year-old Silver Spring boy are fighting the first-grader’s suspension from a Montgomery County public school for pointing his finger like a gun and saying “pow,” an incident school officials characterized in a disciplinary letter as a threat “to shoot a student.”

The first-grader was suspended for one day, Dec. 21. The family’s attorney filed an appeal Wednesday, asking that the incident be expunged from the boy’s school record amid concerns of long-term fallout.

The boy “had no intention to shoot anyone,” said attorney Robin Ficker, who described the child as soft-spoken, with no propensity for violence. “He’s skinny and meek. In his words, he was playing.”

Ficker attributed some of the reaction by school officials to the widespread alarm that followed the Newtown shootings. But he contended that the school system’s portrayal of the episode could be damaging to the boy.

So, in trying to put this in perspective:

Schools have had “no tolerance” policies for years…leading parents to scratch their heads thinking that the schools are overreacting.

In the latest case, which happened in the wake of Newtown, the same has occurred…that is, a 6 year old was suspended from school for pointing his finger at another and making believe he was about to “shoot” his friend.

Somehow I believe it’s the adults that need to be suspended.

If anything, you can discourage the kids from playing that way…but was a suspension warranted?


Should the school have suspended a 6 year old for pointing his finger and making believe it was a gun?